The Minnesota Twins Have Done Something We've Never Seen Before
Last year, the Minnesota Twins were the worst team in baseball, and it really wasn't even all that close. They won 59 games and lost 103 for a winning percentage of .364.
Folks, that ain't good. No other team in baseball had more than 94 losses or a winning percentage worse than .420.
But after the Chicago White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels Wednesday night, the Twins clinched a spot in the great October baseball tournament, locking down the final wild card spot in the American League. And in doing so, they became the first team in MLB history to go from 100 losses to the playoffs in just one year.
How have they done it? How have they managed to go 83-75 through Wednesday, holding off half a dozen other AL teams for that final playoff spot? How did they go from being a losing team at the non-waiver trade deadline (50-54) and trading their best relief pitcher, Brandon Kintzler to becoming a postseason-bound squad?
They went 20-10 in August and 33-21 since August 1st, led mostly by an offense that has relentlessly deluged opponents in runs. Since the trade deadline, they lead all of baseball in slugging percentage (.489), isolated power (.212), weighted on base average (.352), weighted runs created (117), runs scored (331), home runs (90) and triples (19). And the middle of the lineup has just straight-up been mean to starting pitchers during this time.
It's important to note that the Twins have gone on this hot streak largely without the services of All-Star Miguel Sano, who has been out of action since August 20th due to a stress reaction in his left shin. Team officials are holding out hope that he can be on the postseason roster if Minnesota can get past the wild card game, but he's only begun taking swings this week.
They aren't quite as flush with talent on the pitcher's mound, although their top two starters have enjoyed solid seasons in 2017. All-Star Ervin Santana leads the AL in complete games (5) and shutouts (3) while posting a 3.36 ERA and a 3.68 DRA (Deserved Run Average, as determined by Baseball Prospectus) in 32 starts. He's struck out just 19.6% of batters faced and relies on weak contact to record outs (22.1% soft-hit rate).
Jose Berrios is the Twins' other top-of-the-rotation arm. He has a 3.93 ERA and a DRA of 3.51 in 25 starts with a strikeout rate of 22.6%. Both he and Santana give Minnesota a chance to win the wild card game and at least the first game of the ALDS, if they advance that far.
Manager Paul Molitor doesn't have a strong bullpen like the New York Yankees or some of the other playoff-bound AL teams, but Santana and their offense provides a puncher's chance against whoever comes their way in the one-game free-for-all. And as if that wasn't already enough, they also have some negative recent history to overcome.
The Twins have lost 12 straight postseason games, 2nd-longest losing streak in MLB history.
Their last series win? 2002 ALDS vs the A's. pic.twitter.com/tfV49JmG4w
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2017
They'll now get the chance to break that streak in a game not even the most wide-eyed optimists believed they would play this season.