Its September 12th, and when you look at the Wild Card standings, we see the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd position. In May and June they were simply a nice story. How nice it is to see the underdog Twins compete, but they will come down to Earth eventually. Fast forward to today and they are still not on Earth. The Twins run is looking more and more legit, and they might turn into being the best MLB story line of 2017.
The Twins ended the first half of the season just one game over .500 and looked solid on both sides of the ball. Miguel Sano put together an All-star worthy first half, and Ervin Santana was among the AL leaders in ERA. In terms of pitching they maybe the most improved team in the league. The Twin’s 5.09 first half FIP ranked 29th in the league. Their second half FIP of 4.22 ranks 9th in MLB. In general their pitching is nothing special. Bartolo Colon has come in and been an effective innings eater, Gibson has been below average, and Berrios and Santana are having decent seasons. Santana and Berrios are an interesting 1,2 punch. Berrios has been very good at home, where as Santana has been very good on the road. Berrios at home has a 2.54 ERA with 9.4 k/9 compared to a 5.14 ERA on the road. Santana on the other hand has a 2.74 ERA on the road compared to 4.14 ERA at home.
The offense is what has really been propelling the Twins down the stretch, Sano has a blistering first half hitting 21 home runs, but has cooled off in the 2nd half hitting below .250 with only 7 home runs. He has pretty much been the only Twin to cool off in the 2nd half. Jorge Polanco has turned his season around in the 2nd half. He went from hitting .224 in the 1st half to .312 in the second half. His wRC+ in the 2nd half is 144 which ranks 24th in all of baseball. His O-Swing% went from 29.5% in the first half to 23.9% in the 2nd half. Another player who has turned his season around is Byron Buxton. You can read an article on his adjustments here. Joe Mauer has also been a solid contributor this season which you can read more about here. And, Brian Dozier is having another Dozier-like season. Overall as an offense the Twins rank 11th in wRC+. They walk the 3rd most of any team and have a strikeout rate in the middle of the pack.
The first step for the Twins is to simply finish the job and make the playoffs. This looks very doable. The team one back of them, the Angels, have the 2nd toughest remaining schedule in baseball. The Twins on the other hand face a schedule where the average win percentage of their opponents is .500. Once they make it in, they actually have a decent match up against the Yankees. Berrios pitched well in his first appearance against the Yankees giving up only 1 ER in 6.1 IP. On the other hand, Santana has pitched well on the road all season. The Twins took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees earlier in the season and still have a series in New York next week.
According to PECOTA projections, the Twins were projected to be a 79-83 team which would make them one of the most over performing teams in baseball barring a massive losing streak. According to PECOTA the Twins and Angels are both projected to go 9-10 over their final games which means the Twins would take the 2nd Wild Card spot.
The Twins are kind of a big deal. They have become that early season surprise team that has actually kept it up. Now with about a half month of the regular season left, they are in reaching distance of the playoff spot, and have a better chance of beating the Yankees than most people would think. I guess the Twins are never falling down to Earth. They have just been here the entire time.