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Secrets of the AL Central - The Twins Pattern of Success

Although they're sometimes talked about as a kind of perennial power -- count how many times you'll hear an analyst or writer say "the Twins are always around at the end" sometime -- they've actually been a bit up and down in the second half of this decade. Since 2004, the Twins have finished third twice (2005, 2007) along with a division title in 2006 and a second place finish in 2008, where they lost the division to the White Sox by one game.

Since 2004, Minnesota's win totals are: 83, 96, 79, 88. It's an odd pattern with a slight bad-good trend. At 54-57 right now, they're on pace to follow up on last year's mildly good season with a mildly bad one.

The Twins have averaged 86.5 wins over the last four seasons, and with one glaring exception, they've built their glittering empire of mediocrity on the cheap labor readily available in the AL Central. Let's look at a gigantic table:

Twins v AL Central v AL East v AL West v NL Total
2009 22-16 6-19 14-16 12-6 54-57
2008 43-30 12-22 18-19 14-4 88-75 (2nd)
2007 28-44 19-19 21-13 11-7 79-83 (3rd)
2006 41-35 22-13 17-16 16-2 96-66 (1st)
2005 40-35 18-12 17-22 8-10 83-79 (3rd)
2004 46-30 19-17 16-16 11-7 92-70 (1st)

 

  • As you can see above, with the exception of 2007, the Twins have been very good against the AL Central. The odd thing about 2007 is that the Twins were actually better against the AL East & West than they usually are. In a way, this jives with a general theory that the Twins have benefited from a soft division. In 2007, the Twins were completely dominated by the division winning Indians (4-14) and the second place Tigers (6-12). Without looking at the numbers, I'd venture that the 2007 one-two punch of the Indians (96 wins) and Tigers (88 wins) was one of the better duos the divison has had this decade.
  • The Twins, to their credit, were actually not bad against the AL East until 2008, the year of the Rays' ascendancy.
  • The AL West numbers are interesting. Although the West was a very strong division in the first half of this decade, over the last five years or so, I would consider it to be an average division, usually lacking great teams or terrible ones. Aside from their mysterious 2007, the Twins have been just below .500 against the AL West, which I think is telling.
  • And of course, the Twins have owned the National League, including that stunning 16-2 mark in 2006.
  • Looking at everything overall, the Twins emerge as a generic (there's that word again) good-to-ok American League team over this time span. They held their own against the AL East before the division went completely insane (we can't forget Toronto) and banked wins against the NL each season. In the slightly bad AL Central, they did well, and in the slightly good AL West, they struggled a bit.
  • Since 2005, everyone in the AL Central save the Royals has made the playoffs and three teams have won the division. The Tigers won the 2006 Wild Card, and advanced to the World Series. All of these teams, especially Cleveland, Minnesota and Chicago, have had odd year to year results. The Royals however, have remained predictable. They're always not around at the end.