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Know your enemy: The Minnesota Twins

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Can the Twins remain King of the North?

Minnesota Twins v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Just five years ago, the Twins bottomed out with 103 losses, their most since moving to Minnesota. The very next year they were in the playoffs. After a minor setback in 2018, they won 103 games in 2019, and won their second consecutive division title in 2020.

But it doesn’t seem like the Twins get their due, most likely because of their post-season performance. The Twins have been bounced from the playoffs immediately in their last eight appearances, and have lost 18 post-season games in a row.

Minnesota Twins

2020 record: 36-24 (pro-rated to 97 wins in a full-season)

2020 pythag: 36-24

2021 ZIPS projection: 87-75

2021 PECOTA projection: 91-71

Key additions: Alex Colomé, J.A. Happ, Hansel Robles, Matt Shoemaker, Andrelton Simmons

Key losses: Ehire Adrianza, Alex Avila, Tyler Clippard, Marwin Gonzalez, Rich Hill, Trevor May, Jake Odorizzi, Sergio Romo, Eddie Rosario, Matt Wisler

The “Bomba Squad” set a Major League record with 307 home runs in 2019, finishing with the second-most runs. Their offense fell off in last year’s shortened season, finishing third in home runs and tenth in runs scored. Their on-base percentage fell over 20 points to just .315 last year, making a lot of those home runs solo shots.

The Twins retain their power, with the ageless Nelson Cruz setting the tone, and thumpers Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler, and Josh Donaldson around him. The Twins lose Eddie Rosario, but Byron Buxton showed a surprising spike in power and he may finally begin to reach the potential he showed when he was the #2 overall pick. More offense could be on the way with rookie Ryan Jeffers expected to start at catcher, and outfielders Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach expected to be ready at some point this season.

Twins projected lineup

Lineup PA HR AVG OBA SLG
Lineup PA HR AVG OBA SLG
RF Max Kepler (L) 196 9 .228 .321 .439
3B Josh Donaldson (R) 102 6 .222 .373 .469
DH Nelson Cruz (R) 214 16 .303 .397 .595
2B Jorge Polanco (S) 226 4 .258 .304 .354
1B Miguel Sanó (R) 205 13 .204 .278 .478
CF Byron Buxton (R) 135 13 .254 .267 .577
SS Andrelton Simmons (R) 127 0 .297 .346 .356
LF Jake Cave (L) 123 4 .221 .285 .389
C Ryan Jeffers (R) 62 3 .273 .355 .436
Bench PA HR AVG OBA SLG
C Mitch Garver (R) 81 2 .167 .247 .264
IF Luis Arraez (L) 121 0 .321 .364 .402
IF Willians Astudillo (R) 16 1 .250 .250 .500
OF Kyle Garlick (L) 23 0 .136 .174 .182

When the offense fell off last year, it was the pitching that made up the difference, finishing third in the league in ERA and second in FIP thanks to the addition of Kenta Maeda. Two-time All-Star José Berríos had a career-best strikeout rate in 2020. The back of the rotation continues to be a revolving door of short-term free agents, with Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ filling the role this year, with Randy Dobnak also a possibility to get some starts.

Twins pitching

Rotation ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9
Rotation ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9
RHP Kenta Maeda 2.70 3.00 66.2 10.8 1.4
RHP José Berríos 4.00 4.06 63.0 9.7 3.7
RHP Michael Pineda 3.38 2.22 26.2 8.4 2.4
LHP J.A. Happ 3.47 4.57 49.1 7.7 2.7
RHP Matt Shoemaker 4.71 5.95 28.2 8.2 2.8
Bullpen ERA FIP IP K/9 BB/9
RHP Alex Colomé 0.81 2.97 22.1 6.4 3.2
LHP Taylor Rogers 4.05 2.84 20.0 10.8 1.8
RHP Tyler Duffey 1.88 2.57 24.0 11.6 2.3
RHP Cody Stashak 3.00 3.26 15.0 10.2 1.8
RHP Hansel Robles 10.26 5.89 16.2 10.8 5.4

The bullpen was excellent last year with the fourth-best ERA and second-best strikeout rate in the league. But there will be some turnover with Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Matt Wisler all gone, replaced by Alex Colomé and Hanser Robles.

The Twins seem to have a pretty sustainable approach that could keep them successful for years to come. They have a pretty flexible payroll situation with their largest salaries on short-term deals, and a good mix of veterans and younger players, with a farm system still churning out good prospects. If they continue to get this many bites at the post-season apple, you would think one of these days they will break through and have some post-season success. On the other hand, the Vikings are still looking for their first Super Bowl win, maybe Minnesota teams are just snakebitten in the playoffs.

Poll

How many games will the Twins win this year?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    More than 90
    (46 votes)
  • 42%
    85-89
    (50 votes)
  • 11%
    80-84
    (14 votes)
  • 5%
    75-79
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Less than 75
    (2 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now