There is so much information out there regarding statistics, even drilling down through multiple layers of statistics to derive more information, and so much has been written about the analysis and interpretation of those numbers and what they tell us, I think everyone knows the term “regression to the mean”. At some point, a good or bad streak will come to an end.
It’s hard to believe that for a team that has set the record for consecutive playoff losses. It’s hard to believe that for a team who has lamented their ability to catch up, and their bullpens inability to get guys out, then comes from behind for the second day in a row, then somehow manages to lose like this. The bad hitting when trailing or runners in scoring position has to straighten itself out, right? The bullpen has to be competent every once in a while, right?
A few years ago, I would have said absolutely, because I was young and naïve enough that I didn’t believe in curses, and instead relied on things like math and reason. Now I do believe in curses, and the Twins are under one. Two players, Willians Astudillo and Max Kepler, were injured one day after the team finally won and snapped a 6 game losing streak. Cursed.
But if you were looking at the statistics, you would note that the Twins biggest bugaboos are generally luck based statistics. Their position player WAR is actually 5th…. in all of baseball. Better than the A’s – who they just lost to – by an entire win. Fangraphs has a statistic called “clutch” which evaluates how well or poorly a team comes though in high leverage situations, those that influence the game at critical junctures. According to their glossary, a player with a clutch score of -2 is “awful” in the clutch. The entire Twins team is -3.
This metric needs too things to happen. It needs a team to generally hit well, which the Twins are, certainly, and to be catastrophically bad in the clutch, which they definitely have been. 0-7 in extras by mid – May doesn’t happen without some confounding failures late in games.
The Twins pitching staff doesn’t have that issue. They are simply bad enough that they don’t have enough clutch moments to fail in. They have the lowest WAR in all of baseball, a full half win lower than the next lowest team. Most of that is because of the ghastly HR/9 totals that the pitching staff has offered up. League average HR/9 is 1.6, and the Twins have had 10 players top that number so far, including 3/5ths of their rotation (Matt Shoemaker, 2.65, Kenta Maeda, 2.14 and Michael Pineda, 1.86).
Starting rotation issues don’t raise the same red flags for fans, though, as the Twins bullpen, and their toxic inability to prevent runners who get on base from scoring. Alex Colome has a LOB% of 42.5%, which is bananas for how bad it is. Randy Dobnak is at 45.5%, Cody Stashak at 58.1%. League average is 69.4%.
Most of these numbers should straighten themselves out. Alex Colome should start getting people out when runners are aboard. The Twins clutch hitting has to improve, just because it can’t possibly get worse. The rotation will, by virtue of persistence, stop giving up so many home runs. Or so it would appear, if this team was any other than the Minnesota Twins, who are cursed.