Race Back to Mean Will Decide Twins’ Season
The Minnesota Twins found a way to win on Friday night. Sure, it took a lot of help from the Chicago White Sox’ 8th inning defense and a bit more from the umpires in the ninth, but they got it done. Semantics don’t show up in the Win/Loss column and that’s the only number statistic that matters when the season comes to an end.
Now, the (6-7) Sox have lost 5-straight and the (6-8) Twins sit just .5 games back of the AL Central favorites, entering Saturday’s duel between the two clubs. This, as Rocco & Co. waits patiently for their offense to make the trip from Fort Myers.
Living the Offensive Dream in Fort Myers
During Spring Training, the Minnesota Twins showed off their new 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. Buxton hit for an insane .469 BA and 1.608 OPS, collecting 5 HR and 13 RBI in just 32 at-bats. Correa was nearly as good, in a much smaller sample size, piling up 3 HR, 5 RBI and 18 total bases in just 20 at-bats. He finished with a .350 BA and 1.250 OPS in the 7 games he participated.
But, it didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa hasn’t lived up to his hype to start the regular season. Throw those two grenades into a batting lineup that has a lot of warts… and you get the worst offensive start in Twins history.
This is the first time in #MNTwins history they've had a batting average below .200 after 12 games.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) April 21, 2022
Pitching to the Rescue
What has saved the Minnesota Twins so far this season? What has kept them in the very early AL Central conversation? Pitching. Yes, that same pitching staff I belittled and berated throughout the offseason and well into Spring Training, is the only thing keeping the Twins afloat and competitive.
To prop up an offense as bad as what the Twins have shown so far this season, your pitching can’t be average, or even good. They have to be great. And that’s what the Minnesota staff has been for most of the first 13 games.
#MNTwins starting rotation leads the American League in ERA (2.73) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.8-to-1), and ranks fourth in innings per start.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) April 23, 2022
ERA by starter:
0.87 — Dylan Bundy
1.69 — Joe Ryan
2.16 — Chris Archer
2.81 — Bailey Ober
5.00 — Chris Paddack
5.68 — Sonny Gray
In fact, the pitching staff has gotten better as the games have played on. Twins pitchers have held their opponents to just THREE runs in the last THREE games. That’s pretty good timing because their own offense has somehow matched the opponents’ lack of production (three runs in three games) during that stretch. The team’s record? TWO wins and just ONE loss, all against division rivals (KC, KC, CHW).
Regression to the Mean
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s the oldest cliché in the sports cliché book. And a cliché only stays on the shelf that long if it’s true. The pendulum will swing during a 162-game schedule. It’s called “regression to the mean” and it’s science.
Regression to the mean is a statistical phenomenon stating that data that is extremely higher or lower than the mean will likely be closer to the mean if it is measured a second time.Study.com
There’s a reason why I, and every other baseball writer in the physical universe, expected the Minnesota Twins bats to carry the pitchers during the 2022 season. It’s what all of the evidence led us to believe.
The Twins offense should be good, if Byron Buxton can stay in the lineup. Right now, they’re terrible, even factoring him out. That balance will eventually shift, if not back to the mean, at least closer to it. Correa, Arraez, Buxton, Polanco, Sanchez… have all proven through their careers that they will hit.
Race to the Mean
The same holds true for the Twins’ pitching staff. There’s a reason why we expected it to be bad and hoped for league average. They just don’t have the horses at the top of the rotation who have proven they can hold up against major league hitters over a 162-game season. Maybe they’ll prove us wrong and finish above average. Even so, they won’t sit at the very top of the MLB for long.
So as Minnesota Twins fans, we’re left to hope. Hope that the offense turns things around before the pitching staff falls back to reality. If that happens, it could be a fun summer. Especially if the pitching remains on the better side of league-average all season. But should the bats continue to struggle throughout the first half, the year’s outlook could quickly turn sour.
In other words, it’s a race back to the mean between Twins pitchers and hitters. Who gets there first will decide the season.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan