Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Twins Climb Will Stall, And That's OK

The Minnesota Twins tenure as the best team in the American League lasted all of one night, and as fun as that was, it's a reminder as to what baseball is. With the Houston Astros winning with Minnesota being rained out early in the week, the Twins were knocked from the top spot. The climb to get there has featured 8-2 streaks, series dominance, and the unwillingness to lose at home. Over the course of 162 games, the landscape will change, and the Twins will remain just fine.

Still atop the AL Central as of this writing, the Twins own a 30-19 record, putting them a half game ahead of the Royals. After starting out 1-6 on the season, the expectation for the Twins to tumble towards projections seemed strong. Most oddsmakers in Las Vegas had Minnesota slated for somewhere between 69 and 74 wins, with the under looking favorably. In going 29-13 since that time frame, Minnesota has turned the baseball world on its head.

Now, as you've surely heard, regression should set in at some point. Mike Pelfrey is pitching above his head, Kyle Gibson is going stronger than expected, and the offense is hitting beach balls with runners in scoring position. This can all continue for a period of time (ask Danny Santana about his 2014 season), but at some point the numbers will start to even out. That isn't to suggest sabermetrics are the gold standard at play here, but that even the eye test will suggest Minnesota is outperforming expectations.

I have voiced often that regression is ok for this 2015 Twins team here at Off The Baggy. First and foremost, the organization is in a position to handle this sort of thing for the first time in a while. Tommy Milone is down on the farm, Ervin Santana will rejoin the fold, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano haven't surfaced, and the Twins have plenty of guys that can contribute. While all of those factors, or players, may end up helping to curve regression, it's actually the Twins that have stacked the deck in their favor.

At 0-0, experts suggested the Twins would have streaks going up and down that would eventually lead them to a win/loss record somewhere in the doldrums of Major League Baseball. Now at 30-19, they continue to suggest the same losing (albeit not to the same extent) should be expected. However, having played nearly one-third of the 2015 season, the Twins have afforded themselves some breathing room.

There's no doubt they will need to continue to play at a blistering pace to stay ahead in the AL Central, but continuing to play playoff caliber and interesting baseball throughout the summer is well within reach. Separated from a talented Tigers team by 3.5 games, and 6.5 from the 4th spot in the AL Central, Minnesota doesn't have to keep winning at the same clip. 8-2 stretches over ten game periods aren't going to remain sustainable all season, but this teams has proven more than capable of playing .500 baseball.

Should Minnesota continue to ride the hot streak for as long as they can, and curb the eventually regression, handling tough stretches at 4-6 or even 3-7 paces aren't going to be detrimental. Having dealt with adversity out of the gate, this club already knows they can rebound as well, as mentioned, they've got the deck stacked in their corner.

If Minnesota can play .500 baseball throughout the rest of the year, they would finish the season at 86-76, a mark likely good enough to have them in a Wild Card spot. Time will only tell if that comes to fruition, but it's a safe bet to suggest that regression aside, the Twins have already positioned themselves for a competitive summer. How things shake out remains to be seen, but because of early success, you aren't going to want to miss it.

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