Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Twins Way: The Worst Way?

A couple weeks ago someone was talking to me about a local radio personality freaking out about playing "the Twins way" and how that needs to stop because "the Twins way is the worst way". That got me to thinking, are the Twins still playing "the Twins way"?

I've always thought of "the Twins way" as being "doing all the little things right." Things like running the bases, sacrificing runners over, not committing errors, throwing strikes and not walking batters.

For base running I decided to use's Ultimate Base Running statistic. UBR uses linear weights to determine how much value a player gives (or loses) doing things like going first to third on a single, getting thrown out trying to stretch a hit, or advancing on a throw. It uses 0.0 as league average so a negative number is below average and positive is above. This is an individual stat so I may be using it out of context taking the team's UBR, but work with me here.

I'm not trying to say sacrifices are the best way to win games, but I am saying the Twins have always valued it as a skill and talked up their players being able to get it done.

We could get into a debate about errors if we wanted to, but again since that's what the Twins organization likes to talk up (instead of other more useful stats like UZR or TZL) that's what we'll use.

For pitching we're going to look at zone% (the percentage of all pitches thrown in the strike zone) and BB/9.

Below all the playoff teams' stats are in bold while all stats that were below league average (American league average in the case of sac hits) are italicized. (Also, I projected sac hits and errors to a full 162 game season.)

Year       UBR       SH       E       ZONE%       BB/9      
2002       1.8         33        74     57.4             2.73
2003       4.3         31        87     53.3             2.48
2004       -5.5        38        101   56.1             2.63
2005       -4.1        51        102   56.0             2.14
2006       10.1       52        84     54.6             2.23
2007       1.3         34        95     52.5             2.63
2008       17.8       31        108   53.6             2.50
2009       21.0       42        76     50.3             2.89
2010       -2.0        46        78     48.7             2.37
2011       -2.4        42        119   45.9             3.04
2012       3.6         34        107   45.4             2.91
2013       1.1         58        72     46.2             2.56


  1. The Twins have not, as a team, run the bases well with any sort of consistency regardless of whether they were good that year or not.
  2. The Twins sacrifice A LOT! There were years (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010) when they sacrificed more than double the American league average. There were years when they sacrificed more than the major league average. That's crazy to me.
  3. Certainly pitching the Twins way has not changed at all.
  4. The past two years errors became an issue (also in 2008, which was not a playoff year, but still above .500), but improving that this year has not made a significant difference in overall team performance.
  5. Clearly four of these five categories strongly represent the Twins philosophy as they are consistently above average. But their record hasn't been nearly as consistent, especially the last couple years. It can't be the worst way, it helped contribute to six division titles in nine years. But there are obviously more important things that need to be focused on.

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