Thursday, May 6, 2010

28 In and 10 Games Over

With their first sweep of the season, our beloved Twins are now 10 games over through 28 games and off to their best start since 2001 when they started the season 20-8. As that 2001 team showed by eventually missing the playoffs, fast starts don't guarantee anything, but this team and this season has a different feeling to it.

Using FanGraphs, let's check out how the Twins stand in a few important categories:

I have the above graph sorted by Team Batting Average and you can see that the Twins rank 3rd in the Major Leagues and 2nd in the American League in that category and if you sort by team BB (Bases on Ball) you will see they rank 1st. Their team OBP (On-Base Percentage) is .363, good for 2nd in the Major Leagues behind only the Yankees. A stat that points to the early patience Twins hitters have had is BB/K ratio, a category the Twins lead the Majors in at .81. The next closest team is the Yankees at .75.

As far as Twins pitching goes, you can see that they have not done quite as well in this area, but nevertheless, they've put up respectable numbers so far. The above graph is sorted by ERA and the Twins rank 9th in the Majors and 5th in AL in that category. I did a quick check of FIP and it sits at 3.76, only .11 higher than the current team ERA which suggests that Twins pitching performances so far are legit. As is typical of team pitching philosophy, Twins pitchers have allowed the 2nd fewest walks in the Majors and are middle-of-the-pack in team Ks. The Twins have never been a strikeout-heavy staff, but taken as a whole, their ability to miss a few bats while keeping walks down equals a K/BB ratio of 2.84, good for 2nd in the majors.

The above graph is no-doubt confusing, but the main stat I wanted to point out here is Team UZR. UZR factors in range, errors and arm accuracy (?) and put it all together into a number. As you can see, the Twins rank 9th in the Majors though as I was reading around some other sources, it became evident that I should mention that no standards have been set for Target Field in terms of the Advanced Metrics so there could be a slightly higher error rate than normal (also, sample size is an issue). Bottom line? The Twins have committed only 6 errors as a team all season which leads the Majors and their team .994 F% (fielding percentage) is tops as well. The off-season additions of Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy seem to be working out defensively so far, though this will be an interesting dimension of this team to track as the season progresses, particularly because the team UZR/150 (the stat extrapolated to 150) games is quite a bit below regular UZR suggesting that the Twins defense has been unrealistically good so far.

28 games is a pretty small sample size (~17% of a full season), but the stats indicate that this team is for real. Do I think they'll win 120 games this year as their current pace suggests? The simple answer is no. But, this team will certainly compete for the division crown and should stand a good shot a getting somewhere in the playoffs as well. I'll revisit these graphs again after 50-60 games and see how they look then.

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