MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After four years of watching miserable baseball at Target Field, suddenly things are turning around as the Minnesota Twins have become one of the best teams in baseball.
It’s still very early in the season and that’s leaving fans with a decision to make: Dive in and enjoy the success, or wait until we get to August and buy in if the Twins are still at or near the top? For now, it’s just fun to watch good baseball again.
After the Twins beat Toronto on Sunday, they finished one of their better months in franchise history. They lead the American League Central Division and have the second-best record in the AL. Since a 1-6 start, the Twins are 29-13. So what gives? Here are 10 reasons why the Twins are off to a hot start, and hopefully why it will last this year.
Twins went 13-3 at home in May
The Twins get 81 home games and 81 away games in the regular season. To be a playoff team, you must win a majority of your home games and try to maintain a .500 road record. That’s the easiest formula to win a division title. The Twins went 13-3 at Target Field in May. After a four-game series in Boston, the Twins will have a six-game home stand and have a stretch of 14 games out of 17 at Target Field.
Twins finished May at 30-19, second-best record in American League
The Twins went 20-7 in May to get to 30-19 on the regular season, which at the time was the second-best record in the American League. They won 20 games in a calendar month for the first time since June of 1991, when the Twins last won the World Series. The Twins have won five straight series and May was the 9th time the Twins have won at least 20 games in a month.
It’s all about the Dance Party, Fog Machine
You can look at numbers and statistics all you want, but the Twins have remembered how fun it is to win and play baseball the winning way. They’ve started having dance parties that include a fog machine in the clubhouse after victories. It may sound silly, but the fun of having a party in the locker room after the final pitch might be motivation in itself to win more games.
Glen Perkins perfect in save opportunities
Glen Perkins got knocked around last weekend in a non-save situation, and came right back the next day to earn a save in a victory. Perkins is a perfect 19-for-19 in save opportunities and had a club record 13 in May. The hard-throwing lefty has been nothing short of reliable in every save chance this season. Give Perkins the ball with the lead in the 9th and it’s pretty much a done deal that the Twins will win.
Changes at manager, pitching coach
The impact of a few offseason coaching changes can’t be denied in the Twins’ early success. The players love playing for Paul Molitor and the confidence he gives them. The pitching staff has exceeded expectations early with the leadership of pitching coach Neil Allen and bullpen coach Eddie Guardado. The biggest praise of Molitor is he focuses on each game each day and winning one game at a time. He’s not afraid to shake things up in the lineup or on the pitching staff if he thinks it’ll get the Twins a victory.
Starting pitching good enough to win
The starting pitching hasn’t been dominant, but it’s certainly been good enough to win. Starters Kyle Gibson, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and others have combined for an earned run average of about 3.6. Gibson and Pelfrey eneded May a combined 8-4 on the season and both have ERA’s under 3.0. And the Twins haven’t gotten an inning out of Ervin Santana, who is arguably their best pitcher, yet.
Torii Hunter’s clubhouse leadership
Torii Hunter has done nothing but lead by example both on the field and in the clubhouse. He’s one of the team’s top hitters at .279, is third in home runs with seven and leads the Twins with 32 RBI. He’s also got a .459 slugging percentage. He’s been solid in the outfield also with just two errors in 88 chances. When the Twins win, he’s the first guy in the clubhouse to start the party.
Mauer’s hitting, especially clutch hitting
Joe Mauer finally hit his first home run of the season at Pittsburgh, though he hasn’t yet hit one at Target Field in 2015. His average, by his standards, isn’t spectacular at .276. But with runners in scoring position, he’s hitting better than .400. He’s a much tougher out in clutch situations and it’s almost a surprise if he doesn’t come through. Fans will just have to accept that he’s not a home run hitter and probably never will be.
Twins defense solid since rough start (30 errors in 49 games)
For the most part, the Twins have played great defense behind their starting pitchers. After a rough first week, they’ve had a total of 30 errors in 49 games. Brian Dozier has just one error in 249 chances and has turned 31 double plays. Trevor Plouffe has just three errors in 154 chances at third base and Danny Santana has 12 errors, but has had 200 chances and turned 30 double plays. If they can keep up the defense, this team can go a long way.
Brian Dozier on fire
Brian Dozier has quickly become one of the best second basemen in baseball without the big name to go with it. He’s hitting .258 with a .516 slugging percentage. Of his last 12 hits, 11 have gone for extra bases and he leads the Twins with nine home runs. We’ve already mentioned his defense at second base, which pretty much speaks for itself.
The Twins lead the AL Central over Kansas City by a half game as of the start of the week, but can it last? The current formula of pitching, defense and timely hitting is working quite well, and it has fans excited about the summer. It’s been a while since we’ve had a reason to be excited about the Twins, so let’s enjoy it.