Twins

The Morning After: Twins Cap Rough Season with Series Win Over White Sox

It may have brought to end the worst season since the franchise moved from Washington D.C. in 1961, but Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox featured the key tenets to whatever the future holds for the Minnesota Twins.

Byron Buxton opened the game with a first-pitch inside-the-park home run, Miguel Sano homered two innings later and Max Kepler had a pair of hits. Additionally, Jose Berrios was staked to a 5-0 lead and pitched relatively well for five innings to grab his third career win, as the Twins closed out the 2016 season with a 59-103 record.

Here’s what we saw from our vantage point:

Buxton started the game off with a bang

Buxton pasted Chris Sale’s 93 mph two-seamer to dead center and raced around the bases in record time — literally — for his 10th home run of the season. That came on the first pitch of the game, and set all sorts of records in the process.

….and if you think that’s fast, you should have seen the other guy(s):

That’s the fastest Statcast has measured home-to-home since it was created for the 2015 season. Unreal. That’s not the only record Buxton had a hand in:

Ultimately, Buxton finished the season with a respectable .225/.284/.430 batting line, which was good enough to make him a 1.6-win player via fWAR, thanks in large part to elite defense and good baserunning as well. Buxton hit a robust .287/.357/.653 in September (113 PA), which comes out to a .419 wOBA.

Basically speaking, Buxton hit in September like Mike Trout did all season.

Sano capped a disappointing season with his 25th home run

This was actually a really impressive plate appearance, as Sano worked a 3-1 count. The one strike was a swinging strike on a changeup on pitch No. 2 of the plate appearance. Behind 3-1, Sale went back to the change and put it in a pretty good location, but Sano absolutely hammered it.

Upon review, the issue might have been that he put it in the exact same spot he had earlier in the count:

photo credit: screenshot from MLB.com
photo credit: screenshot from MLB.com

Sano’s season finishes with a disappointing .236/.319/.462 slash line. All things considered — injuries, shoehorning him into right field, etc. — there should be optimism for a bounce-back season next year. The onus is on him to come into camp in shape, but the tools are there for him to be a difference-making third baseman — on both sides of the ball.

Berrios looked good — comparatively speaking

Berrios gutted out five innings, allowing just one earned run with three strikeouts and three walks to end his season with an unsightly 8.02 ERA. Berrios finished with just shy of 60 innings, and just 16 pitchers have had a season with more then 50 frames and a higher ERA since the turn of the century, including former Twin Joe Mays (2006, 8.70), then-Twin Sean Bergman (2000, 9.66) and topping the list, Roy Halladay in 2000 (10.64).  

On Sunday, Berrios worked in and out of trouble in three of the five innings. And while the working into trouble is still a bit troublesome, working out of it is still more than he’d done in previous starts. After a clean first inning, Berrios stranded two runners on in the second, two again in the third, just one in the fourth and again two in the fifth before his day ended. On the plus side, that means Berrios is — at least in this start — doing a better job out of the stretch. Berrios had a staggering .419 OBP against with runners on base — including a .423 with runners in scoring position — against a .399 mark with the bases empty. Neither are good, but it’s throwing gas on the fire to allow more runners with guys on than with the bases empty.

Berrios showed good velocity on Sunday — peaking at 96.1 mph on his four-seamer and his sinker — and while his changeup didn’t induce any swinging strikes, he also only allowed one hit on it all game. On the negative side, he did have just five  swinging strikes on 93 pitches. Still, there were more positives than negatives.

Twins pitchers struck out nine White Sox hitters in each game in the series

This is mostly statistical minutiae save for the fact that the typically strikeout-bereft Twins staff picked up the pace on that in the final series. The Twins however did not finish last in terms of K/9 this season — instead finishing 27th — at 7.4 K/9. Most likely, the final stretch of 11-9-9-9 for final strikeout tallies helped the Twins out of the cellar there.

The offense channeled their 2015 domination of Sale — at least for one day

The two home runs did Sale in, as he was otherwise pretty close to himself with six strikeouts and just one walk in five innings. But one year after the Twins blitzed him to the tune of 7.36 ERA and .828 OPS against, they waited until the final start to get their last laugh against the lanky lefty for the 2016 season. In a bit of an anomaly, the Twins only faced him twice this season, as he dominated them back on May 7: seven innings, nine strikeouts, one walk and two earned runs in a 7-2 win at U.S. Cellular Field.  

Up Next: Winter’s cruel, frigid embrace

Notes

  • The Twins closed the season 29-52 on the road. If that seems familiar, that’s the same record the team had away from the Metrodome in their 1987 World Championship season.
  • At 59-103, the Twins capped the year with the worst record in team history. Three teams from the Senators years (1904, 1909 and 1949) all finished with more losses. Since the schedule hasn’t always been 162 games, seven Senators teams actually finished with lower winning percentages than this year’s Twins (.364).
  • This marked the first year since 2010 that the Twins pitching staff didn’t finish dead last in strikeout rate.
  • White Sox manager Robin Ventura resigned as expected following the game, and will be replaced by Rick Renteria. Renteria, who was a member of the expansion 1993 Florida Marlins, managed the Cubs for a season before the team hired Joe Maddon.
  • The Twins finished 29th in team ERA (5.09) — starters 30th at 5.39, relievers 26th at 4.63. Twins relievers were 15th in strikeout rate (8.5 K/9), and were tied with the Royals and Giants for the eighth-best walk rate (3.1 BB/9).
  • The Twins finished with a below average offense at 95 wRC+ (18th) — one spot ahead of the White Sox (94). Twins hitters batted a collective .251/.316/.421, with the 12th-most home runs in baseball (200), the 13th-best walk rate (8.2 percent) and the sixth-highest strikeout rate (22.8 percent).
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