Twins

The Legend Of September Correa Continues To Grow

Photo Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

There is a familiar archetype in many great Western movies. Those movies usually feature an accomplished cowboy coming from a faraway land to fix an issue and restore order to a town that’s in dire need of saving. Many of these wild west stories are larger than life, but some of them have some truth tucked inside them. For the Twins, their wild west man came up from the heart of Texas.

Meet Carlos Correa.

First off, he’s already rocking that desperado ‘stache. Additionally, he was a star player for the Houston Astros who came on to an up-and-coming Minnesota Twins team to give them the protection of a bona fide superstar. Correa came in to help foster the development of young players like Jose Miranda, Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, and others. But most importantly, by adding Correa, the organization was trying to remove the specter of playoff losses that have spanned nearly two decades.

He had the reputation of a battle-tested veteran, postseason hero, and World Champion. Correa slashed .277/.356/.481 with 133 home runs to produce a 127 OPS+ (100 is league average) in seven seasons with Houston. Correa came to Minnesota and quickly became a leader in the clubhouse with his successes, especially when the season gets to crunch time. The Twins saw that firsthand in September 2022.

Correa was having a fine first season in Minnesota last year. However, it was streaky. From Opening Day to Aug. 31, he slashed .271/.352/.430 with 15 home runs and a 125wRC+ in 105 games. Good, but not the top-10 caliber player Twins fans remember with the Astros. It’s been another topsy-turvy season for Correa in 2023 but much worse than the year prior.

Despite some big hits, including a massive walk-off home run against Milwaukee, he was only able to produce .222/.304/.391 with 16 home runs and a 95 wRC+ clip in 120 games. The Twins are still in a position to make the postseason, even with Correa’s dip in production, and they need him to play well at the end of the season again.

In those westerns, now would be a good time for the cowboy to come to town when they are needed most. Correa has provided that in the month of September since arriving in Minnesota last year. But is “September Correa” actually a thing, or is it just something fun narrative to create on social media? September Correa is no myth or tall tale. He’s real, and he’s here again in 2023.

Correa produced a .355/.412/.589 slash line with seven home runs and a whopping 188 wRC+ in 31 games that helped keep his status as one of the most sought-after free agents last winter. With the hype from last season, Twins fans were hoping for similar results this season. We are starting to see that, especially compared to his below-average numbers up to this point. Since the beginning of September, Correa has racked up .308/.372/.513 with two home runs and a 145 wRC+ clip in 10 games this month.

Minnesota’s postseason push continues into the final full calendar month of the season. Byron Buxton was expected to be a one-two punch with Correa. Unfortunately, Buxton’s 2023 season is a clear step back in production from 2022. The Twins need Correa, their highest-paid player, to step up.

This September, Correa is delivering. The Twins desperately need one of their top two veterans to lead the roster that’s won in despite their lack of production in 2023. Correa has been able to do that in big moments. From Opening Day through August, he has a -1.83 win probability added, with his league-leading 29 double plays as the main culprit. This September has been marginally better, with a -0.26 WPA. It featured some big hits, such as a go-ahead RBI in extras in Texas on September 2 and a multi-extra base hit game against the Mets on September 8.

For some perspective, Correa’s .809 career OPS in September makes it only his third-highest month. May (.835) and June (.936) career OPS are both high and have higher home run and RBI totals. Even last season, his 1.012 OPS in June was slightly higher than his 1.005 OPS last September. However, this season has been a different story. Correa’s .885 September OPS is the highest of any month in 2023.

However, that doesn’t mean he’s completely turned things around. His strikeout (164) and walk (65) numbers are both the second-worst month in his career historically. So what changes? Correa still hits the ball as hard as he normally does, but in September 2022 and 2033, he’s been able to increase his launch angle from around 11 degrees up towards 15 degrees to create fewer ground balls and more line drives.

It’s fun to see Correa start to get hot, especially toward the end of the season. The reason behind that optimism is that logically, if a guy is playing well through September, he will also play well in October. That’s even more important, considering Minnesota’s postseason misfortunes.

On paper, there aren’t many hitters in baseball history who have produced as much as Correa. His .272/.344/.505 slash line with a 2.71 WPA in 79 playoff games is remarkable. Even more amazing is that Correa’s 18 playoff home runs are tied for seventh all-time, with his 59 postseason RBIs coming in sixth all-time. The guy just knows how to hit when at the right time, just like the cowboy knows to show up right at high noon to face off against the outlaw.

So do all of these numbers mean Correa will dominate through the final month of the season and carry the Twins to postseason success? Nobody has any clue if it will matter or not. The postseason is a different kind of challenge compared to baseball’s 162-game season. All that matters is getting hot at the right time. There is no guarantee a productive postseason hitter will be productive this postseason. Correa’s effective stretches toward the end of the last two seasons don’t hurt Minnesota’s chances, though.

The Twins have seen the bad, the good, and the ugly when it comes to Correa’s time in Minnesota. He may not be Marshall Dillon, Clint Eastwood, or even Chuck Norris. But what he can be is a battle-tested veteran who knows how to get the job done. The playoffs can be tricky to gauge based on the small sample size.

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