The 2023 Minnesota Twins are off to a solid start to the year, with a 3.5-game lead in the AL Central a little over a quarter of the way through the season. The 2022 Twins had a very similar start to the season to this year’s team. At this point in 2022, they had a 28-18 record and a 5-game lead in the division before falling victim to injuries late in the year and finishing 78-84. A closer look at Minnesota’s stats through 46 games in 2022 and 2023 will give us a great picture of what this year’s squad is doing better (and worse) than they were a year ago at this time.
Minnesota’s starting pitching has significantly improved from this time last year. According to FanGraphs, the Twins currently have the best starting pitching and the second-best overall pitching staff in Major League Baseball. MLB.com voters named Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan to their list of the top-5 American League Cy Young favorites so far, which is a testament to how good they have been to this point in the season.
In 2022, the Twins starters were still good through the quarter mark of the season, but they ranked 7th overall. Interestingly, they had a slightly better staff ERA last year – with a 3.06 compared to 3.16 this year. Besides that, the 2023 starters are much better in many different areas. Walks are down, with this year’s staff posting a 2.19 BB/9 compared to a 3.04 BB/9 last year. The Twins are the only team in the majors this year to average over 10 K/9 from their starters. Last year, they were in 10th place in that category with 8.52 K/9.
It’s also notable that Minnesota’s starting staff is third in the league in innings pitched, and they were 18th in that category at this time a year ago. That shows how much deeper the starting pitchers have been able to go in games this year. Finally, the 2023 Twins starters are also leading the majors in Wins Above Replacement with 6.3, whereas they only had 4.5 WAR last year.
In addition to the starting pitching, the Twins have been a little bit better in what was perhaps the worst aspect of the team early on last year: the bullpen. Last year, Minnesota’s relief pitchers were dead-last in WAR (-0.3). Conversely, this year’s bullpen has a 1.4 WAR. Many of the stat categories were slightly better than the 2022 bullpen. Still, consider that they had to pitch a lot more innings because the starters could not go nearly as deep as they have this year.
However, Minnesota can still improve at the plate. The Twins are 17th in the majors in overall batting this year compared to 6th at this point last season. Looking at a couple of specific categories, the 2022 Twins had a higher batting average by 16 points than the current team has (.248 compared to .232). They were also 17 points better than the current Twins in on-base percentage (.328 compared to .311). One category the Twins have improved on this year is the long ball. They have gotten a lot of their offense from home runs, hitting 62 so far on the year compared to just 45 last season.
There is a lot of baseball left to be played in 2023, but the Twins are showing signs that they will be able to remain competitive for the entire season. They have shown they can play with some of baseball’s best teams already. Before hitting the 50-game mark, the Twins won the season series over the Yankees for the first time since 2001. They also took two out of three from the Astros and picked up their first win over the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine since 2005.
Those results are significantly different from recent years when it often felt like the Twins were overmatched against baseball’s best teams, no matter how good they were. Last year’s team may have had a slightly better record at this point in the season, but the 2023 Twins feel like a better team.
With the Twins having several impressive wins already this season, it is easy to envision them continuing that success to October and making a run in the playoffs. Some fans may be concerned that they will eventually fall apart down the stretch like last season. Still, a massive contributor to that late-season collapse last year was because of many different key players being injured. Of course, there are always injuries in an MLB season, but keep in mind that Minnesota hired a new athletic trainer and medical staff before this season. That could help the team stay healthier as the year goes on. If everyone can contribute and the Twins keep putting together solid performances, this could be a fun season.