Twins historic season ends on a bitter note

Cole Johnson, Staff Writer

The 2016 Minnesota Twins and the 2017 Minnesota Twins are two very similar teams with two very different outcomes. The 2016 Twins finished the season as the worst team in franchise history and worst team in Major League Baseball (59-103) whereas the 2017 Twins finished the year at 85-77. This record would have the Twins finish second in the central division and make the playoffs as the second wild card holder, the other being the New York Yankees. Although the Twins ended this year losing to the Yankees in the wild card game, this was one of the most successful seasons in Twins history.

By making the playoffs this year, the Twins became the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs after finishing the previous year with 100+ losses. Coming into this year with relatively the same roster, the MLB didn’t give this team a chance.

The biggest changes about the Twins roster was the addition of Jason Castro, a pitch-framing catcher but a liability at the plate, and the departure of Trevor Plouffe, an above average fielder, but a risk at the plate. The main change for this team didn’t involve the players. The Twins fired their General Manager Terry Ryan and hired two replacements in Thad Levine and Derek Falvey. Both come from successful franchises in the Texas Rangers and the Cleveland Indians, respectively.

The reason for the team’s success this year isn’t for high priced free agents and expert trades like a lot of the teams that make the playoffs every year. This year’s team has one of the youngest rosters in all of baseball. In 2016, all the players were still learning the ropes of how to succeed in the big leagues. This year they were able to take what they learned in 2016 and apply it successfully.

The main problem for the 2016 Twins was its pitching. The 2016 team earned run average (ERA) was 5.08, whereas the rest of the league’s ERA was 4.19. This year’s Twins ERA was 4.58, and the leagues average was 4.36. This shows a great improvement through the pitching, and it wasn’t an easy task. The Twins ended up using a franchise record 36 pitchers throughout the entire season, including backup catcher Chris Gimenez for seven innings.

The upgrade in the pitching this year isn’t all because the pitchers improvement. The Twins pitchers were greatly helped by the pitch-framer Jason Castro, and the all-around improvement on defense, namely Byron Buxton. The Twins allowed 100 fewer runs than last year, over 25 of those are due to pitch framing and over 20 are because of Buxton’s expertise in the outfield.

Pitching wasn’t the only thing to improve for the Twins this year. They were much better at the plate also. This year’s team scored almost 100 more runs than last year. Many of the players who struggled the previous year showed great improvement as well.  Buxton raised his average by 30 points which allowed the Twins to keep him in the MLB because he was no longer hurting the team with his struggles at the plate.

In 2016, the Twins experimented with Miguel Sano by placing him in right field when he’s normally a third baseman. This experiment went down in flames, hurting Sano’s confidence and causing him to not perform to his level at the plate finishing with a batting average of .236. This year the Twins played Sano at his natural position at third base and he raised his average to .264, while also making the all-star team.  

The player with the biggest improvement on the team was left fielder Eddie Rosario. In 2016, Rosario batted .269 with 10 homeruns and in 2017, Rosario raised his average to .290, and hit 27 homeruns. Rosario got hot late in the year along with Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier and Jorge Polanco, which provided the Twins with the offense they needed to break into the playoffs and surprise the entire league.

The 2017 Minnesota Twins pulled off one of the most unexpected seasons in all of sports, going from worst team in the league to playoff team in one year. With most of the team expected to return in 2018, the expectations will be a lot different. The Twins will look to prove that this year wasn’t a fluke and they are back to being a contender.

Cole Johnson is a sports writer for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]