The numbers line up remarkably uniformly. The five highest-scoring teams in the American League in 2018 are also the five teams that made the playoffs.
The Twins had the sixth most.
The six teams that had the highest batting average with runners in scoring position? Five playoff teams, plus the Twins. Slugging percentage? Same six teams.
But there’s one column in which the Twins sharply diverge from the October Five: Home runs. Each playoff team launched at least 200 homers, led by New York’s record-setting 276. The Twins had 101 fewer than that, finishing 12th in the league with 166.
Which means their offense had to work much harder to keep up with one-swing offenses that rule the game today. The average AL team scored 41.0 percent of its runs on homers in 2018, led by the Yankees’ Stanton-and-Judge fueled attack that racked up 50.8 percent of its runs by trotting around the bases. In the postseason, where crushing an occasional mistake is often the only way to counter elite-level pitching, that proportion rose to 41.9 percent.
Minnesota’s offense, on the other hand, scored just 35.4 percent of its runs the easy way, a percentage better than only the Rays and Tigers. In a sport where home runs have becoming increasingly important, where batters see launch angle and exit velocity as their keys to success, the Twins’ offense became less power-centric. That they finished sixth in scoring despite the power outage might be an under-appreciated accomplishment, even though the Twins scored 77 fewer runs in 2018 than 2017, nearly half a run per game.
All of which partly explains why Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and perhaps Tyler Austin (pictured) loom so large in the Twins’ hopes for 2019. Sano hit 13 home runs in his circus of a 2018 season, or 15 fewer than his All-Star year of 2017. Buxton didn’t reach the seats once in his 28-game cameo, after whacking 16 a year earlier. The Twins’ 40-homer decline last season can be largely explained right there.
The decline and departure of Brian Dozier hurt, too; After receiving 36 homers from the leadoff spot in 2017, the Twins ranked 13th in 2018 with only 12.
Austin hit nine homers in just 35 games after joining the Twins in August, a pace that could place him among the team’s leading sluggers over a full season. And don’t be surprised if the front office prioritizes power hitting as they survey the free-agent market and consider trades.