On this week’s edition of the Twins Insider podcast, La Velle E. Neal III and I tried to get to the bottom of an important question both of us have been asked a lot lately: Are the Twins for real? We settled on a tentative “yes,” but really you should listen to the whole thing on iTunes or Startribune.com.
What we can definitively say, though, is this: 2017 has been so much better than 2016. As if you needed a lot of proof to believe that a team that is 25-18 near the end of May is better than a team that was 25-54 on July 1 last season, here are some comparisons between the two on the same date - May 26 - this year and last:
Record vs. Royals
Ervin Santana's season to date
2016: A 1-3 record, 4.17 ERA, coming off his worst outing of the season against Kansas City in which he allowed six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
2017: He's 7-2 with a 1.80 ERA coming off a two-hit shutout of the Orioles, his second complete game shutout of the season.
Miguel Sano's Season to date
2016: A .221 batting average, 21 runs batted in and a .736 on-base plus slugging percentage while playing out of position in right field.
2017: A .300 batting average, 37 runs batted in and a 1.017 OPS while playing more than competently at his natural position, third base.
Jose Berrios' season to date
2016: Pitching in Rochester after being demoted in mid-May following four starts with the Twins in which he allowed 17 earned runs in just 15 innings.
2017: Generating national chatter after allowing just four earned runs over 21 2/3 innings in his first three starts of the season with the Twins, all victories.
2016: Kevin Jepsen, taking over for the injured Glen Perkins, had a 2-4 record, four saves, three blown saves and a 5.59 ERA, contributing to the terrible start.
2017: Brandon Kintzler has a 2-0 record, 12 saves, one blown save and a 1.71 ERA, contributing to the Twins’ dramatic turnaround.
Key phrase to describe the first two months
2016: “Total system failure.” That was the infamous phrase used by owner Jim Pohlad in a May interview with the Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins to describe the Twins’ early-season woes after coming into the year with high hopes.
2017: “Collaborative communication.” Those exact words or some variation have been used quite often by new Twins boss Derek Falvey to describe the culture he wants to create with the Twins. So far, it seems to be working.
Final word from the outside
2016: “It seems as if their early season struggles aren’t just a blip — they may actually be as bad as they’ve looked.” – Paragraph from SBNation.com on the Twins’ woes last year.
2017: “They’re not going away. If they continue to pitch, they’re going to be tough. That’s the team I thought they were going to be last year.” – Orioles manager Buck Showalter after the Twins swept Baltimore.