This season felt so much like last season for the Twins, right down to the identical 66-96 record both versions wound up having. But in breaking down the numbers, that’s only partly true. In some ways the teams were eerily similar, and in some ways, they were quite different. Here are three from each category:
More of the same
1. We didn’t think the starting pitching could be as bad as it was a year ago. But here are the final numbers for the team’s starting pitchers: 2012 — 39-75 record, 5.40 ERA, 62 quality starts. 2013 — 39-74 record, 5.26 ERA, 62 quality starts. That is the most marginal of improvement, particularly with the attempts at upgrading in the offseason.
2. It looked for a while like the Twins might avoid the late-season swoon that has plagued them in recent seasons. But instead, Aug. 1 through the end of the season ended up looking very familiar. The Twins went 22-37 to close the year last season; in 2013, they went 21-37 thanks to a 3-16 mark in their final 19 games.
3. Once again, the Twins bullpen was a primary strength. The 2012 squad improved from a dismal 4.51 reliever ERA in 2011 (last in the AL) to a more middle-of-the-pack 3.77. This year’s bullpen checked in at top-half 3.50.
Very much different
1. If there is one area in which the Twins markedly improved in 2013 it was defense — particularly in the middle infield, where Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon offer hope that they might settle in for the long haul. The Twins had a rough finish Sunday with three errors, bringing their season total to 81. But that’s still far better than last year’s 107.
2. The Twins had Denard Span, Ben Revere and a productive Josh Willingham in the outfield for much of last season. This year’s outfield production came nowhere near matching them. Twins outfielders last year had a combined .736 OPS. This year? .682. Trading Span and Revere was a big reason the Twins dropped from 135 stolen bases last season to 56 this year.
3. There is a certain hopelessness projected by a team that strikes out a lot. The 2012 Twins fanned 1,069 times, which seemed like a lot … until they got to this year and whiffed a whopping 1,430 times — most in team history and third-most in MLB history.