North Score

The North Score features analytics-infused stories by Star Tribune reporters about the players and teams we cover. Our goals are to explain trends, answer burning questions and look through an analytics lens to find new stories within Minnesota teams.

North Score

The North Score features analytics-infused stories by Star Tribune reporters about the players and teams we cover. Our goals are to explain trends, answer burning questions and look through an analytics lens to find new stories within Minnesota teams.

Jake Cave drove a ninth-inning, 3-0 pitch for a single. Controversy ensued.

North Score: Why don't we try writing down the 'unwritten rules'?

Are these unspoken agreements useful or would we be better off in general without them?
Nelson Cruz, left, and Jonathan Schoop have been two big additions to the Twins lineup this season. But they're not the only newcomers making a differ

Most impactful new Twins player? You have a long list to choose from

May 19, 2019
An injection of talent and new ideas has fueled the Twins to a hot start and one of the best records in MLB. It might be hard to pick just one, but let's try: Which new addition to the Twins has made the biggest impact in 2019?
Twins first baseman C.J. Cron smacked a three run, 418-foot home run off Toronto starter Matt Shoemaker on April 15.

Built for distance: Target Field seeing big spike in home runs

May 1, 2019
Good to pitch, good to hit: That's the balance the Twins were seeking when Target Field was built. But that hasn't always been the case in a ballpark that faced unique construction challenges.

Virginia's extra-long possessions can frustrate both opponents and fans

April 4, 2019
If the expression "slow and steady wins the race" applies to basketball, then this much is certain: Virginia men's basketball players will be cutting down the nets

Wolves need to figure out what to do with Wiggins

March 10, 2019
North Score: Michael Rand and Jim Souhan debate the possibilities.

Opinions differ on fan-favorite Astudillo making Twins roster

January 19, 2019
North Score: Twins beat reporter La Velle E. Neal III and Michael Rand take a look at the case to be made for Willians Astudillo to make the Twins' roster out of spring training.

Is groin injury first sign of LeBron's aging?

January 3, 2019
North Score: LeBron James is 34, the same age previous preps-to-pros superstars have slowed down.

Cruz's power potential will move needle for Twins

January 1, 2019
North Score: Veteran Nelson Cruz is one of three sluggers that has been added to a Twins lineup that lacked muscle

How much of an edge will the Gophers get by making it to a bowl?

December 22, 2018
North Score: Michael Rand and Gophers beat reporter Randy Johnson debate and discuss the possible added value to the Gophers program by its presence in Wednesday's Quick Lane Bowl.

Learn from your fantasy football mistakes

December 22, 2018
North Score: Was your fantasy football team a dud in 2018? Here's some advice to turn thins around in 2019.

Sano, Buxton steal Twins headlines, but Pineda's role for '19 could be big

December 8, 2018
North Score: Michael Rand and Twins beat writer Phil Miller tackle one of the many mysteries entering the team's 2019 campaign: What role will Micheal Pineda play?

NCAA-bound Gophers volleyball driven by data

November 28, 2018
North Score: Gophers coaches work to blend analytics with the game's art and science. "We're doing it at as high a level as anyone else," first-year assistant coach Jennifer Bolduc said.

Explaining the Wild's run of success

November 15, 2018
North Score: The Wild entered Wednesday with the third-best points percentage in the NHL. Let's look at three reasons the team has been successful.

Should NFL teams go for two-point conversions more often?

October 27, 2018
Given the new rules that seem to favor offenses and the not-so-sure-thing of a 33-yard extra point, should teams be going for two even more regardless of the score?

More football coaches bucking tradition, going for it on fourth down

October 29, 2018
Numbers say going for it on fourth down is often advisable, including fourth-and-10 on your opponent's 40 when a long field goal's odds are just that and a deep punt isn't guaranteed.

Stop it! Why the Vikings should never throw a backward pass

October 23, 2018
NFL offenses are getting closer to mastering the forward pass. So maybe now is the time to turn our attention to the worst idea in football.

Believe it: Wolves have offense to fall back on

October 16, 2018
North Score: the Wolves had one of the best offenses in the NBA a year ago, finishing fourth in efficiency. How in the world did they do that when they finished dead last in both three-pointers made and attempted?

Buxton and Sano: Who is to blame, and what can we expect?

October 6, 2018
North Score: What can a new Twins manager do differently with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to achieve better results?

Why was Molitor fired as Twins manager? Don't blame analytics

October 2, 2018
When asked if the new Twins manager will need to embrace advanced numbers and analytics, Derek Falvey said yes. But he added: “I will say this: Paul in particular was incredibly open-minded to things.”

How a key golf stat gives us great Ryder Cup clues

September 26, 2018
North Score: Statistics could play a big part in the strategy used in the Ryder Cup. Minnesota's own Tom Lehman is a believer.

Wild faces age-old problem in improving its playoff fortunes

September 26, 2018
  The narrative entering this Wild season is a familiar one: After six seasons making the playoffs — with four one-and-dones and two trips to…

State Fair attendance will top Twins attendance for first time since 2000

September 11, 2018
What at first might seem like an apples to oranges comparison is actually somewhat revealing when put into context.

Numbers support Twins decision on Buxton's non call-up

September 4, 2018
North Score: There is evidence that Byron Buxton has not earned a promotion — nor would him coming up and succeeding for a few weeks prove anything about his readiness for 2019.

Head game: Cousins' 'brain coach' helps him stay in a 'flow state'

September 1, 2018
North Score: Kirk Cousins goes through extensive and atypical training to mold his brain — so he can be in the right state of mind, all the time.

Red zone blues: Cousins, other QBs cool off close to the goal line

August 29, 2018
North Score: In 2017, only one quarterback had a higher completion rate in the red zone than his overall completion percentage. "Red zone football is unique," Kirk Cousins said.

Data can unlock secrets of Stefon Diggs' speed

August 28, 2018
North Score: When receiver Stefon Diggs is healthy, there are few that can stop him. His challenge now is to stay healthy for an entire season.

Sano making small (but uneven) improvements since demotion

August 24, 2018
North Score: The Twins slugger has been swinging and missing less — until some old habits returned this week.

Forcing fumbles not a forté of the Vikings defense

August 22, 2018
North Score: The Vikings forced just eight fumbles last season, tied for 30th in the league. According to defensive end Brian Robison, this isn't a mistake.

Shooting for perfection: Lynx turn to technology to sharpen their shots

August 17, 2018
North Score: During every Lynx practice at Mayo Clinic Square, the loudest and most ubiquitous voice doesn't belong to coach Cheryl Reeve, her assistants or any of the players.

When it comes to NFL blitzes, more isn't always better; just ask the Vikings

August 16, 2018
North Score: The NFL has morphed into a passing league — and defenses have figured out the best way to combat that is with fewer blitzes.

No need to waste high fantasy football pick on a great QB

August 14, 2018
North Score: As long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy, he is in line to put up MVP-type numbers. But don't be tempted to take him, or any other top quarterback, on your fantasy football team.

An ongoing battle: Mauer has seen evolution of shifting in his career

August 7, 2018
To stay true to his hitting style, Joe Mauer has to combat not just pitchers who throw harder than ever, but computers spitting out information that makes defensive positioning more sophisticated.

Jack Morris' Hall of Fame election defies traditional numbers

July 28, 2018
North Score: With Jack Morris, Hall of Fame voters found a different perspective into his career beyond statistics.

Thome's numbers look even better in retirement

July 27, 2018
North Score: Jim Thome stands out from today's players in a few ways

Vikings challenge: Super Bowl teams need young stars to make impact

July 25, 2018
North Score: The data on recent Super Bowl winners shows the contributions that need to be made by young players, and it may not be what you think.

Lynx consistently excel on the boards, despite general inconsistent play

July 18, 2018
North Score: Despite a down year so far by their standards, the Lynx are still on pace to set a WNBA record in one important category related to rebounding — defensive rebounding percentage.

Catch-and-shoot: Tolliver's return brings Wolves specific three-point threat

July 11, 2018
North Score: More than three quarters of Anthony Tolliver's shot attempts were catch-and-shoot three-pointers, according to, and he was proficient when he shot them.

Twins broadcasters ponder how much analytics is too much

July 6, 2018
How much of this information do you present about the modern changes to the game at the risk of confusing or alienating the audience?

Twins' four-man outfield shift could start a trend

July 3, 2018
North Score: Having four outfielders is a newer wrinkle to baseball that has come about as hitters try to hit more fly balls in the hope of hitting more home runs.

'Going through the ball.' Data details Escobar's dramatic rise

June 27, 2018
North Score: Eduardo Escobar is hitting the ball harder than he has at any point in his career. Here's how we know that.

An official scorer's life: Bad hops, bad throws ... and exit velocity

June 26, 2018
North Score: Technology has brought a new element to rulings made by baseball's official scorers. And not all of them are fans of the data that's available to them.

Does MLB need to do something about all the defensive shifts?

June 23, 2018
Michael Rand and Chris Hine weigh in on the week's hot sports topics.

0-for-seven (years): Will Lynx guard Robinson ever hit a 3-pointer?

June 21, 2018
North Score: The WNBA is becoming more of a three-point shooting league. And then there's the curious case of three-time All-Pro Danielle Robinson, who is 0-for-37 in her pro career.

Sano's problems at the plate are rooted in the slider

June 20, 2018
North Score: Miguel Sano doesn't have to be good at hitting sliders to become a consistent threat in the Twins lineup. He just can't be as wretched as he has been this season.

Secret to Capitals' scoring was making goalies slide

June 14, 2018
North Score: The Capitals' focus on offense was not about getting a volume of shot attempts, but instead trying to work to get higher-quality attempts.

To the left! To the right! Twins now one of baseball's shiftiest teams

June 12, 2018
This season the Twins are third in baseball in the rate at which they employ an infield shift, more than doubling their rate from 2017. But is all that moving around good for the game?

LeBron has figured out when to walk and when to run

June 5, 2018
North Score: LeBron James has a simple way of keeping himself fresh during games: He doesn't run as much as his opponents.

Lance Lynn knows what's been wrong, even if he'd rather not discuss it

June 1, 2018
North Score: There is nobody who has watched Lynn pitch in 2018 and will tell you he's pitched up to expectations. "There's a combination of things that's going on," pitching coach Garvin Alston said,

Sharing over shooting: How the Warriors passed by the Rockets

May 29, 2018
North Score: Without a passing plan, Houston's cold shooters just had to keep shooting in a stunning Game 7 loss, even though they missed shot after shot after shot.

Creative roster building? Fenton's been there in Nashville

May 23, 2018
North Score: Paul Fenton said analytics will play a role in every move he makes. That's what he did in Nashville, which is now a Stanley Cup contender.

Kepler's improvement with the bat: One part power, one part patience

May 15, 2018
North Score: In his third full season, Twins outfielder Max Kepler is "barreling" more balls and seeing pitches more clearly.

In the cards: Twins outfielders look down before they look up

May 13, 2018
North Score: The influence of analytics continues expansion into baseball, as evidenced by a growing reliance on outfield positioning charts. But baseball instinct remains part of the equation.

Vegas Golden Nights: The most successful expansion franchise ever

May 9, 2018
North Score: Wild fans might not want to hear it, but the Golden Knights used the scraps from 30 teams, including Erik Haula and Alex Tuch, to make first-year history.

Strikeouts outnumbering hits in MLB is predictable (and pretty crazy)

May 4, 2018
North Score: Pitchers are throwing harder, and with more knowledge, and hitters are swinging for the fences. Does this make for better baseball?

Twins-friendly stats - do they exist?

May 2, 2018
North Score: Advanced metrics show the Twins haven't been unlucky, just bad.

The Wild can make moves, despite its big contracts. Here's how

May 2, 2018
North Score: The contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter do eat up plenty of cap space, but the notion that the Wild is stuck, salary-cap wise, is just plain incorrect.

Biggest first-round winners in the NFL Draft? Probably the Packers

April 27, 2018
North Score: The Packers and new general manager Brian Gutekunst were among the busiest teams working the trade market. What did they pull off?

50 – a number that will live in Timberwolves playoff infamy

April 24, 2018
North Score: The Rockets scored 50 points in the first half. Then they scored 50 points in the third quarter, changing the entire tone of their playoff series with the Wolves.

Jimmy Johnson draft chart still gets to the point on NFL draft picks

April 24, 2018
North Score: The gauge created by the former Cowboys coach to rank the value of draft picks has some competition now.

Why Derrick Rose, of all people, can be Wolves' difference-maker

April 23, 2018
North Score: The former MVP is leading the Wolves in usage rate, an indicator he has become the No. 1 X-factor in this first-round series.

Two views: Are the Vikings better off trading up or down?

April 21, 2018
Michael Rand and Chris Hine weigh in on the hot sports topics of the week.

Inside the loss: Wild had more shots in Game 4, but Jets had better ones

April 18, 2018
A deeper look shows that Winnipeg had three times as many high-quality or "high-danger" shots in Tuesday night's game.

Houston will get its threes, especially from the corners

April 18, 2018
North Score: From the corners of the court, the Rockets hit at a three-point rate of 39.6 percent.

How the Wild fixed a key weakness to beat Winnipeg

April 16, 2018
Minnesota went zone to zone to get better chances and notch a much-needed win against the Jets.

As Wild, Jets grind their bodies suffer – and recover in new ways

April 14, 2018
North Score: Jay Schroeder is not a typical physical trainer you'd see in a team locker room. He works to maximize the players' potential using a training method based on Russian techniques.

The big chill: Cold spring weather dampens Twins' offensive stats

April 16, 2018
North Score: This spring's wintry weather has had more than an aesthetic effect on Major League Baseball.

Wild's big challenge: Seal off Patrik Laine's prime scoring spots

April 11, 2018
North Score: Patrik Laine, who is only 19, scored 44 goals in his second season. He scores goals differently depending whether he is on the power play or skating 5-on-5.

Yes, Wolves players run lots during games; no, it's not all on Thibodeau

April 5, 2018
North Score: Only participants in tennis (3 miles per match), field hockey (5.6) and soccer (7) top basketball players in terms of miles covered in a game, according to Runner's World.

Replacing Suter? Wild needs nobody (and everybody) to fill the void

April 4, 2018
North Score: No one player is going to fill all that Ryan Suter does for the Wild. The mantra coming out of the dressing room is that everybody on the blue line must step up their game

Why is Wild winning more recently? This stat helps explain it

March 29, 2018
The Wild's smart defensive strategy near the "high-danger" zones has minimized good shots on goal – and improved its win-loss record.

Villanova knows best: Three-point shot changing college game, too

March 28, 2018
North Score: The value of the three-pointer has been well known in the NBA for a while now, but it has also fully infected the college game, albeit at a slower place.

Data show Vikings' Cousins strong-armed and dangerous

March 23, 2018
North Score: Because of Kirk Cousins' arm strength, the revamped Vikings offense could potentially be more dynamic and explosive.

Why new Twins pitcher Odorizzi isn't afraid to throw high fastballs

March 21, 2018
North Score: Jake Odorizzi comes to the Twins from a Rays staff that embraced throwing frequent high four-seam fastballs in an attempt to generate as many swings and misses as possible.

Jumping in? Picking Gonzaga could spark your NCAA pool picks

March 14, 2018
North Score: Don't pay attention to Gonzaga's No. 4 seed. Instead, look at how the experts rate the Zags (and other teams) compared to other teams who are part of March Madness.

Speedy deception: Combine speed doesn't measure up to 'game speed'

March 7, 2018
North Score: Thanks to advanced player tracking, the NFL has begun to measure how fast players are in a game. It doesn't always match data collected at the NFL Combine.

Wolves feeling the pain of Butler's injury

March 5, 2018
North Score: How much do the Wolves miss Jimmy Butler? He is second only to Houston's James Harden (12.1 to 11.36) in a metric ESPN created that's called Real Plus-Minus wins.

After regaining his scoring touch, Staal's a steal for the Wild

March 2, 2018
North Score: After a downturn in Carolina and New York, veteran center Eric Staal is lighting lamps again — and making Minnesota's $10.5 million deal seem like a steal.

How Logan Morrison changed his swing ... and how it paid off

February 28, 2018
North Score: With the help of the Rays, Morrison changed his swing, specifically so he could hit more fly balls in an attempt to hit more home runs.

Do Towns, Wolves have to box out more to be elite rebounders?

February 28, 2018
North Score: Wolves' center Karl-Anthony Towns is among the league leaders in rebounding, but he doesn't box out opponents as much as you'd think. His teammates? Even less.

Does Jimmy Butler's 'shoot-the-ball' mentality help the Wolves?

February 21, 2018
North Score: Butler is third in the league in clutch points, but his shooting percentage dips in those moments, too. Karl-Anthony Towns, meanwhile, rarely shoots in clutch moments.

Will a faster ballgame attract more fans? Attendance figures say otherwise

February 20, 2018
North Score: We've seen strong attendance for seasons with slower games, and poor attendance during seasons with faster games. Takeaway: Don't expect small tweaks to the rules to impact attendance.

NHL's mystery: Why are power plays more effective this season?

February 19, 2018
North Score: After pausing to ponder the question, Wild winger Zach Parise was dumbfounded, as was coach Bruce Boudreau.

Two views: Trading is the Twins' best bet, and Archer is a great target

February 17, 2018
Star Tribune sports staff Michael Rand and Chris Hine take a stab at assessing the Twins' search for starting pitching help.

Eye behind the mask: Dubnyk always working on his focus

February 14, 2018
North Score: To improve his eyes, Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk doesn't have to look too far — only to Edina, where a company called True Focus Vision keeps his sight in line.

Did Pederson's reliance on analytics wear off on DeFilippo?

February 14, 2018
North Score: Many lauded Doug Pederson for his play calling and willingness to take risks on fourth downs on the Eagles' path to winning Super Bowl LII. Will John DeFilippo bring that to the Vikings?

Will the Twins be no better than perfectly average this season?

February 9, 2018
North Score: The Twins will be a .500 team this season. That's if you put your faith into an algorithm developed by Baseball Prospectus that predicts each team's record.

Wolves big weakness: Road games with no rest

February 8, 2018
North Score: Having a day off between games makes a world of difference for the Wolves as they battle for positioning in the Western Conference standings.

NHL scoring is up, and increased slashing calls are partly responsible

February 5, 2018
North Score: There are a few reasons behind this revival of scoring. First, NHL power plays are converting at a rate they haven't been in a long time. Teams also are putting more shots on goal.

Patriots' defense is the best at 'bend but don't break'

February 3, 2018
North Score: The Patriots take pride in limiting red-zone TDs.

Tyus or Teague: Who should the Timberwolves rely on more?

February 1, 2018
North Score: What the in-depth statistics say about Timberwolves point guards Tyus Jones and Jeff Teague, including an advanced metric in which the former Apple Valley star shines.

Here's one measure in which Jamal Crawford is king of the Wolves

January 29, 2018
North Score: Crawford averages 10 points per game, but leads the Wolves in one advanced statistic. So here's why it's it vital for the Wolves to play well when he's on the floor.

Parise's scoring opportunities have changed markedly under Boudreau

January 25, 2018
North Score: Under coach Bruce Boudreau, Parise has been utilized for offensive zone starts during 5-on-5 play less than he has at any point since coming to the Wild in 2013.

As Twins continue to shop pitchers, let's ask: Who's most valuable?

January 22, 2018
What analytics tell us about free-agent pitchers.

How is Wild in playoff hunt despite being last in this statistic?

January 19, 2018
The Wild has the league's worst Corsi percentage -- a measure of overall shot attempts -- but dig deeper and see how the team limits opponents' scoring chances.

MVP? No. But Butler's shooting improvement most valuable to Wolves

January 18, 2018
Wolves star Jimmy Butler is getting more buckets from mid-range and torturing defenses while remaining an elite defender.

'A knowledgeable fan is an engaged fan': More leagues turn to analytics

January 17, 2018
Advanced stats are now readily available, a win-win for leagues and fans.

The North Score: Our new sports analytics beat

January 11, 2018
The North Score, led by new reporter Chris Hine, will feature analytics-based stories about the players and teams we cover. Our goals are to explain trends, answer burning questions and look through an analytics lens to find new stories within Minnesota teams.