The big Twins news out of Florida on Tuesday is that Miguel Sano’s recovery from a right heel injury isn’t going as well as hoped and that he likely won’t make his 2019 debut until May.
That’s a blow for the Twins’ hopes of a surge up the standings, since a healthy Sano gives Minnesota a better chance for a true breakout year. It’s a bigger blow from Sano, who by all accounts had a strong offseason and is trying to rehabilitate his career after a disastrous 2018 season in which he hit .199.
Unfortunately for the Twins, they’ve become pretty accustomed to life without Sano. He played just 71 games last season for a variety of reasons, and that was after appearing in 114 the year before — with many of the missed games coming down the stretch as the Twins battled for and eventually claimed a wild card spot.
And interestingly, the Twins have become pretty good at playing without Sano. Owing perhaps to a combination of good fortune and replacing Sano’s fluctuating production with equal or better production, the Twins have a significantly better record from 2015-18 when Sano doesn’t play vs. when he plays.
Here is the year-by-year breakdown:
2015: 42-40 without Sano, 41-39 with him. That was the year he tore up the second half of the season and helped the Twins stay in the wild card race until the final weekend.
2016: 16-30 without Sano, 43-73 with him. Lousy either way.
2017: 27-21 without Sano, 58-56 with him. He was an all-star that year after a monster first half, but he cooled down in the second half before being derailed by an injury. Eduardo Escobar filled in wonderfully for him down the stretch.
2018: 50-41 without Sano, 28-43 with him. It wasn’t all his fault, but hitting .199 in the 71 games he played certainly didn’t help the team’s bottom line.
Overall: 135-132 without Sano (.506 winning percentage, three games over .500).
170-211 with Sano (.446 winning percentage, 41 games under .500).
Again: A healthy and locked-in Sano makes the Twins better. But when the Twins haven’t had that in the last four years, they’ve been just fine.
I suspect that with Marwin Gonzalez and a bunch of guys who can DH or play first base already in the mix, they’ll hold down the fort again with Sano out.