The Twins' 7-14 record this season — which puts them on a 108-loss pace, in case you were wondering — has come about in a most unusual way.
If a game lasts a regular nine innings, the Twins have been just fine: a 7-5 record, a pace that would probably put them on track for an other AL Central title. But in games are either long or short — seven-inning doubleheaders or extra-inning games — they are a dismal 0-9, including Monday's 5-3, 10-inning loss in Cleveland.
I have a disdain for the notion of a seven-inning doubleheader, which MLB has implemented each of the last two seasons. And I really dislike the way baseball conducts extra innings now, whereby each team starts the half-inning with a runner on second.
But this isn't a place to complain about the rules. I've done that a bunch of times already on the Daily Delivery podcast, so on Tuesday's show I stuck to what has gone wrong for the Twins instead of what is wrong with baseball.
At the heart of the matter is this question: Is the Twins' 0-9 mark in those shorter or longer games merely a statistical oddity, or does it reveal fundamental flaws with the Twins? The answer is probably a little bit of both, but even that conclusion finds that the winless mark isn't just a fluke and has meaning.
Extra-inning games — in which the Twins are 0-5 — show two particular flaws:
*The Twins' bullpen lacks the sort of bat-missing power arms that can get out of a manufactured jam created by MLB's runner-on-second rule. A team that can put the ball in play twice has a good chance of scoring a run in that scenario.
Overall the bullpen has been dreadful, ranking No. 25 in baseball in relief pitcher ERA (4.86) and compiling a 1-8 record — with the eight losses being the most for any team in the majors.
In four of the five extra-inning losses, a Twins relief pitcher gave up at least one run in the eighth or ninth inning, including Monday when Tyler Duffey allowed a game-tying homer in the eighth. Clean work there would have prevented extra innings altogether.
And in four of the five extra inning losses, Alexander Colome has allowed at least one run in either the eighth, ninth or extra innings — including the game-winning homer in the 10th on Monday. His struggles have been a microcosm of the bullpen's woes.
*And on the flip side, the Twins as a team have not been clutch. They have just a .198 team batting average in "late and close" situations this season, going 21 for 106. And they have struck out 30 times in those 106 at bats — suggesting that their lineup, which hasn't been terrible overall, struggles against high-end relievers.
A good example Monday: Andrelton Simmons struck out on three pitches with a runner on third and one out in the top of the 10th. They were all cutters clocked at 100 mph, 99 and 99 from Cleveland's Emmanuel Clase — the types of nasty pitches the Twins don't throw and can't hit. If Simmons can hit a fly ball, there's a decent chance the Twins score.
The seven-inning losses are harder to explain because one would think that a team with a bullpen that has struggled would benefit from a shorter game.
Those might be brushed away more easily as outliers with extenuating circumstances: the first double-header came against Boston, a series that had a game postponed after the police killing of Daunte Wright. The second double-header came after the Twins had three games postponed because of COVID.
They scored just three runs combined in the four games. Maybe players' minds were not fully into those games. Maybe a team that tends to lack urgency and focuses on long-term success can struggle in a seven-inning game.
But the, ahem, long and short of it shows the Twins have an 0-9 mark in all games that don't go exactly nine innings, and they are going to have a whole bunch more of those as the season goes along.