So, the Twins are weirdly good. As far as I can tell, it’s for these reasons, most of which don’t make any sense:
1. Justin Morneau. He isn’t hitting home runs like we might want and so I think a lot of people are assuming he’s done, but look a little deeper and things are kind of intriguing. He now has 28 RBI in 34 games, so guys are clearly getting on base for him, but he’s also hitting .349 with RISP (he’s also 5-for-5 with the bases loaded). Most interestingly, he is making contact on 84.7% of his swings. That’s about 5% more than normal and is equaled only by his 2008 season. Moreover, his flyball % is back up to pre-concussion levels, which is a good thing for him since he was hitting a lot of weak grounders in the last couple years.
2. Above average-ness. It’s not that anybody is greatly exceeding expectations in our lineup. It’s mostly that everybody is slightly exceeding expectations. Florimon is 2nd on the team with 0.7 WAR. Escobar and Dozier have been more than serviceable. Nobody, besides Hicks, has been bad… and then Hicks went and did what he did tonight. Sometimes certain teams just have the right mix of people stepping up–see 2012 Baltimore Orioles.
3. Our bullpen is rightfully getting a lot of credit for the good start, but something else has been happening that’s harder to quantify. Our starting pitching has been nearly terrible, as advertised, but the weird thing about it is that our guys seem to have great games when they are needed, followed by terrible games when we weren’t going to win anyway. Case and point: Mike Pelfrey has a 6.03 ERA and a 5.20 xFIP, but his FIP at 3.67 is better than Correia’s and he has a 0.6 WHIP, which is not only second on the team but puts him 26th (!!!!!!) among starting pitchers in the American League. That means he’s been more valuable so far this year than Cobb, Pettitte, Price, Tillman and Dickey!
A cynic would say that all this means is that the Twins have been getting lucky (fangraphs guys have said as much). But here’s the thing about metrics: sometimes they do a better job of illustrating truths than they their creators envisioned. Sometimes a good BABIP actually demonstrates not luck but a change in approach that’s been beneficial. And sometimes good hitters are just clutch.