Twins Do Well Under the Radar
by Robert Ferringo - 06/30/2008
Yes, the Twins are for real.
Minnesota was one of the three teams that I had pegged at the start of the year as one of my "Teams To Follow", meaning that I was confident that those three clubs would turn a profit and far exceed expectations on the season. I saw it. I knew. I felt the vibe of those wacky Minnesotans. So their recent run at the top spot in the American League Central really isn't the least bit surprising.
There. That's my auto-fellatio portion of the article, and now we can focus our attention on the more pertinent question: can Minnesota continue to earn for us throughout the remainder of the year?
The answer: a resounding "Hell yeah."
Between 2002 and 2006 the Twins won the division four times and were a staple of October baseball. However, a rash of injuries to their marquee players, along with a position in one of the best divisions in baseball, conspired to submarine their 2007 season. This is when it first occurred to me that Minnesota would be a quintessential Bounceback Team in 2008. Then in the offseason the value on Minnesota's squad actually increased as public perception of their franchise decreased, with several personnel maneuvers portrayed as "rebuilding", a "fire sale" or "one-sided deals".
Yet, much like the Oakland A's, the Twins rely on a firm foundation and a solid system within the organization to produce victories in spite of their financial handicap. The Twins are the clichéd team of overachievers who do it with grit and sweat as opposed to flash and cash, sticking to baseball fundamentals while remaining one of the most consistent teams of the last decade. They stayed true to their organizational philosophy in the offseason and that, along with some good fortune on the health front, has helped propel them into the thick of the A.L. Central race.
Minnesota relies on the calling cards of any successful MLB team: solid starting and relief pitching, sound defense, patience at the plate and assertiveness on the base paths, and enough cagey veterans that understand what winning in this league is all about. They also use a unique home field advantage and sneaky-good lineup to overwhelm unsuspecting opponents. This year's club is no exception.
The Twins are just No. 18 in team ERA but are No. 9 in bullpen ERA, which is critical because they have been involved in more one-run games (28) than all but two other clubs in the American League. The Twins are actually No. 5 in the Majors in ERA with runners in scoring position, a highly underrated stat, and they are ninth in the league in quality starts despite a rotation full of young, "unproven" arms in the eyes of most sports bettors.
Offensively, the Twins are No. 8 in the Majors in runs scored despite the fact that they have just two players with double-digits in home runs and one player with more than 45 RBI. A big part of their success is, again, a reliance on baseball fundamentals. They are No. 8 in team batting average while also situated at No. 23 in team strikeouts. Their station-to-station, make-every-out-a-productive one helps them grind out runs, wear down pitchers, and strike with big innings when the opportunity presents itself. A perfect example of their approach is the fact that they are No. 1 in the league in sacrifice flies.
But there is another critical element to Minnesota's success at the betting window. The fact is that public perception of the Twins is that they are a weak, small-ball, "lucky" team that can't bash with the big boys like the White Sox, Tigers, and Indians. Those other A.L. Central clubs receive much more time in the spotlight of the national media - partially because they all play in larger markets - so the Twins can sail under the radar despite their tremendous success.
A perfect example was the opening line on Monday's home opener against the Detroit Tigers. The Twins have won 10 of 11 games and 14 of 17 overall, as well as posting an 8-1 mark in their last nine home contests. However, the Tigers were actually posted as a -115 favorite compared to Minnesota's +110 number as a home dog. The Twins are ahead of the Tigers in the standings, for crying out loud! Absolutely no respect for the Twins, who have won five of six over the Tigers and are 51-23 in their last 74 games against Detroit in the Metrodome. Yet, the Twins are home dogs because the public thinks power and potential when they hear the name "Detroit Tigers".
The Twins are presently the No. 2 money team in all of baseball, banking dime bettors a seasonal total of nearly $14,000. Tampa Bay is presently No. 1 at nearly $16,000. But Minnesota's total shouldn't come as a shock considering that they have shown a profit in three of the past five seasons. Here are their totals during that stretch:
I believe that Minnesota will continue to be an exceptional bet for the rest of the season. Barring an injury to one of their two superstars in the lineup - Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer - the Twins will continue to score enough runs to be a feisty dog and should get just enough good pitching from the entire staff to nail down some series wins. Also, I think that it's a huge benefit that they don't rely on a "staff ace" because their stable of very good arms will help keep prices down in the +/-110 to +/-130 range. That is opposed to the routine -220 lines that they would have every fifth day when Johan Santana was manning the bump.
Minnesota is the perfect example of how public perception is a savvy gambler's best friend, and how consistent organizations with a sound baseball philosophy will produce winners and profit, on the field and at the window, year in and year out. Let the public continue to buy in to underachievers like Cleveland and Detroit while we'll keep putting our cash down on that solid, secure, fundamentally sound club up in the North Star State.