By the end of today all of baseball’s playoff teams will have taken the field, and we’ll be well and truly into the postseason. But before we go too deep, we should take a moment to recognize the most impressive of the teams that did not make it into the postseason: the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins stayed in the playoff chase until the last weekend of the season. I noted at the trade deadline that I liked their inaction then, and the fact that they stayed so close to getting into the postseason confirms for me that their general course of action is the right one. You could argue that, had they made even one key acquisition, they might have won the four more games that would have put them into the playoffs; however, that idea ignores the reason it’s so impressive that the Twins stayed as close as they did: they didn’t really have much to trade that would have brought back that difference making player.
Indeed, Minnesota remained in the race despite the fact that they have a very ordinary team. Sure, Trevor Plouffe and Miguel Sano may be nice players with potential, but they’re not exactly Mike Trout or Josh Donaldson. Hell, they’re not even George Springer. Plouffe and Sano are two of only five Twins to have a WAR above 2; Springer’s WAR, at 3.8, would have easily led Minnesota in the statistic. Ten of the Astros players had a WAR above 2, double Minnesota’s number. And yet, the Twins stayed on Houston’s heels, all the way to the last Saturday of the season before finishing .
How in the hell did they do that? Apparently, Paul Molitor is a very good manager; Molitor and his staff squeezed every ounce of good play out of an ordinary lineup and pitching staff. The fact that the Twins could stay so close to contention with so little bang for their personnel buck bodes well for their future; there’s plenty of room for improvement, and they seem to have the leadership to make that improvement happen.
To be sure, having that extra Wild Card position to shoot for helped keep the Twins in contention; they would have been out of it much sooner had the one Wild Card format still applied. But that reformation in the playoffs was no guarantee of contention; I don’t remember seeing the damned Phillies or Athletics staying in contention through September. However you slice it, Minnesota pulled off something very impressive, and I’m curious to see how their story plays out next season.