The Minnesota Twins rode a juiced ball and revamped offensive approach to become one of the top slugging teams in all of baseball in 2019. The squad ranked second in wRC+, runs scored, and ISO, while setting the single-season HR record with 307. They were projected to continue that in 2020 — regardless of a less-exciting pitching staff, Depth Charts pegged them to be the second-best lineup in the game. After signing Josh Donaldson to what should be one of the best value FA deals of the winter, all signs pointed to performance likely meeting projections.
So far in our MLB The Show simulation, Minnesota lags back in third in their division, largely because that offense hasn’t carried over into 2020. The team is ninth in runs scored, but outside the top 10 in MLB in home runs, slugging and hits, outpaced in all categories by Cleveland, the Royals and the White Sox.
Look at the projected 10 best hitters in the Twins’ lineup, comparing their sim’d OPS against their 2019 marks:
Only three of the ten have actual improved on their performance from a year ago, with other guys taking huge steps backward. Miguel Sano continues his hot-and-cold career with an OBP below .300, while more than a third of the way through the season, Luis Arraez has a slugging percentage lower than his OBP — a year after he posted a 125 wRC+ in almost 400 plate appearances.
In absolute terms some of these marks aren’t bad — Nelson Cruz continues to defy age with an OPS over 1.000 and Donaldson is proving his worth, notching exactly a .900 OPS. If those guys are batting in the heart of your lineup, you’ll take that every day of the week. The problem is in a relative sense, as players take steps back without other players improving to pick up the offensive slack.
Adding to this is the maxim that nothing happens in a vacuum, your opponents are striving to improve whether or not you are. In our simulated AL Central, the Chicago White Sox finally look like they’re taking the leap into competition after a few sputtering rebuild years. The south-siders have three hitters boasting OPS over 1.000 — and Eloy Jimenez is making a strong push for AL MVP. Cleveland is as strong a lineup as ever, with Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez pacing the offense.
The Yankees have been able to maintain their power output from 2019, and that — combined with an over-performing pitching staff — is a big part of why the team is atop the AL East. If the Twins are hoping for a rematch in our simulated playoffs, they need to figure out their offensive troubles quickly. Then again, maybe they don’t want a playoff rematch after all.