Breaking down the Twins' historic start

We can officially stop asking if the Minnesota Twins are for real.

After 64 games, more than a third of the way into the season, the Twins are 43-21. They’re 22 games above .500, and lead the American League Central Division by 10.5 games.

The Twins are tied percentage-wise for the best record in the American League. It’s how they’ve gotten their that’s opened everyone’s eyes around Major League Baseball.

So is it time to put your chair down to claim your spot for the parade route in downtown Minneapolis? No, we’re only 64 games in. But at this point, we can pretty much count on the Twins being involved in the 2019 postseason.

According to FanGraphs, the Twins have a 93.9 percent chance to win the AL Central. They have a 97.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, and an 8.5 percent chance to win the World Series.

So how did we get to this point? It’s been nine months since the Twins won 78 games last season, and eight since Paul Molitor was fired and Rocco Baldelli took over as manager. Here is a look at how the Twins have won 67.2 percent of their games just 64 games into the season.

Sizzling offense

The Twins are hitting the ball, and they’re the best in MLB right now at hitting for extra bases. They lead the major leagues with a .274 batting average and a .515 slugging percentage. That’s 45 points higher than the Houston Astros, who are slugging at .470.

Their 125 home runs as a team is second in baseball. They’ve tied a team record for home runs before the All-Star break, and have 25 games to go before the mid-summer classic. The Twins have seven players with at least 10 home runs, and Byron Buxton (8), Jason Castro (7), Marwin Gonzalez (7) and Miguel Sano (6) aren’t far behind.

Eddie Rosario leads the Twins with 19 homers. After a three-homer game in Cleveland, Max Kepler has 15. C.J. Cron has 14. Nelson Cruz and Jonathan Schoop have 11, and Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco each have 10. Polanco is second in the AL and fifth in MLB with a .333 batting average.

The Twins lead MLB with 382 runs scored, and their plus-112 run differential also leads baseball. That’s right, they’ve scored 112 more runs than their opponents through 64 games. They’re the only team in the AL Central with a positive run differential.

Shutdown starting pitching

In baseball, teams can really only go as far as their starting pitching takes them. That’s what makes the Twins’ start that much more impressive. They’ve been led by their top two starters, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. Berrios is 8-2 in 13 starts with a 3.14 earned run average. He has 78 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 83 innings, and has allowed just 11 home runs.

Odorizzi has become one of the best pitchers in the AL. He’s 9-2 in 13 starts with a 1.92 earned run average. He’s got 78 strikeouts and 22 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .236 off Berrios, and just .186 off Odorizzi. The other big boost has been from Martin Perez, the No. 5 starter. He’s 7-2 in 10 starts with a 3.72 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.

The Twins have a 3.97 ERA as a team, good for seventh in MLB. The bullpen has had shaky moments, but Taylor Rogers has been dominant at the back end of the bullpen. He’s got six saves in eight tries, typically pitches in the big moments in the late innings of a game and has a 2.25 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 28 innings.

Near perfect defense

The Twins haven’t been perfect, but they’re one of the better defensive teams in baseball so far this season. Through 64 games, the Twins have just 32 errors in 2,246 total chances. That’s a fielding percentage of .986, which is fourth in the AL and ninth in MLB.

Polanco has eight errors in 180 total chances, a .956 fielding percentage. Jonathan Schoop has just five errors in 171 total chances. The Twins’ outfield has been among the best in baseball. Max Kepler, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario have a combined three errors in 385 chances. They also have 12 outfield assists on the season.

They’re making all the plays, and most importantly, they’re largely not throwing the ball away or giving teams extra bases.

Simply put, the Twins have been largely dominant in nearly every phase of the game through 64 games.

Up next is a nine-game home stand, featuring six games against division bottom-feeders in the Mariners and Royals. The Twins finish June with 12 of their 19 games at Target Field. With the team playing some of the best baseball in the big leagues and having a 10.5 division lead, empty seats will be hard to come by.