To finish the regular season, your Cleveland Indians (88-70) head off to dreaded Target Field to take on the struggling Minnesota Twins (66-92). To begin the year, the Twins were one of the more surprising teams in the American League; that hasn’t been the case for the last three months.
Overall, the Indians are just 14-19 (.424) at Target Field, which opened as the new home for the Twins in 2010. Obviously that includes last year’s pretty bad record anywhere Cleveland took the field. I wrote more about the team’s struggles in Minnesota after the July 20 game; the Indians have won three of their last four at the stadium since then.
After beginning the year 33-36 (.478), the Twins have regressed mightily. They’re just 33-56 (.371) dating back to June 21, which also was the start of a series against the streaky Tribe. Over these last 89 games, Minnesota has the second-worst record in baseball and the worst offense in the American League (3.48 runs/game).
Among qualified players over this bad stretch, there are only two Minnesota batters with .710+ OPS marks: now-concussed All-Star Joe Mauer (.844) and mediocre starter Brian Dozier (.776). After that, it’s a hodge-podge assortment of up-and-coming youngsters (like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto) and peculiar-fit veterans (led by underperforming near-Indian Josh Willingham).
On the pitching side, you may have heard about the Twins’ odd inability to strike out opposing batters: just 4.90 K/9. For contrast, Cleveland starters have a 8.45 K/9 ratio, second best in baseball. FanGraphs had a phenomenal article about the subject in mid-August. Heck, they’re not just bad at striking out batters; Minnesota’s pitching just ain’t very good.
Tonight’s starter for the Twins is soft-tossing lefty Andrew Albers, a 27-year-old non-prospect Saskatchewan native who two-hit the Indians back on Aug. 12. Since then, Albers is 0-4 in seven starts with a 5.84 ERA. All three of Minnesota’s first three starters in this series have less than 100 career innings pitched. The series finale starter is expected to be veteran Mike Pelfrey, a tall veteran righty with a solid-yet-unspectacular 4.48 career ERA.
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.