The 2012 Twins are officially better than the 2011 Twins. It may not seem like it, but they have the wins to prove it. The doubleheader sweep Sunday left Minnesota with a 64 in the win column. Sure, it’s a paltry sum, but it’s more than the 63 they totaled last year. And if you’ve been paying attention to the team’s recent history, you probably guessed long ago that it would happen.
You see, the Twins have been following an eerily consistent pattern since Ron Gardenhire took over as the team’s manager in 2002. That year, they won 94 games, a nine game improvement over 2001. In 2003, the team slipped a bit and finished with 90 wins. Still good, but less than the year before. No problem; they improved to 92 wins in 2004. Then they slipped to 83 in ’05. The roller coaster continued: improve to 96 in ’06, drop to 79 in ’07, improve to 88 in ’08. The 2009 team can be considered more successful than the 2008 version, because they earned a playoff berth, but in the regular season W-L columns they were actually slightly worse, with 87 victories. In 2010, they were clearly better, with 94 wins. Then they slumped to a pitiful 63 in 2011 before rebounding a bit this year.
In case you didn’t read all those numbers, here’s the summary: the Twins’ record always improves in even numbered years, and it always declines in odd numbered years. Since Gardenhire got his job, the Twins have never had two consecutive seasons where they get better, nor have they gotten worse in two consecutive years.
The pattern breaks down if you look back before 2002. The 2001 team won a surprising 85 games, which was a big improvement in an odd year. Before that, the Pattern held up from 1995 through 2000, when the team won 56,78,68,70,63, and 69 games respectively. 1994 probably would have fit the Pattern too, but there was a strike that year, so the Twins’ win total dropped. Before that, though, the pattern completely breaks down. In fact, the Twins’ two World Series seasons – 1987 and 1991 – were both odd years. So it’s really just since the beginning of the Ron Gardenhire era that the Pattern has been unbreakable.
At the beginning of this season, the pattern was a comfort, since it meant the Twins had nowhere to go but up. But next year it’s a pretty ominous sign. The 2012 Twins are likely to finish with fewer than 70 wins, so if they’re guaranteed to be worse in 2013, things could get pretty ugly. The pattern doesn’t seem to tell us how much worse the 2013 team will be – they could finish with one fewer win or 20 fewer wins – it just says they won’t be as good. Being worse than this year’s team seems like a difficult task, but the Twins always seem to find a way to uphold the pattern.
So the trick is to find a way to break the pattern. How can they do that? Your guess is as good as mine. They should probably start by calling in a mathemetician or a witch doctor or something.