From worst to first: Santana leads Twins’ hurlers to top of MLB

According to Ervin Santana’s Twitter, the Minnesota Twins are following some simple advice from an all-time great pitcher. And it’s working.

Santana’s #SMELLBASEBALL mentality has led the Twins’ hurlers to the top of Major League Baseball after one week of play.

Sure, there are 156 games to go. But after the 2016 pitching staff finished dead last in the American League in many statistical categories, the league-leading 2.04 earned-run average through six games has Twins fans ecstatic.

 

TOP TEAM ERA IN MLB, 2017

TEAM GP ERA
Twins 6 2.04
Astros 7 2.83
White Sox 5 3.00
Reds 6 3.06
Dodgers 7 3.10

 

Santana has been incredible in his first two starts. The right-handed veteran posted a 0.69 ERA with seven strikeouts and has given up only four hits in 13 innings.

No. 54’s dominance on the hill dates further than Opening Day. Since his Sept. 12 start against Detroit, a game that ended in a 4-2 Twins loss despite Santana allowing only one earned run and three hits, he ranks fourth among big-league starters with a 1.50 ERA.

 

TOP ERA IN MLB SINCE SEPT. 12, 2016

PITCHER W-L IP SO BB ERA
Collin McHugh, Astros 3-0 27 1/3 22 8 1.32
Justin Verlander, Tigers 3-1 34 48 10 1.32
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays 2-0 26 27 11 1.38
Ervin Santana, Twins 2-1 36 31 13 1.50
Alex Reyes, Cardinals 3-0 22 1/3 22 13 1.61
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers 2-2 38 36 2 1.66

 

 

Last season, Twins’ relievers got off to a rough start and failed to convert any of their three save opportunities in the first six games. A walk-off hit in the ninth inning by Baltimore Orioles’ Matt Wieters (now with the Nationals) on Opening Day started the bullpen’s year on the wrong foot. Minnesota dropped to 0-6 when the Royals scored two runs off an injured Glen Perkins in the 9th inning and won it in extras on Trevor May’s wild pitch.

This year has been a different story. Closer Brandon Kintzler hasn’t allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings pitched and is perfect through three save chances.

In fact, the Twins’ bullpen didn’t allow a run for the first four games of the year. The White Sox managed three runs off the ‘pen in the Twins’ 6-2 loss on Saturday and added another on Sunday. However, allowing four measly runs is much improved from the 11 runs and 25 hits given up in 19 2/3 innings through six games last season.

 

YEAR-TO-YEAR COMPARISON: TWINS BULLPEN (FIRST 6 GAMES)

YEAR W-L (TEAM) IP H ER BB SO AVG S ERA
2017 5-1 22 1/3 16 4 9 23 .200 3/3 1.61
2016 0-6 19 2/3 25 11 12 23 .309 0/3 5.03

 

Again, it’s only been a week. But the combination of a promising pitching staff and suffocating defense should add up to a fun summer at Target Field.