I've been reasonably assured that there's a thing in fashion blogs vaguely categorized under "Who wore it better?" Generally, I don't notice such things. Neither when people wear the same outfits, nor who looks better when they do it. It isn't because I'm above such things, mind you. It's just that I'm totally oblivious.
This morning, however, the Twins and the Braves are both wearing their 0-8 starts. And as a loyal Twins fan, I'm forced to notice. So who is wearing it better? The answer is rooted in both performance and in expectations.
It's important to note that, when you lose eight straight games, no aspect is going particularly great. So both clubs are near the bottom of their leagues in runs scored. The Braves have scored 22 times in eight contests, averaging 2.75 runs per game. They're hitting just .199 as a club, with a .298 OBP and a .277 slugging percentage. They've hit three homers and have walked 35 times while amassing 70 strikeouts. The biggest culprits have been Jace Peterson (.167/.211/.167 in 19 PA), Erick Aybar (.182/.200/.182 in 36 PA), A.J. Pierzynski (.200/.200/.250 in 20 PA), and the recently indicted Hector Olivera (.211/.238/.263 in 21 PA). Even Freddie Freeman (.080/.303/.200) has been awful.
Still, they're hitting light years better than the Twins, who have set new standards in offensive futility, having scored just 13 runs in eight games (1.63 runs per game). Dating back to last year, the Twins have scored 16 runs in their last 11 contests. It would be exciting if it wasn't also so depressing. Aside from Joe Mauer (.393/.486/.536) and Eduardo Escobar (.367/.406/.500), nobody has hit. The club, as a whole, is hitting .210/.287/.313 with four homers, 26 walks, and 88 strikeouts. They've struck out in an incredible 29.7% of their plate appearances and have scored almost a full run less per game than the nearest competitor. Particularly troubling are the performances of Miguel Sano (.125/.300/.125, 6 BB, 13 K in 30 PA) and Byung-ho Park (.143/.250/.286, 2 BB, 12 K in 24 PA), who were being counted on to provide a lot of the offense in 2016, and Byron Buxton (.167/.167/.250, 0 BB, 13 Ks in 25 PA), who was one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year. By far, the most frustrating part is watching them flail away with runners in scoring position. In 61 plate appearances, the Twins are hitting just .082 with five walks and 25 strikeouts.
Both teams have struggled defensively as well, at or near the bottom of the league in Defensive Runs Saved and Total Zone. The Braves have made a ton of errors, and Miguel Sano has looked silly in right field for the Twins from time to time.
On the pitching side, the Twins have been far better. The rotation, a source for concern coming into 2016, has a 3.38 ERA, but the bullpen has been hung for three losses, and has a 4.21 ERA, with Kevin Jepsen, Casey Fien, and the injured Glen Perkins accounting for much of the damage. The club ranks 16th in runs allowed per game. Because of this, Twins games have been, on average, far closer than Braves games.
Atlanta is far uglier, allowing over six runs per game. This early in the season, however, this is misleading. The Braves have actually gotten four quality starts from their rotation, and their overall team ERA is bloated by a pair of games in which they allowed 12 runs each. The staff is striking batters out, but allowing homers and walks at some pretty high rates. There's also a great deal of turnover on the Braves staff, as they've already sent down John Gant and Jose Ramirez, and have placed Daniel Winkler on the disabled list after his gruesome elbow injury.
Which brings us to expectations. The Braves can make all these changes because, essentially, they had none coming into 2016. Throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks is par for the course. And some of it, in this early going, is sticking. Adonis Garcia is hitting .308/.438/.423. Matt Wisler, despite giving up three homers, is mostly holding his own. Jhoulis Chacin had a great start against the Nationals. It makes it easier to enjoy the surprising good things, when you don't have high hopes for the whole.
The Twins, on the other hand, talked all winter like they would be a contender in the AL Central. They did little to upgrade a roster that won 83 games last year. They came into spring training with, essentially, 23 roster spots filled. They were projected to win 75-80 games by Pecota, Zips, and Vegas. There is little for the club to do but fight through this rough patch. Because, regardless of how bad this start to the season has gone, these Twins aren't a 100 loss team. And that's why watching them play like one is so damn painful.
So who's worn it best? Definitely the Braves. They knew who they were and what they were doing, and knew how to rock that look. On the red carpet, you'd expect Richard Simmons to show up in a spangly tank top. Or Pharrell to wear a giant silly hat. They are prepared for that, and so are we. But if George Clooney wore a ripped T-shirt and cargo shorts, it would be super disappointing. Everybody loves the Cloon-dog in a tux. Tuxes were invented anticipating the arrival of George Clooney decades later.
To continue the metaphor, the Twins and the Braves both showed up to 2016 wearing a garbage bag as a poncho. And while both are awful looks, at least the Twins should have known better. But on the other hand, there's still a chance that they can take it off and reveal a halfway decent dress shirt and slacks underneath. The Braves? It's trash bags, all the way down. And that's ok.