In Tuesday's "Game of the Year" between the Twins and Yankees, we saw another reason why it's foolish to give up on Miguel Sano.
Sano clobbered two home runs but it was his second in the eighth inning that caught our attention. With the Twins down one run to the Yankees, Sano launched a missile over the bullpens that traveled 457 feet and left the bat at 111 mph.
Sano is now up to 16 home runs on the season and he's averaging a home run every 11.5 at-bats. Since going 0-for-7 in Minnesota's 18-inning loss to Tampa Bay on June 27, Sano has turned things around.
In his last 20 games (67 at-bats), the slugger is slashing .299/.397/.701 for an OPS that's over 1.000 with seven home runs and 12 of his 20 hits going for extra bases.
He is striking out 34 percent of the time during that stretch but that's actually an improvement from where he was earlier this season.
After missing the first six weeks of the season, Sano came out of the gates sluggish. He was hitting just .195 through his first 31 games with an on-base percentage of .278, but the most daunting statistic was that he struck out 56 times (47 percent!) in 118 at-bats.
Sano's now laying off bad pitches and having longer at-bats. His first home run in Tuesday's game came after an eight-pitch battle with Domingo German.
Is it just luck?
Great question. After all, we see baseball players go through hot streaks all the time. A good indication of luck for a hitter is BABIP (batting average on balls in play) BABIP measures how often a ball in play — defined generally as any batted ball that did not clear the outfield fence — goes for a hit.
During his recent stretch of impressive play, Sano has a BABIP of .351 while having a true batting average of .299. Typically you want the two numbers to be as close as possible. So yes, he's been a tad lucky and a regression could be coming.
However, Sano has one of the best "hard hit rates" in the MLB this season. Hard hit rate is a statistic from MLB's Statcast which is defined as a hit with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Only Aaron Judge has provided a higher hard hit rate than Sano this season. Here's the leaders:
- Aaron Judge, 63,7 percent
- Miguel Sano, 55.1 percent
- Matt Olson, 52.8 percent
- Joey Gallo, 52.3 percent
- Keston Hiura, 52.1 percent
Hasn't he done this before?
We've also seen Sano go through stretches like this before, where he looks like the player that scouts and fans always thought he could be, and then he falls off a cliff.
If we're using his recent hot streak of 67 at-bats and his slash line of .299/.397/.701 as a reference, we do know he hasn't had a stretch of games this season that have been this good and he never had a stretch of games like this in 2018 (which was a lost season for him).
You'd have to go back to 2017 when Sano was an All-Star that he was this dominant. In his lone All-Star season, Sano slashed .264/.352/.507 which led to a wild-card berth for the Twins.
During that season, Sano had a run from late April into May that was even better than his current outburst. In a 20-game stretch from April 25-May 21 (73 at-bats), Sano slashed .370/.465/.685, which to be honest is unsustainable but still extremely impressive.
So yes, he has put up these numbers before but a slash line of 299/.397/.701 seems a bit more plausible. However, the 2017 season was obviously Sano's best and that's the type of year you'd like to see from him.
Because of injuries to core players, Sano has played in every game (12 straight) since the All-Star break.
Even if he's striking out 34 percent of the time, if Sano can have prolonged at-bats, hit the cover off the ball, and park baseball's into the seats, he'll be in the lineup for good.
And that's something Twins fans and others have been wanting from Sano for five seasons now.