Here's why the Twins pitching staff has been so good this season

The same rotation ranked 29th last season.

The Twins entered play on Saturday with a .500 record; last year the team was never above .500 and they didn't win their eighth game of the season until mid-May.

A big reason for the turnaround is the pitching staff which has been one of the best in baseball. The staff's ERA of 3.17 is the sixth-best in the majors this season.

Last year, Minnesota dangled an ERA of 5.08 which was the second-worst figure in the baseball.

So what's the reason for the turnaround? Well it's been the new tandem behind the plate in Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez.

Although Castro has struggled on the offensive side the last two years, his defensive value is why the Twins gave him a three-year, $24.5 million contract this winter.

In 2015, Twins catchers ranked 27th in strikes looking rate above average. Which is a new statistic that indicates whether a pitcher and catcher are getting calls on pitches they should, and pitches they shouldn't.

And last season Castro was one of the best catchers in baseball in getting those close calls.

"In spring training, Castro had pitcher-catcher relationship meetings," said Twins pitching coach Neil Allen to Mark Simon of

"He talked to each guy about this pitch and that pitch, how he was going to receive it and how he was going to let the ball travel and not reach for it."

Gimenez signed with the Twins this winter on a minor league deal. Derek Falvey, the Twins Chief of Baseball Operations, spent two seasons with Gimenez during his tenure with the Cleveland Indians.

Throughout Gimenez's career, he's hovered around league average in strikes, looking rate above average. Where last year's backup Juan Centeno ranked dead last.

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