Twins' early stellar pitching could get further boost vs. Royals

It's no secret the Minnesota Twins pitching staff has been better so far in 2017 than it was for all of 2016.

Perhaps we should say much better.

Last year, the Twins had a .283 opponent batting average, worst in the majors. This year it is at .236, which is 10th-best in the majors. The difference of .047 is the largest decrease as well.

The starts to the season by Ervin Santana and Hector Santiago have been a big reason for Minnesota's ability to keep opposing runners off the bases, but relievers Brandon Kintzler, Justin Haley and Matt Belisle have helped, too.

Pitcher IP OBA
Ervin Santana 35 .116
Brandon Kintzler 9.1 .133
Justin Haley 13 .208
Hector Santiago 29.2 .232
Matt Belisle 9 .235
Craig Breslow 7 .250
Tyler Duffey 11.1 .256
Ryan Pressly 8 .281
Phil Hughes 21 .282
Michael Tonkin 7.1 .297
Kyle Gibson 17 .347

With the Twins now playing Kansas City, one would think that would only help, too.

The Royals have just a .203 team batting average, lowest in the majors. Also, their .058 difference from last season's .261 batting average is the largest decrease in MLB.

When Minnesota swept Kansas City earlier this season, Twins pitchers held the Royals to a .174 batting average and five earned runs in 27 innings (a 1.67 ERA).

Meanwhile, the Twins scored 21 runs and batted .310 with runners in scoring position. Minnesota certainly wouldn't mind a repeat of that in Kansas City.

Other notes:

-- Minnesota's Robbie Grossman and Miguel Sano rank first and third in highest walk rate in MLB. Grossman leads with one every 4.73 plate appearances while Sano is at one per 4.89 PA.

-- Meanwhile, the Twins' Joe Mauer and Jorge Polanco rank 1-2 in lowest percentage of swings and misses this season. Mauer is at 6.3 percent and Polanco 9.5 percent.

Statistics courtesy STATS and