With the MLB season now 20% over for the Minnesota Twins, things are not looking up for the Home 9. The Twins are on pace to lose more than 100 games. (On pace to lose 100? I didn’t expect the Twins to RUN AWAY with the division, especially not early in the season, but never in my wildest dreams did I think they’d be sporting a win percentage less than .400) Yet, the Twins play on.
There is still 80% of a 162 game schedule ahead of the Minnesota Twins. Only 1 more game on the road against the AL East. The Twins, despite at sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, have still managed to play winning baseball against other teams in the AL Central. Throw in a solid performance in the upcoming two game tilt against Detroit and the Twins could be 7-4 against their most frequent opponents the rest of the way, something that should give hope to all Twins fans.
Better yet, the Twins, despite a losing record to begin May, are actually playing better baseball than they did in April and have played a lot of close games (Winning teams win close game… And while my brother seems to be excited that the Twins are playing “close games” I just can’t get on board. Last night the Twins put together a great pitching performance only giving up 2 runs in 11, and even managed a late run to force extras but they STILL found a way to lose it.). Close games are for naught when the Twins do not close them out for a W, but it at least gives us fans something the cheer for, something entertaining after the 4th inning. The Twins haven’t always come out on top, but the way they’ve been playing and with as few runs as they’ve been scoring they are lucky to have 12 victories (Pythagorean stats have the Twins at 10-23). Yet, the Twins play on.
Jason Kubel has been ripping the cover off of the ball (batting .347 after a slow start)*. Denard Span (AKA Span.I.Am) is leading the team in Wins Above Replacement (WAR, 2.1). Of the other 6 position players that regularly take the field, only Danny Valencia is showing signs of life. Michael Cuddyer is struggling to find consistency as he’s been forced to play all over the diamond to compensate for injuries. Hopefully he’ll find a surge in his offensive production as he settles back in to RF (He has been hitting plenty of singles lately, but that is not what you hope for from a corner outfielder with sub-par defense). Alexi Casilla‘s offensive and defense struggles have been well documented, and I loathe the rehash that issue. Tsuyoshi Nishioka managed to participate in 6 games before landing himself on the DL. Justin Morneau has been battling back from last season’s concussion and looks helpless at the plate and is not making the spectacular plays at first base that Twins fans have come to expect. Joe Mauer made it less than two weeks before landing on the DL with a mysterious leg injury and has yet to set a time table to return to the Twins. Yet, the Twins play on (with minor league replacements on the major league club).
*I don’t know what the diagnosis is, but MORE KUBEL is a prescription I am confident in refilling!
On the mound, things have not been a lot better (but they have been better! Bright spot!). Despite his no-hitter Francisco Liriano continues to struggle. Carl Pavano is looking to prove his nay-sayers correct and every start lends credence to their insistence that last season was an anomaly for the aging veteran. Duensing, Baker and Blackburn, the last three additions to the Twins starting rotation, and clearly the pitchers coming into 2011 with question marks have pitched fairly well, each owns an ERA under 4, and Baker is leading Duensing by just .03 earned runs per nine with a 2.97 ERA. Neither has been helped out by particularly explosive offense as both are sporting a 2-2 record, the only starters without a losing record (Anyone out there have Duensing and Baker as the top two guys in our staff at the 1/5th point in the season?). Yet, the Twins play on.
The bullpen has struggled. While wins and losses for bullpen guys are generally due more to circumstance than performance, the only pitcher in the bullpen with a winning record is Dusty Hughes and he was just demoted back to Triple-A! Matt Capps has been solid as the closer in the absence of Joe Nathan. Glen Perkins has performed exceptionally and continues to do well in high leverage situations. Having Kevin Slowey back from the DL should help give the Twins some reliable depth in the bullpen, but absent Capps Perkins and Slowey, there are not a lot of reliable pitchers out in the bullpen. Yet, the Twins play on.
But tonight the Twins are back playing the AL Central. A division they have dominated for most of the last decade. They’ve enjoyed success against the Tigers in the past (21-16 over the past two seasons) and should be able to earn their third sweep of an AL Central squad with this short midweek series.
Italics from Paul Pleiss
Going into this series against the Tigers the Twins are 3-13 when I’m not wearing my lucky hat. Could be a long night for the Twins as I will not be wearing my cap this evening. The good news is that despite some losses over the weekend, the Lucky Hat remains above .500 with a 9-8 record (With your hat contributing to 75% of Twins victories, we need to find ways to get that hat on your head!). Go team!
Topics: AL East, Alexi Casilla, Carl Pavano, Danny Valencia, Denard Span, Detroit Tigers, Dusty Hughes, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, Kansas City Royals, Kevin Slowey, Lucky Hat, Matt Capps, Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins, Tsuyoshi Nishioka