I’m currently out in the middle of the ocean performing my primary duty as a United States Coast Guardsman so my ability to track and write about the Twins has been limited, but I’ve finally found a few moments to take a look at what’s been happening, and what’s going on with our beloved Minnesota Twins. Like most fans, the dismal start in April, followed up by a lackluster May had me hanging my head and looking deep into the minor leagues where I could find hope for 2014 and beyond with all hope of anything but disappointment in 2012 all but lost.
All of a sudden the Twins have won 9 of 11 and four series in a row, and as their schedule begins to normalize after a brutal start to the season, hope for Twins fans begins to spring again. What does it mean? Earlier this week Nate wrote about the comparisons to last year’s June surge that put the twins back into pseudo-contention and prevented the organization from trading away some veteran players in return for rebuilding chips. I, like Nate, was trying to figure out which stars could be trade bait for which teams as we headed down the stretch in 2012, but I’m not so sure that we should pull the plug just yet. After a look through the stat book so far this season, one thing is apparent, our pitching has been horrendous. Our starting pitchers have been laughable, and the bullpen, while it has shined in some spots, has had more than its share of bad days. Offensively, however, things haven’t been as bad as they’ve seemed. Let’s take a closer look.
When I started clicking through the leader boards and looking at team stats on the offensive side I was surprised again and again while I sorted through the different columns. The Twins have only scored 243 runs this season, more than 70 runs behind the Texas Rangers, but just ask the Boston Red Sox (who have scored the 2nd most in the AL, 303 runs), if scoring runs are the only thing that matters. The BoSox currently sit at 29-30, and only 5 games ahead of the Twins despite scoring more than 1 run/game than our Twins. The Twins are 4th in the AL in doubles, lead the league in triples, have taken the 4th most walks and (despite the likes of Clete Thomas) have only combined for 366 K’s, third fewest in the AL and the 5th best OBP as of Sunday evening. Based on what I had seen on the field I would have expected the Twins to have a terrible K/BB ratio, but only the Indians have done better than the Twins this season in that category. But despite all of this good offensive news, the Twins have struggled with the long ball, having only hit 44 dingers this year, and with 4 teams in the AL already with 80+ (NYY, TOR, TEX, BAL), the Twins will need the power surge from “Babe” Plouffe to continue if they have any hope of climbing their way back into contention. Not to mention that only the Baltimore Orioles have hit into more double-plays that our home town Twins, which goes along way to negate the Twins relatively high team OBP (.325).
The Twins pitchers have given up more hits, more home runs, more runs (earned and unearned) than any other team in the league. They have the fewest strike outs, have allowed the most SB and their combined slash line against, .336/.460/.786 (AVG/OBP/SLG), features three league high scores. Woof. But there are a couple of bright spots. The Twins have given up the fewest free passes and picked off a league high (10) would-be base stealers.
What does it all mean? The lack of power, HR power to be specific, is hurting the Twins, who have the worst ERA in the AL by more than half a run over the next closest team, Boston. The Twins need to both score more runs while simultaneously keeping runs off the score board for their opponents if they want to succeed in 2012. But hope springs eternal, and even Nick Blackburn is winning games this month, Frankkkie has given the club back-to-back quality starts and Scott Diamond continues to dominate in 2012, now 5-1 on the year in seven starts with a 1.61 ERA since getting called up to Minnesota. The Twins are hot ladies and gentlemen, and the Twins under Ron “Clyde” Gardenhire have almost always been a second-half team. I’m not looking for any miracles in 2012, but I’ll take some W’s anyway they can get them. The Twins staff has 7 pitchers with a 0.00 ERA this month and Liriano, despite losing his only start this month gave up only 1 run in 6 innings good enough for a 1.50 ERA. And the Twins offensive is at or near the top in just about every offensive category since the page on the calendar has turned, they’ve even popped 8 dingers this month! Small sample size be damned, the Twins are coming, the Twins are coming! We may not be scaring anybody this season, but the Twins have some life left in them, and the favorable schedule the rest of the month has me all hot and bothered. Winning is fun. And that’s what baseball is all about.
Let’s go Twins!