Minnesota Twins Ups & Downs Midseason Edition
Minnesota Twins Booted the First Half, Need a Reboot For Second
The first half of the 2016 Minnesota Twins season has now passed, with Minnesota’s record standing at a paltry 27-54.
Their record for June showed promise, but there’s no way to make 27 wins at mid-season palatable enough to swallow.
Of course, the Minnesota Twins show glimpses of being a good team now and then – their performance against the American League’s best Texas Rangers a prime example of this.
The finale against Cole Hamels, who was nearly untouchable on the road prior to Sunday’s game, makes fans wonder why they can’t hit the likes of a Kendall Graveman.
In fact, the Minnesota Twins hit aces well all first half.
Put a former Cy Young winner opposite them, and chances were the Twins were going to win. Pinning losses on the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Felix Hernandez, Corey Kluber, Jose Quintana, and finally Hamels were the highlights of the first 81 games.
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Even the hottest pitcher at the time, Jordan Zimmerman, couldn’t hold an 8-0 lead back on May 13th, but the Twins’ bullpen finally cracked in a 10-8 loss.
Alas, just as the Twins seemed to find their footing against quality pitching, they couldn’t scratch together an offense versus the dregs of American League teams’ starting rotations.
These are your 2016 Minnesota Twins.
DOWN: Long losing streaks. Beginning the season 0-9 after a very promising Spring Training seemed to have taken all the wind out of everyone’s sails.
A more experienced team may have been able to weather a start like that, but Minnesota has never recovered. To be fair, another young team, the Houston Astros, started off 7-17, and have rebounded to be within a game of the second wild card spot.
In early May, the Minnesota Twins again suffered an eight-game losing streak, unofficially putting an end to their season. They won two more, then promptly lost 8-of-9 again.
They bounced back to play good baseball on the West Coast, but soon after saw another five-game losing streak.
At that point, a Cleveland-like 13-game winning streak would have still had them 15 games under. The pitchers must stand tall in the second half to prevent any more such losing streaks.
DOWN: Series sweeps. The Minnesota Twins were swept eight* times in the first half of the season. Last year, in the final series versus the Royals, the Twins were swept for the sixth and final time.
*They lost two against Baltimore, with one game postponed. If the Twins lose that game, it will have been their ninth series sweep loss.
UP: Eduardo Nunez. Nunez smoked the ball all preseason, but was relegated to his normal super-sub role early in the season, despite some breakout games.
With the Twins season quickly spiraling down the drain, manager Paul Molitor finally relented and inserted Nunez into the starting lineup on a more permanent basis, albeit at different positions in the infield.
Now, Nunez is the hands-on favorite to be the Minnesota Twins’ sole All-Star representative. His slash line of (.315 AVG / .341 OBP / .820 OPS) plus 19 stolen bases (third in the AL) is deserving of an All-Star appearance, even if his inclusion wasn’t mandatory.
Many pundits feel the Twins should sell high and trade Nunez for pitching before the trade deadline. With his skill set to play any position in the infield, the price in return should be favorable.
DOWN: Byung-ho Park. I say this only because of his strikeouts. His performance numbers (12 HR’s, 24 RBI) were good enough to keep him with the big club. In fact, his 12 home runs were tops on the team prior to his demotion.
His and Miguel Sano‘s numbers are very close, but Sano does hit for average a little better. But both hitters strike out way too much, especially at crucial in-game junctures.
But Park had turned into a “guess-hitter”, according to Molitor, and was only getting worse, hence the decision to send him to Rochester to try to get him some confidence.
DOWN: Minnesota Twins starters. It took until May 25th for a Twins starter to get his second victory of the year. ‘Nuff said.
UP/DOWN: Joe Mauer. His early on-base streak and batting average had people harking back to his MVP year. His flashes of power, especially during the Seattle series, gave fans hope that Mauer could be more productive as a first-baseman.
Now, at the half-way point, Mauer is hitting just .262 with seven home runs and an amazingly-low seven doubles (he did pick up his eighth on Monday).
More than half of his home runs were collected in one week at the end of May. In fact, he’s hit only one since then.
His performance, if judged against catchers, would be favorable. Against other first basemen or DH’s, it’s anemic.
His seven home runs has him ranked 28th among all qualifying first basemen with his doubles 33rd, and RBI’s just 25th.
In head-to-head daily matchups, the Minnesota Twins are falling short at one of the most important power/production positions.
UP: Max Kepler. Rookie right-fielder Kepler seems to have found his place at Target Field. He didn’t receive much playing time in April and was sent down to AAA.
After his return in June, and some constant playing time, his average, power, and production have all increased.
In fact, his production numbers (five homers, 11 doubles, 24 RBI) rank close to Mauer, in half the games played. In Saturday’s game against Texas, he collected a Twins’ rookie record of seven RBI in one game.
DOWN/UP: Through May, the 2016 season looked to be a lost one for Brian Dozier. He was hitting just .215 with five homers and 17 RBI on May 31st.
Since a two-game benching to “fix him,” Dozier has been on a tear.
He collected 38 hits in June (just 35 in two prior months combined), including eight home runs and 21 RBI.
His slash (.369 AVG / .435 OBP / 1.163 OPS) was reminiscent of the Dozier from the first half of 2015, when he was named to the All-Star game. He picked up a key two-run RBI triple in the win over Hamels and the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
Next: Twins Looking for Fireworks Versus A's
FIRST HALF GOOD-BYES: Casey Fien, Kevin Jepsen, Oswaldo Arcia, J.R. Graham. Said good-bye, then hello to Tommy Milone, who appeared out of the organization’s plans – only to resurface in late June. Also, a hello/good-bye to Darin Mastroianni who was signed for outfield depth, was injured, and then out-righted once again over the weekend.
While no longer on the 40-man roster, Mastroianni may stay with the Minnesota Twins minor league organization.