Minnesota Twins: How to Keep Pace in the Crowded AL Central

May 4, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario (20) scores in the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
May 4, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario (20) scores in the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

With four teams sitting within one game of first place, the AL Central is a very crowded division. Here’s how the Minnesota Twins can keep pace.

The Minnesota Twins have been doing a lot of things right. Hence the (already) much better record than a year ago. While there are many improvements that need to be made, the Twins should be proud of the progress they’ve made so far in 2017.

The AL Central isn’t really the best place for the Twins to be right now, either. It seems as if the AL Central is ruled by mediocrity and each team is even with one another… Royals aside.

Trying to keep pace in this division won’t be easy for the young Twins. They’re going to face ups and downs, streaks and slumps. If they can follow a few easy tips, though, they may be able to end up at or near the top of the AL Central come October.

Cut Down on the Strikeouts.

This should be an easy one. If you don’t put the ball in play, you can’t score. It’s simple, right? Somebody tell that to the Minnesota Twins, please.

Right now, the Twins have struck out 204 times this season. That’s about 8 strikeouts per game. It doesn’t seem horrible, honestly, but when you look at it compared to the walks we’ve been getting, it looks bad.

The Twins have earned 117 walks in 2017. That’s about 4.5 bases on balls per game. Again, not terrible, but when you compare the strikeouts and the walks, the Twins need to see major improvement.

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Outside of the stats, the seeing eye test really speaks for this point. The strikeouts always come at the WORST time. Let’s talk yesterday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, shall we?

The Minnesota Twins are down by 3, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, and bases loaded. And who coming to the plate? The almighty Miguel Sano. He works a 3-0 count, then gets greedy. He swings at three straight pitches out of the zone and the ball game is over.

The numbers don’t look horrendous here, but what you are seeing doesn’t lie to you. The Minnesota Twins desperately need to cut down on the strikeouts, especially in the key moments.

Find Some Depth in the Pitching Rotation.

To say the Twins’ pitching has been inconsistent would be an understatement. We’ve seen a CY Young performance out of Ervin Santana followed up by a horrendous performance by the likes of Kyle Gibson.

A pitching rotation is 5 men for a reason. A team cannot be considered a great pitching team with only one or two solid starters. Santana’s performance aside, the Twins’ pitching has been on the rough side.

Santana’s ERA is 0.66. Hector Santiago has been solid as well, with an ERA of 2.78. After them, the Twins’ rotation takes a big dip. Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Adalberto Mejia all have ERA’s over 5.

Whether it’s dipping into free agency, trade markets or the farm system, the Twins desperately need to add more quality arms to their pitching rotation.

Ervin Santana, while having a career year, cannot carry this team when starting one out of every five games.

My suggestion would be to call up Jose Berrios and dip into the trade market to pick up another veteran arm that can help the Twins add some depth.

Miguel Sano Needs to Continue to Instill Fear into Opponents.

Sano has clearly had the best bat on the Minnesota Twins’ roster so far in 2017. His ability to work counts and hit the ball with incredible power has made other teams afraid to face the giant 3rd baseman.

Each successful team has this player. You know, the one that, when he comes to the plate, you flinch with every pitch that’s thrown. Because, well, you have no idea when he’s going to hit the ball to the other side of Mars.

For a while now, The Twins have lacked that player. Until now that is. Miguel Sano has given the Twins more than they bargained for.

He has added much needed enjoyment to every Twins’ game, and makes opposing pitchers quiver every time he steps up to the plate.

For Sano, the strikeouts will happen. The pop ups will happen. What really matters is that he does in fact hit the crap out of the ball regularly. Every time he hits a teeth rattling bomb, the opposing pitchers remember it.

With this in their mind, they attempt to pitch around Sano, which leads to a bunch of walks for the 3rd baseman. And as you well know, walks lead to runs more times than not. So whether it’s him hitting 450 foot home-runs or walking, Miguel Sano has a vital role in the Twins’ success.

Next: Finding a New Role for Kyle Gibson

It won’t be easy to keep up in the AL Central, especially with the former AL pennant winner Indians alongside. But the Minnesota Twins have as good of chance as ever in 2017. Follow these guidelines, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Twins win 90 games this year.