Minnesota Twins: Buxton’s Injury is the the Latest in Twins’ Brutal Stretch

Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton looks on during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Target Field. (Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton looks on during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Target Field. (Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports) /

Each time you think the Minnesota Twins couldn’t face a tougher challenge in making it to the playoffs, a new problem rears its’ ugly head, making fans question if they have any shot at the playoffs at all. The newest issue is the most talented member of the organization is now on the injured list:

Byron Buxton was in the midst of one of the healthiest seasons of his career, a season that saw his playing time be carefully managed with mostly positive results. Buck made his first All-Star team, posted a .833 OPS, a 4.0 bWAR, and played in 84% of the team’s games thus far this season.

Buck’s injury hurts the teams in more ways than can be listed. He’s the leader of this team, and his bat and defense are invaluable, but his injury coming right now hurts especially bad. Usually, losing a player due to a strain for roughly ten days isn’t a massive deal, but in the Twins case, it’s crushing.

Byron Buxton’s injury is just the latest hit in a brutal stretch for the Minnesota Twins.

Buxton will join Ryan Jeffers, Kyle Garlick, Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff, Miguel Sano, Royce Lewis, Kenta Maeda, Randy Dobnak, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, Cody Stashak, Tyler Mahle, Danny Coulombe, Jorge Alcala, and Jhon Romero on the IL. They’re the second-most injured team in baseball.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the injuries have clearly taken a toll on the team. The team has lost three straight (to the Texas Rangers) and are 12-14 overall since the All-Star break. The team is struggling, while their main rival for the American League Central, the Cleveland Guardians, has the best record in the American League since the break.

The Twins big issue coming into August was a suspect bullpen and a mediocre rotation, and the front office worked hard to fix that. Since then, the team’s pitching has picked up SIGNIFICANTLY, with the Twins giving up more than five runs just four times since the deadline (and two of those games came against the league’s best team in the Dodgers). That’s an impressive run.

Instead, it’s been the offense that has flopped. Over that same time frame since the deadline, the team has scored a horrifying 3.68 runs per game. If they had played that way all season, they’d be sitting 26th in runs per game, an embarrassing number for a group of this caliber.

It’s not hard to point out why they’re struggling. Max Kepler and Gary Sanchez are shells of their 2019 versions, and offer virtually nothing to the club offensively (Sanchez offers nothing at all). The team cannot hit with runners in scoring position to save their lives and outside of Jose Miranda, Luis Arraez, and Nick Gordon, no one can hit at all.

Analytic driven baseball works well when players are getting on base and the team is using power to drive in those on base. Unfortunately, over the last few games the team hasn’t done much of either. The team still ranks in the Top 5 in the American League for batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, but the team’s scoring has dropped from 10th to 16th.

The Minnesota Twins shouldn’t give up on the season yet. Trevor Larnach, Kyle Garlick, Ryan Jeffers, and a rested Byron Buxton should return over the next two weeks and give the offense some needed punch and major defensive help. We won’t have to keep watching Tim Beckham, Gilberto Celestino, Jake Cave, and hopefully Gary Sanchez struggle through at-bats.

On the mound, Kenta Maeda, Randy Dobnak, Tyler Mahle, and Bailey Ober should move Emilio Pagan and Chris Archer off the roster, giving the bullpen more length and the rotation more back-end strength. Help is on the way.

The team faces a tough stretch with the Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees over the next two weeks, but if they can somehow stay in competition until the middle of September, the Minnesota Twins have an All-AL Central schedule (with one series against the Los Angeles Angels sprinkled in) for the last 24 games of the season.

The Twins have dominated the Central all year, and if they are going to make a run, playing with a healthier roster to end the year with eight games against the Guardians and six games against the White Sox is the way to do it.

The Minnesota Twins have an upwards climb to make the playoffs, but if they survive this brutal stretch, they may just be able to claim their third Central division in the last four years. Who knows what happens when the team gets there, but the push should be better than this.

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