Twins Bats Have Struggled Early
Image courtesy of Charles LeClaire, USA TodayWe all remember. The 2019 Minnesota Twins offense, the Bomba Squad, hit .270/.338/.494 (.832) with 318 doubles and 307 homers.
Then this offseason, the Twins added former MVP Josh Donaldson coming off of a season in which he was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. He hit .259/.379/.521 (.900) with 33 doubles and 37 home runs.
However, through just 14 games, the Twins offense just has not clicked. The Twins have had several big innings in which they scored as many as five runs. But most nights we have seen the offense put up a lot of zeroes.
Nelson Cruz is hitting .365/.411/.596 (1.007) with three doubles and three homers. Max Kepler and Marwin Gonzalez, along with backup backstop Alex Avila, have posted an OPS over .800.
However, most of the Twins hitters haven’t yet taken off. Mitch Garver is just 3-for-27 (.111) with 13 strikeouts in 27 at bats (34 plate appearances). Luis Arraez is hitting just .216. Miguel Sano is 5-for-37 (.135) with two walks and 18 strikeouts. Jake Cave had two of the biggest hits early in the same (two-run, first-inning single on Opening Day, and a grand slam), but he’s just 3-for-23 with 10 strikeouts. Donaldson was off to a slow start, hitting just .182 with a .614 OPS in seven games before injuring his calf.
But as a team, how are the Twins doing relative to other American League teams? Is this a Twins issue, or has the offense struggled around the league?
Overall, the Twins are hitting .236/.316/.414 (.731) with 68 runs scored. They’ve hit 20 home runs in the first 14 games.
As of Saturday morning, here is how those numbers rank relative to the 15 American League teams:
Batting Average (.236): ranks 7th
On-Base Percentage (.316): ranks 6th
Slugging Percentage: (414): ranks 7th
OPS (.731): ranks 6th
Home Runs (20): ranks 3rd
Runs Scored (68): ranks 2nd
Runs/Game (4.68): ranks 3rd, behind the Astros and Yankees
HR/Game (1.43): ranks 4th, behind the Yankees, Angels and Tigers
So, yes, the Twins offense has struggled early in this season. But relative to the rest of the league, the Twins remain in the upper-half of the league.
Again, that’s not to say that they’ve been good. Instead, it speaks to the struggles of the bats across baseball.
While the Twins twice scored 27 runs in their opening series against the White Sox, they have now scored 41 runs over their past 11 games, an average of just 3.73 runs per game which would rank only ahead of Cleveland, Texas and Toronto among AL teams.
One of the big talking points as the season started was that the pitching would be ahead of the hitting. Aside from that first series, that statement has generally proven true.
Look at what the Twins have done with their pitchers. The starting pitcher may work through the lineup twice, and then in comes relief arm after relief arm. In many cases, those are big arms with sharp sliders.
No question that the uniqueness of the 2020 season has played a part as well. There was spring training. Then the players were quarantined for three months, much of that time not knowing when or even if they would play a season. While pitchers can work on things in the bullpen and maintain their arm strength, it’s not quite the same for hitters. While they can work on tees, off pitching machines and occasionally against some live pitchers, it’s different. It’s not game speed or situations.
If this was a ‘normal’ season, it might be a little concerning, but we would be less than 10% into a long season. We wouldn’t be worried about to any great extent, trusting a player’s track record.
However, when the Twins/Royals game is complete on Saturday night, the 2020 regular season will be 25% over. 14-15 games is still a small sample, but when so many want to note that each game is theoretically worth 2.7 games, it might be easier to get worried, to press, to try to do too much.
But now, it’s still important to remember that 75% of the season remains. There is time to turn things around for the players and as an overall offense.
While Josh Donaldson was off to a slow start in his seven games, his track record certainly suggests that he will be able to turn it around soon. That is, if he can get on the field following his stint on the Injured List.
Luis Arraez has been playing on sore knees. He still has more walks than strikeouts, so his approach is still the same. That should lead to good things in time. Likewise, Mitch Garver continues to see lots of pitches. He has done a nice job of not expanding the strike zone. He has also hit several bullets right into the opponents’ shifts. For those two players, the league has made some adjustments. Now those players will work to adjust to those adjustments.
Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have been streaky hitters throughout their careers, even when healthy. Both missed significant time through the three-week Summer Camp and started slow. Sano has struggled with contact, but he’s hit some mammoth homers. Byron Buxton has a double and two home runs over his past three games, and he may have been robbed of another homer.
In the meantime, the Twins pitching and defense have been even better than expected, and because of those things, plus some very timely hitting and some clustering of the hits that they have had, the Twins are 10-4. That’s the best record in the League.
But hopefully soon the Twins offense will take off and become what we hope they become, and if that happens, this team can be scary good.
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