Week in Review: Sinking Ship
Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 6/18 through Sun, 6/24
Record Last Week: 3-3 (Overall: 34-40)
Run Differential Last Week: -8 (Overall: -16)
Standing: T-2nd Place in AL Central (8.0 GB)
The Twins rotation has mostly been a pleasant surprise this year, and delivered one of its strongest showings over the first half of last week against Boston. Taking on arguably the most dangerous lineup in baseball, Minnesota fought its way to pitching-fueled victories on Tuesday and Wednesday; Jose Berrios and Lance Lynn teamed up with the bullpen to silence all those potent bats as the Red Sox were held to three runs total.
Kyle Gibson followed with another fine effort on Thursday, but struggles from the offense and an implosion from the relief corps saddled him with a loss.
On Sunday, Berrios delivered his second masterful outing of the week, firing seven shutout innings against Texas with 12 strikeouts.
The trio of Berrios, Lynn and Gibson has combined to produce a 2.15 ERA across 13 total starts in June. They've been awesome. Unfortunately, they've been getting little help.
It's a feeling that Eddie Rosario knows all too well. He went 6-for-20 with three extra-base hits last week, driving in four runs on Saturday while the surrounding hitters failed to provide much aid in a loss.
On the relief front, Trevor Hildenberger continues to string together clean outings – four more last week, as he twirled 3 2/3 hitless innings. He hasn't allowed a run since May 18th and his ERA is down to 2.11 on the season. Fernando Rodney also came through with another spotless stretch, picking up his 16th and 17th saves while making three one-inning appearances and striking out the side in two of them.
At the end of May, I wrote about the all-around excellence of the Twins pitching staff through the first third of the season. In the bullpen, much praise was concentrated on Ryan Pressly, who'd been otherworldly to that point:
Incidentally, the "odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff" has suddenly reemerged. In nine appearances since that May 28th article was posted, Pressly has an 11.74 ERA with 12 hits and three home runs allowed in 7 1/3 innings.
As good as Reed's been, the star of this unit has been Ryan Pressly, who is finally pulling it all together at age 29. Last year, he had an odd tendency to get knocked around despite dazzling stuff, premium velocity, and good control. This year, the stuff has gotten even better and hitters just can't handle it.
Pressly's swinging strike rate has jumped from 12.2% to 16.8%, which ranks 11th out of 180 qualified MLB relievers. He's been especially lethal in May, where that figure has jumped to 19%. He has given up one home run thus far, after giving up 10 in 2017.
As amazing as Pressly's numbers looked through two months, he now sits with a sub par 4.17 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, joining the many laggards who have dragged this team to the brink of irrelevance.
That group also includes:
* Logan Morrison, whose two-run homer on Saturday was one of only three hits in 15 at-bats last week. He's slashing .191/.293/.347 on the year and a look of perpetual dejection has become etched into his face, but unfortunately, the Twins have had little choice but to keep running Morrison out in the middle of the lineup.
* Brian Dozier, whose signature midseason surge just hasn't come to offset all the slumping. Granted, last week was better than most others for him, as it included three doubles, a home run and four walks, but he still batted just .238 while driving in one run. As Aaron Gleeman notes, we're past Dozier's usual slow-start territory:
* Robbie Grossman, who has failed to execute his most reliable skill – getting on base – and therefore is providing little value for the Twins. To his credit, Grossman did collect as many extra-base hits last week (3) as he had in the previous five, but that speaks to the general lack of thunder in his bat, and he also failed to draw any walks. The 28-year-old has put up a punchless .232/.313/.346 line for the Twins and, per FanGraphs, his WAR ranks 205th out of 209 MLB hitters with 200+ PA.
* Joe Mauer, who has resumed leadoff duties since returning to the lineup, but hasn't been able to find much of anything at the plate. Mauer went 3-for-18 (.167) in five games and is batting .195 since coming off the disabled list. Perhaps most perturbingly, he has drawn only one walk in 34 plate appearances after exhibiting such a keen eye in the early going.
* The catcher duo of Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson, which combined to produce five singles in 18 at-bats last week, and has primarily contributed to Minnesota's AL-worst .567 OPS at catcher. The position has become a total non-factor for this club and you've gotta think some kind of shakeup is imminent. Cameron Rupp has done nothing since joining Rochester (batting .154 with 1 HR and 20 K in 46 PA) but his teammate Willians Astudillo sure seems deserving of a shot – he has an .807 OPS for the Red Wings and is a .309 career hitter in the minors. I tend to think a more drastic move is warranted.
* Jake Odorizzi, whose absolute clunker on Saturday (1.2 IP, 6 ER) was the low point in a season that's been progressively unraveling. Odorizzi hasn't completed six innings in a start since May 14th - eight turns ago. He has a 5.66 ERA over his last 10 starts, in which the Twins have gone 3-7.
* Last and also least, there is newly acquired Matt Belisle, who has been outrageously bad since joining the Twins on a major-league deal after Cleveland cut him loose. The move, on its surface, was a bit mysterious since Minnesota had no real on-field need, but most understood that wasn't the real point.
In any case, he's already worn out his welcome by coughing up seven runs on nine hits over two innings on Thursday and Friday, turning losses into embarrassing home blowouts. Belisle has been tasked simply with getting outs in games that are already decided, and is showing he can't fulfill even that modest role, so any perceived leadership qualities are moot.
With Pressly, Belisle and Addison Reed all looking shaky, Paul Molitor finds himself in a bind when it comes to right-handed relief options. Rodney's usage is restricted in the closer role, and Hildenberger is already being ridden hard with four appearances in the last six days. Matt Magill, while solid, is tough to trust in high leverage.
So the manager was undoubtedly happy to see Alan Busenitz's face in the clubhouse on Sunday morning. The righty was recalled over the weekend, while Fernando Romero was demoted following another underwhelming start. We've remarked in this space several times about the sensational success Busenitz has experienced in Rochester, where he had a 1.27 ERA and 32-to-5 K/BB ratio in 28 frames.
As his team heads out for a nine-game road trip, Molitor will be equipped with a deep and very well rested relief corps, thanks to the day off after Berrios went deep on Sunday.
The Twins can run with a nine-man bullpen for a bit, but they'll need a fifth starter on Saturday, at which point they'll some interesting decisions.
Which reliever goes out to make room? Frankly, it seems ludicrous at this point to keep Belisle around at the expense of anyone else, but the Twins did just hand him a guaranteed chunk of change.
And which starter comes up? Aaron Slegers is a candidate – he continues to log quality innings for Rochester and will be roughly on schedule after starting this past Saturday. Zack Littell, who's been the only outsider to crack the Twins rotation (for a spot start in a double-header) since Phil Hughes was shipped out, is another possibility.
And we'll touch on one more in the next section.
DOWN ON THE FARM
After leading our rundown of the system's hottest bats in this section last week, Alex Kirilloff participated in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, batting third for the West and going 1-for-4. Two days later he was promoted to High-A Ft. Myers.
Upon departing the Midwest League, Kirilloff ranked first in home runs (13), third in batting average (.333), and second in OPS (.999). This is a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season leagues after missing all of last year. Awfully impressive. More so when you account for his phenomenal start with the Miracle; Kirilloff has started 8-for-19 (.421) at the new level and drove in five runs in his second game. What a hitter.
Royce Lewis hasn't gotten the call to join Kirilloff yet, but did accompany him at the MWL All-Star Game, starting at short and batting leadoff. He went 1-for-2 and swiped a base. Lewis has been battling through patellar tendinitis, and if you're wondering what that means, our resident orthopaedic specialist Heezy has the scoop for you.
Meanwhile, in Triple-A... Adalberto Mejia. I know, I know (*extremely Obi Wan voice*) there's a name I've not heard in a long time. But on Thursday night, he fired seven shutout innings with eight strikeouts, allowing only three hits and one walk. The gem lowered his ERA to 2.91, including 1.38 over four June starts.
Mejia made 21 starts for the Twins last year and looked altogether impressive. He's been excellent at Triple-A, and has the makings of a long-term rotation cog. If Romero's absence is expected to be a lengthy one, then Mejia strikes me as the obvious choice to replace him.
The Twins will spend all of next week in the Windy City, and could really use the winds of fortune blowing in their favor. Now eight games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins basically need to be taking every series in order to keep their hopes alive. That'll be an easier ask in the South Side than the North.
TUESDAY, 6/26: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Lance Lynn v. RHP Reynaldo Lopez
WEDNESDAY, 6/27: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Kyle Gibson v. RHP Lucas Giolito
THURSDAY, 6/28: TWINS @ WHITE SOX – RHP Jake Odorizzi v. RHP James Shields
FRIDAY, 6/29: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Jose Berrios v. RHP Tyler Chatwood
SATURDAY, 6/30: TWINS @ CUBS – ??? v. LHP Mike Montgomery
SUNDAY, 7/1: TWINS @ CUBS – RHP Lance Lynn v. LHP Jon Lester
Catch Up On Twins Daily Game Recaps
- Game 69 | MIN 6, BOS 2: Bats Get to Boston Bullpen
- Game 70 | MIN 4, BOS 1: For Grossman and Kepler, The Price Was Right
- Game 71 | BOS 9, MIN 2: There Go Those Shiny Pitching Stats
- Game 72 | TEX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain
- Game 73 | TEX 9, MIN 6: Odorizzi Lays an Egg
- Game 74 | MIN 2, TEX 0: La MaKKKKKKKKKKKKina
- Jamie Cameron pondered the oddity that is Twins reliever Matt Magill
- Parker Hageman broke down Eduardo Escobar's evolution at the plate
- Ted Schwerzler wrote that Kyle Gibson's success is no mirage
- Rob Pannier pointed out that the St. Paul Saints have been tapping into the local college ranks for talent
- Andrew Thares argued that now that he's locked in, Lance Lynn was worth the wait
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