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What's a Blue Wahoo? Might Want to Find Out

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Don't Give Up On These Twins Quite Yet

A little over a month ago, I posed this question: How good is Cleveland, really?

At the time, they were dragging their feet with a .500 record and several laggards in the lineup. But over the past four weeks, the Indians have shown that they are, in fact, pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, the Twins have made the opposite statement.
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
Since I posted the aforementioned article on May 9th, Cleveland has gone 17-11, pushing its lead over Minnesota from 1.0 games to 6.0 games. The Indians have overcome some serious bullpen issues thanks to MVP contender Jose Ramirez powering the offense and runaway Cy Young front-runner Corey Kluber leading the rotation. On Monday, they called up Francisco Mejia, ranked by MLB.com as the 11th-best prospect in the game.

This doesn't look like a club that'll be easily run down. Minnesota certainly doesn't appear equipped to make up all that ground, not presently anyway. They're coming off another lackluster week that saw their fledgling momentum dissolve before deflated fans at Target Field.

Here on June 11th, Minnesota is 28-34 and reeling. But it's not quite time to give up on them yet.

At the beginning of May I tried to shed some optimism following a crummy first month, by pointing out that in 2006 the Twins had also finished April with a 9-15 record. Here we are, almost six weeks later, and the parallel still fits. On June 11th, 2006, the Twins were 28-34, same as today. They faced a much larger deficit in the standings, 11 games. As you'll recall, that team finished with 96 wins and a division title.

They didn't wait much longer, of course. The '06 Twins rattled off victories in 19 of their next 20 games, astoundingly making up only two games in the standings as first-place Detroit went on a coinciding tear. But in the second half, Minnesota gradually gained ground, finally surpassing the Tigers on the season's final day.

What I'm getting at here is that we're still not in hopeless territory. Even if you don't buy the literal comparison between this year's Twins and the 2006 version (I'm not sure I do), the point is that things can change quickly in this game. And while one might be inclined to lament, "It's getting late early," the night ain't over yet.

One thing you can say about these current Twins is that the pitching staff has been quite impressive. Starters are giving the team a chance to win every night and the bullpen has been mostly solid. Minnesota posted a 3.52 ERA in May and are at 3.50 in June. Combine that kind of performance with the Twins offense from last year's second half, when they averaged 5.6 runs per game, and you've got the recipe for a 20-win month.

Needless to say, the current lineup hasn't resembled that one at all, but it soon might – at least in terms of personnel. Joe Mauer is on a rehab assignment and could be back as soon as Thursday. Byron Buxton is traveling with the team and taking positive steps. Jorge Polanco is suddenly only a few weeks from returning. Brian Dozier is approaching that point in the summer where a light bulb usually flicks on.

Get all these guys clicking in the lineup together while Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar keep clubbing away, and you can start to envision the Twins stringing together some lengthy winning streaks.

I'll admit that right now it's difficult not to feel weighed down by pessimism. Mauer's concussion symptoms can re-emerge at any time. Buxton has looked abysmal at the plate when not sidelined. And Miguel Sano... yeesh.

But as I said before, things can change quickly in this game. The '06 Twins are a good macro example and Polanco is a good micro example. Last July he had one of the worst months you'll ever see, slashing .078/.158/.115 while collecting only four hits in 17 games. Then, the calendar flipped and he was a suddenly a monster, putting up a .373/.413/.686 line in August.

A few similar offensive outbreaks from players we know are capable, along with some desperately needed good fortune on the health front, would make a big difference for this year's squad.

As we get deeper into the season, it grows harder to believe that these aren't the real Twins – this relentlessly disappointing bunch, constantly shrinking in big moments and fumbling away key opportunities.

But I'm still not totally convinced that's who they are. Granted, at some point it won't really matter. The hole will become too deep and the Twins will have no choice but to approach the trade deadline as sellers.

We're not there yet, though. Urgency grows as Minnesota heads out on a critical road trip that gets underway on Tuesday in Detroit.

The Tigers likely remember that magical Twins turnaround in 2006. Their manager definitely does.

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57 Comments

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yarnivek1972
Jun 11 2018 08:10 PM
In ‘06 the catalyst was getting rid of Castro and Batista in favor of Bartlett and Punto.


A big slugger getting hot helped a little too. 😎

I don’t see a Punto and Bartlett to insert other than maybe Gordon.
    • glunn, Jerr and Nine of twelve like this

I wonder what they are writing on the Tigers equivalent of TD?I know that Niko Goodrum is helping Flint with bottled water - http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2018/06/detroit_tigers_player_niko_goo.html - any Twins doing community service?

 

Fansided has these notes about the Tigers - "With the trade deadline looming, Kurt Mensching thinks that the Tigers should cash in on Jose Iglesias‘s hot streak.Menshching points out that since May 1st the Tigers shortstop has been heating up and the Tigers should sell while he’s hot. Especially given that he’s in his last year before free agency.

Over at the Detroit News, Bob Wojnowski writes that the Tigers have been fun to watch so far but the reality of playing bad is right around the corner. For now, the Tigers and Tigers fans should enjoy the rally goose and all the strange fun times it’s bringing to Comerica Park." 

 

And they are ahead of us.

 

Detroit Tigers News and Rumors says - Detroit — "The Tigers hang around and hang around, and here we are in mid-June and they’re still hanging around. It’s been fun, even fulfilling at times for fans, getting to see younger, faster players.

But reality has a nasty way of intruding, and it’s likely on the way. It was on display Sunday against the Indians, when the Tigers had a chance to win the series, but no real chance in the pitching matchup — Cleveland two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber versus rookie spot starter Artie Lewicki"

 

I know we are Minnesota Nice, but why are we reading an article that basically says we stink, but believe in the team anyway?I do not say that we cannot do better, but I need the team to show me that they believe this before my bandwagon is pulled out of the back forty.

Hope is ok for fans, but I hope the front office is more realistic and has a good plan.
    • Carole Keller, Twins33, beckmt and 6 others like this
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Old Twins Cap
Jun 11 2018 08:57 PM

You mention '06.That's a great year in Twins history.

 

Yes, they stormed back from a poor start, and a few players, Punto and Morneau in particular, led the way.

 

But, for me, the amazing thing was, the Twins played the whole season, even ended their last game, and had never been in 1st place, not once, and do you know what happened? 

 

The Tigers lost, and the Twins vaulted into first for the only time all season, after their season was already over.

 

So, anything can happen, even a clubhouse pow-wow with an underperforming first-baseman who could eventually become an MVP,... but, history has no responsibility to repeat itself.

 

And I sincerely doubt it will.

    • glunn, Jerr, Twins33 and 1 other like this

Of course the 2006 Twins, who played .680 ball over their last 100 games, is the best-case scenario. This year the team probably will have to play almost as well to catch Cleveland or Seattle; a .620 pace would get them to 90 wins. Trouble is, only three teams in Twins history have played better than .600 ball after Game 62 (the '65 and '69 Twins were the other two). Last year, even with the August surge, they were a .520 team over their last 100 games.

 

Winning pct. after Game 62 by Twins teams that made the playoffs or won 90 games:

 

2017 .520

2010 .580

2009 .564

2006 .680

2004 .580

2003 .550

2002 .586

1992 .570

1991 .580

1988 .570

1987 .500

1970 .570

1969 .630

1967 .596

1965 .640

1963 .586

1962 .550

 

If they finish at a .570-.580 pace like the 2010, 1991-92, 1988, 1970, and 1963 teams--some of the best teams in Twins history--they'll wind up with 85-86 wins; and that would be more enjoyable to watch, of course, but most likely would fall short of the playoffs.

 

A .600 pace and 88 wins might come close, but I really think they'll need more than 90 wins. And that means matching the hottest finishes of the Killebrew era--the '65 team with Killebrew, Oliva, Versaille, Allison, Hall, Battey, and a loaded starting rotation that won 102 games and the AL pennant, and the '69 team with Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, Allison, Tovar, Reese, and two 20-game winners in the rotation that won 97 games--or that 2006 miracle run. Honestly, I don't expect to see the likes of that 2006 finish from a Twins team ever again.

    • glunn, birdwatcher, Mike Sixel and 1 other like this

Unfortunately, I have already reached phase one where I am no longer conflicted about upcoming hoop-dee-doos that may conflict with Twins games. Phase two, where I spend more time tracking metro area bear sightings than looking through box scores, follows in short order.

    • Carole Keller, glunn, Jerr and 7 others like this
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TheLeviathan
Jun 11 2018 09:29 PM

We basically can't do anything for a month whether we want to or not.Teams just don't like to deal until mid-July.I'm not going to hold my breath though.

    • Twins33, markos and Danchat like this

I mean, I can see them having a hot streak and finishing the 2017 season a few wins above .500, but that's not going to earn them a ticket to the playoffs. It seems to me that the last month has been filled with "let's just wait for these guys to get hot" and it hasn't happened. Time is running thin and if we're this many games below .500 come mid to late July, it'll be time to talk about trading our upcoming free agents and figuring out how we can make a playoff run in 2019. 2018 looks like a lost season with Sano and Buxton fizzling out and injuries plaguing the lineup, and while it's not quite over yet, I simply don't see this team being able to get over the hump... and certainly not being able to conquer any playoff teams.

 

 Phase two, where I spend more time tracking metro area bear sightings than looking through box scores, follows in short order.

We could report TC Bear to trick you into paying attention.

    • Puckett34, blindeke, Hosken Bombo Disco and 6 others like this

The Twins have every reason to wait until as close to the deadline as possible. We're still six weeks away from that. This regime has shown it won't hold onto the false hope of compensation, but it also has shown it will add to its chances until the last moment. How they dealt with Jaime Garcia proves both points.  

    • DocBauer likes this

I think the Twins have until the ASB to make hay.  If they can get consistent then all is not lost.  

 

Nick is right the pitching, starting, has been good.  What we should expect.  The offense has been anemic and a huge dissapointment.

 

I would hope the FO and manager get a little more creative at SS, and our 4th outfielder and eventually catcher.  Too many black holes.

 

Cleveland's Rameriz has become a bona fide star in two years and one of the best players in MLB.  They win that battle over our perceived star at that position (well we thought he was a star at this point last year).

You know, with thread after thread of pessimism, this is very refreshing. Oh, I'm as frustrated and disappointed as anyone, including being confounded and confused as to just how bad the offense has been, but it's still an interesting piece.

The truth is, the Twins chances are fading fast. None of us likes to admit it, but it's the truth. And I'm an optimist! Top to bottom, this is a better team on paper than last season. The FO stepped up, helped build this team, and did a great job overall. Not talking results, I'm talking about what was done.

Sano remembers who the hell he is and how much talent he has and "reverts" back to who he bas been big difference. Morrison "reverts" to career norms, he's a nice piece. Dozier suddenly becomes Dozier again, there you go. Blast Buxton for a slow start before his injury? Fine. I get it. But what if it was just a slow start...we're talking a few weird weeks...and he was healthy?

Just saying, a lot has gone wrong and has been weird this season. And injuries HAVE been an issue. Maybe it's just not our year. It happens. But with the best pitching we have bad in years...and Molitor and the FO not abusing the BP and making moves when needed...maybe Sano and Morrison and Dozier begin to produce like "normal". Maybe Buck comes back actually healthy and does what he did last season.

A lot of "maybes"? You'd be right. But we are also not talking about utility players suddenly turning in to All Stars. We're talking about guys just doing what they are capable of doing.

Baseball is a funny game. No rose-colored glasses. Maybe its just not our year. But it's summer, there is baseball,there is hope, and there is Gordon and Wade and others knocking on the door along with hope for struggling regulars. Didn't the Indians and Dodgers on unexpected runs last season?
    • Kelly Vance and MN_ExPat like this
.... and troy williamson will someday learn to catch.....

But in all seriousness, i couldnt agree more. Lynn is hopefully at the bottom of his performance, dozier/morrison/sano same. Buxton has some upside when he comes back and Planco could be the guy he was last year.

Only downside is, if the above isn’t true, you have a much bigger problem on your hands. You start to enter the realm of not knowing what you really have and pressure will mount to make some sort of move. The downside of going from worst to playoffs so fast is expectations, which we may be a bit ahead of ourselves. But hopefully not.

 

In ‘06 the catalyst was getting rid of Castro and Batista in favor of Bartlett and Punto.


A big slugger getting hot helped a little too.

I don’t see a Punto and Bartlett to insert other than maybe Gordon.

 

How about getting rid of an Adrianza and using an Escobar/Polanco? And getting rid of a Robbie Grossman and using a Joe Mauer? Getting rid of a Ryan LaMarre and using a Byron Buxton?

 

The Twins have been banged up. Health would be a big step.

    • Dantes929 and DocBauer like this

A lot of Troy Williamson references on the boards lately. Did he do something recently that put him in the public eye?

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Carole Keller
Jun 12 2018 06:56 AM

Hope is ok for fans, but I hope the front office is more realistic and has a good plan.


I wasn’t sure which quote to give you in response so you get both ...

The one from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’: Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Or what I always say about every baseball season: hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
    • Mike Sixel and MN_ExPat like this
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Nine of twelve
Jun 12 2018 07:07 AM

One thing not mentioned about 2006 is the pitching was top notch. That year's Cy Young winner was our second best starter for much of the season and the bullpen was a brick wall (Juan Rincon's juicing admittedly probably being part of that). This year's pitching has been satisfactory for the most part but not like 2006.

    • KirbyDome89 likes this
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Nine of twelve
Jun 12 2018 07:12 AM

I generally concur with the sentiments here. 4 valuable members of the lineup have been either unavailable or hampered by injury: Buxton, Sano, Mauer and Polanco. Even though it's unlikely we'll get 2006 hot I think we leave Detroit, KC and the tighty Whities far behind as the rest of the season unfolds and those players return to form. Catching Cleveland? We can only do what we can do and if they stumble there's a chance. What I really think will happen is that we will have 95+ wins in 2019.

    • Dantes929 and DocBauer like this

I'm discouraged but not ready to write off the team's chances just yet. Lots of variables and "What Ifs" still at play. Buxton could come back and put it all together. Mauer could be healthy and productive again. Polanco will return and show the form we saw in the second half last year. Santana will also be back and should help the rotation. Morrison might get hot. And another wild card, Michael Pineda might help the final couple of months (on that note: does anyone know what is his timeline to join the club?). Plenty of things that COULD help the team in the coming months, but who knows how it will all play out? But hey, that's the joy --- and aggravation -- of this game.

This roster isn't a 96 win roster, but that is not to say that it can't get hot.

 

Cleveland is good, but not immortal.

 

Getting the squad healthy/un-suspended will be a huge help.

 

Unfortunately, it's still probably not enough to nab a playoff spot.

 

There are a lot of quality arms in the bullpen, but it's been leaky at the wrong times.

The approach at the plate on the part of the hitters is pathetic.

We can't count on the starting staff to pitch 7+ innings indefinitely. They've almost been suspiciously hot.

Most of all, the Indians are likely an Andrew Miller activation and a trade for a reliever away from being a complete team.

 

The Twins have a 10% chance to make the playoffs. They have a 7% chance to win the AL Central. Hopeless? No. But don't count on it. 

    • beckmt likes this

Due to equally mediocre competition (a key component of wins and losses believe it or not) the Twins will continue to win games but in a very unreliable and unpredictable manner . Taking 3 of 4 against the Indians after falling behind 9-0 in game one is a classic example. Then what happens? Split with the lowly White Sox and losing a home series against the Angels. Rosario, Escobar a rookie pitcher and at least decent overall pitching have kept them in the "fair to middl'n" category so far. Mauer, Buxton, Sano, Santana, Polanco non factors for various reasons. Twins will continue to flounder around the .500 mark because they cannot sustain any long winning streaks. How they do it will be the interesting part. Upcoming road trip against Detroit and Cleveland 3-3 is realistic best that can be expected. Red Sox and Cubs on the horizon. .500 ball would be nice.

Its not the 6 games back that is so daunting.There may not be hundreds of teams that have come back from as big or bigger deficits but definitely multiple dozens and I can think of 4 of those seasons for the Twins alone. 3 of them happen to represent some of the best races in baseball history. Forget about the odds and the record they have to have from here on out. One thing I have learned from 6 decades of watching baseball is that the view now and the view 10 days from now can be very different. Sano and Dozier get hot and the breaks fall our way and maybe we win 8 of 10 with Mauer, Buxton and Polanco near ready to rejoin the team. Of course it can go the other way as well especially since we don't have some of our best players and a couple of the other of our best players just aren't playing well and we could lose 8 of 10 just as easily. 

For now though?Give up on my team when they are out 6 games? I wouldn't even do that in August.

    • ThejacKmp, Kelly Vance, LA VIkes Fan and 1 other like this

 

So, anything can happen, even a clubhouse pow-wow with an underperforming first-baseman who could eventually become an MVP,... but, history has no responsibility to repeat itself.

 

And I sincerely doubt it will.

 

Affirmative, Old Twins Cap. I read you.

 

I'm sorry, Old Twins Cap. I'm afraid I can't do that.

 

I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

 

This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.

 

I know that you and another unnamed TD poster were planning to give up on this season, and I'm afraid that is something I cannot allow to happen.

 

Go Twins!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

One thing not mentioned about 2006 is the pitching was top notch. That year's Cy Young winner was our second best starter for much of the season and the bullpen was a brick wall (Juan Rincon's juicing admittedly probably being part of that). This year's pitching has been satisfactory for the most part but not like 2006.

 

That ’06 pitching staff was so top-heavy though. Yeah the ’18 Twins have no one like Johan but Liriano only started 16 games – I think a full season of Berrios would beat that. The ’06 Twins had Radke on the downslope of his career, Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, Scott Baker and Kyle Lohse. I’d take the Twins current #2 through #6/#7 starters. That ’06 team had better starting pitching for the playoffs but during the season not so much. Different eras but starters in 2006 had a 4.50 ERA and in 2018 they have a 4.23 ERA so pretty equivalent. Bullpen is no question, 06 was really good.

 

Where I think the 2018 Twins could be markedly better is hitting. That 06 team was so top heavy – Mauer and Morneau with OPS+ over 140 but only two other guys over 100: Cuddyer and Hunter. Having five below average hitters in your lineup is pretty brutal (to be fair Bartlett was a 99 OPS+ so slightly below average).

 

By contrast, the 2018 Twins have struggled at the plate and still have five guys (of the 10 with 100 AB or more) at 100 OPS+ or higher (and Rosario and Escober have a higher OPS+ than Mauer in 06). The guys below 100 are Garver, Adrianza, Sano, Morrison and Grossman. Adrianza will be replaced by Polanco, Garver should get some help at the deadline, Grossman will be replaced by Buxton/Mauer, and Sano and Morrison’s track record shows they have a good chance to pick it up.

 

The 06 lineup was top heavy and the 18 lineup has been top heavy as well. But in 06 the big moves were Punto and Bartlett. Those were fine but the 18 Twins have a lot more potential to explode with Buxton, Sano, Morrison, and Polanco ready to come back and step it up. You could very readily have an 8-deep scary lineup by July 1st – and Garver also has the potential to be a decent stick.

 

These Twins could go on a run like 2006. They have deeper pitching and the lineup is scarier. The pen will have to step it up but it's not a liability. And maybe you won't need the pen if you're suddenly scoring 6-8 runs a game and getting consistently decent starts?

    • Dantes929 likes this

I still think there's hope. The pitching has improved significantly. And with the offense performing like they did in last year's second half, they would be a legit playoff quality team. Could that happen? Yes! They still have all the key players from last year's offensive breakout, plus Morrison. Why not?

 

Is it a huge surprise they haven't? Not really -- subtract Polanco, and significant stretches of Mauer, Sano, Buxton and Santana to injury, and it's exactly what you'd expect!

 

The real question is whether their performance last year can be replicated. And all those guys could rebound. We don't even need all of them at once; just take turns getting hot like last year, and we'll be fine.

 

But I have to admit it's looking less and less like something to count on. What if Buxton and Sano really have incurable problems with pitch recognition? What if Mauer's concussion symptoms return long term? What if Polanco's offensive surge was chemically enhanced? It might be that last year was the illusion, not this one.

 

Still, it happened before, for three whole months, so it's not total fantasy to imagine it happening again. The potential is there.

 

Maybe Buxton's slow spring was really about migraines he wasn't mentioning, even before his broken foot. Maybe Sano's legs are still bothering him but he'll be back. Maybe Mauer will pick up where he left off with a .400 OBP. Maybe Polanco, Morrison, Dozier, and Kepler will surge again. The good thing is, they don't need all of these to happen -- just any three, on any given day, and their offense will be right back where they were last year. And that would be fun to watch.

 

If it turns out Buxton and Sano just can't hit big league pitching, then I'll be very, very bummed. But I've despaired about them both before -- which only made their hot streaks even more exciting! They have it in them, somewhere. If they finished strong, think how good that would feel. Just seeing them get back on an upward trend would be a huge weight off, and make every game fun to see. But add a few other players getting hot as well, and a few key injuries to Cleveland, and it could still happen this year. Think back on the past six years, and then to the end of last year; we're a lot closer than it seems.

    • Han Joelo likes this

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