First Half Review: Injuries And Frustration
Image courtesy of Marilyn Indahl,,USA TodayFor today’s article, we are going to make the assumption that the Twins 9-2 homestand has pushed them from certain sellers to fairly inactive at the July 31 trade deadline.
While it’s easy to say that the 2018 season has been disappointing, should we really be surprised? I mean, before the season started, their top pitcher from 2017, Ervin Santana, had surgery on his right middle fingerand is yet to throw a big-league pitch this season. Jorge Polanco, their shortstop and their best hitter (arguably) over the final two months in 2017, was suspended for the first 80 games and returned just recently.
Their catcher, Jason Castro, who had his best offensive season since 2013 in 2017, played just 19 games before needing season-ending knee surgery.
Byron Buxton only got through a couple of weeks before he fought migraines. A quick rehab stint involved fouling a ball off his big toe which affected his swing and even cost him a little bit of speed. A year ago, he was the best defensive player in the American League.
And Miguel Sano had his fair share off off the field issues this offseason to go along with having a rod put in his leg. Things didn’t go well for Sano right from the start. He struck out 66 times in 163 plate appearances. After 37 games, he was optioned. Not just to Rochester, but all the way to Ft. Myers where he remains.
Joe Mauer was having another solid season, but in mid-May, he dove for a pop up and came up with a neck injury and concussion-like symptoms. He missed a month and it took him a week or ten days to get his bat back.
Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn were terrific, mid-spring training signings. Fans were excited about the idea of adding Morrison, who hit 38 home runs for the Rays a year ago, and Lynn, who many projected to get a nine-digit contract in the offseason. The Twins signed the two of them for a combined $17.5 million for 2018. Lynn took six weeks to get anything going, through he’s been better of late. Morrison was awful in April, good in May, and has been really bad since June. He landed on the disabled list with a hip injury.
Fernando Rodney had a rough first month, but he’s been fantastic since the calendar changed to May. Trevor Hildenberger also struggled in April but has been terrific since. Another free agent reliever signed was Addison Reed, who started the season very well, but he really struggled after being used a ton early. He is now on the DL with a triceps injury. Like Reed, Ryan Pressly and Zack Duke were used nearly daily early in the season. Pressly seems to have recovered from a brief hiccup, and Duke has actually been quite good.
Now, if you would have known all of that, would you still expect this team to be above .500, or would you expect them to be about where they are?
I mean, Eduardo Escobar moved to third base and filled in more than adequately for Sano. Ehire Adrianza replaced Eduardo Escobar who replaced Jorge Polanco at shortstop. Again, Adrianza performed as well as could be hoped or expected. But the upside isn’t there.
With Buxton out, Max Kepler often moved to center field with Robbie Grossman in right field. While Kepler is decent in center,i t’s not the same as Bxton out there, and Grossman is nowhere near the defensive outfielder that Kepler is. Ryan LaMarre, a journeyman, performed as well as possibly could have been expected for a fifth outfielder forced into regular action. He was DFAd, and Jake Cave has been really good in center field and with the bat since Buxton’s rehab ended and he was optioned to Rochester.
Mitch Garver has been just fine at the plate. He had some glaring issues behind the plate early in the season, but since the first month, his defense hasn’t - at least obviously - hurt the Twins. But replacing Castro with Wilson has been an obvious step down. We have often asked why Garver isn’t playing more.
The drop from Joe Mauer to Logan Morrison defensively is clearly noticeable.
Brian Dozier was hitting just .219/.303/.389 (.692) through the season’s first 85 games. He got hot over the team’s final eight games before the break. Hopefully that second-half dominance of Dozier that we’ve become accustomed to will show up through the rest of the season. Max Kepler has shown vast improvement against left-handers, but a quick look at his OPS+ over his past three seasons, he has been at 96, 95 and is at 97 in 2018. A little better, but at 25, it would be nice to see him have a strong second half.
And hey, let’s not even talk about the base running miscues that have followed the Twins all season. Or the signing of Matt Belisle.
Eddie Rosario should have been an All-Star. He’s been as good as it gets over the last 12 months. He’s clearly been the Twins MVP. Eduardo Escobar and all of his extra-base hits have been huge. Jose Berrios was the Twins’ All Star representative, and deservingly so. Kyle Gibson also was very good, continuing to show that the adjustments he made last August have paid off for him and the team.
When the Twins begin the post-All-Star break on Friday, they will have about ten days to determine whether they are buyers, sellers, or if they will wait into the August waiver period to make trades in either direction. While they have probably played themselves out of contention for a Wild Card berth, they will have to play great the rest of the way to surpass Cleveland, though they will have plenty of head-to-head opportunity.
Ervin Santana should be back by his next start. Polanco is back now and has already reminded us why we were excited about him coming in to spring training. Can Byron Buxton get back on the field in Rochester soon and get on a role and come back to the Twins? Can Miguel Sano continue to do the things asked of him in Ft. Myers, start displaying some power and get back to the Twins in time?
There are so many questions for the Twins as the season continues. A year ago,the Twins were sellers at the trade deadline as their odds of making the playoffs dipped down as low as four-percent. Right now, the Twins odds of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, is 2.4%
The Twins come out of the All Star break with a ten-game road trip. They play three in Kansas City, three in Toronto and then four in Boston. The final two games of the month will be at home against Cleveland.
The first half had some nice moments. Brian Dozier’s walk off grand slam was a fun way to end the half. There are reasons for Twins fans to have hope, but a lot will have to go right, and maybe more important, a lot will have to go right in the first ten days to determine the direction for the rest of the season.
- SwainZag, dbminn, nclahammer and 1 other like this