Regression For Twins Is Likely, But Not Inevitable
Image courtesy of Kevin Jairaj, USA TodayAs Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot pointed out on Twitter, the Twins have the fourth-best record in the American League despite ranking 12th in runs allowed per game and dead last in FIP. By Pythagorean W/L, their expected record would be below .500 at 17-18.
Outside of newcomer Jose Berrios, the only starters with an ERA south of five are Ervin Santana and Hector Santiago. The bullpen had the makings of a ticking time bomb, and we’ve already seen some hiccups. On the other end, Miguel Sano has been their only truly outstanding hitter. To this point, almost any other regular has been disappointing in some sense.
Reviewing Minnesota’s roster and its performance through mid-May, this doesn’t look like a contender. A far cry from the 100-loss abomination in 2016, of course, but not a team that’s likely to hang with the big boys through September.
That could change.
While present trends portend it, a drop-off is not necessarily inevitable. That's because certain factors would serve to offset any imminent decline or regression to the mean.
For instance, there is the arrival of Jose Berrios. If his sensational season debut on Saturday was any indicator of things to come, he's a big game-changer for the tenability of this starting corps.
With two immediate needs in the rotation following Wednesday's rainout (Saturday and Monday), Adalberto Mejia and Kyle Gibson could both be heading back. At least one of them will be. At the end of camp, some believed Mejia and Gibby could be the staff's two best starters.
If either of them benefitted from a reset and comes out on track, that's a major boost. Both pitched well in Triple-A.
Phil Hughes is maintaining a delicate junkball balancing act, but he's going to hang in there unless things really go off the rails. What the Twins need is enough true mid-rotation guys to make him effectively their No. 5 starter. It's not a huge stretch.
The bullpen is a tough nut to crack. Either Matt Belisle has gotten his worst ball of the season out of the way, or he's cooked. We'll see. These dire control issues are absurdly uncharacteristic.
Ryan Pressly's stuff is way too good for that ERA. He was utterly filthy his last time out, hopefully a good omen. But he's awful tough to trust right now.
Brandon Kintzler is very solid, though I maintain skepticism about his outlook at closer. Taylor Rogers and Craig Breslow are proving well suited for their roles. Justin Haley is Justin Haley.
This bullpen could use a reinforcement or two, and they may be available in short order. J.T. Chargois was at last check starting a rehab assignment in Florida. Nick Burdi has been beyond dominant in Chattanooga, with a 0.61 ERA and 19-to-4 K/BB in 15 innings. He's a candidate for a direct promotion to Minnesota.
A sleeper might be Alan Busenitz, the hard-throwing 26-year-old acquired along with Hector Santiago in last year's Ricky Nolasco trade. After tossing 3 1/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief for Rochester Wednesday night, he has a 2.25 ERA and 21-to-8 K/BB with with five hits allowed in 15 frames.
The Twins have some fire to call upon in the late innings. Granted, it's wild fire. But as any Game of Thrones fan will tell you, wild fire can be an excellent way to ambush opponents.
On offense, the cavalry isn't as strong, but it doesn't need to be. The Twins lineup figures to improve on its own. Miguel Sano isn't going to slow down at this rate. Brian Dozier has brought a good approach to the plate and should start seeing more results. Same for Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. Joe Mauer is on the upswing. Eduardo Escobar is an awfully nice plug to have around.
Things have shaken out favorably for the Twins thus far, sure, but the wins are already in the book. If they merely play .500 from here on out they're an 83-win team. It doesn't exactly take a blind leap of faith to see them exceeding that clip from here on out with just a few good breaks.
- birdwatcher, James, hybridbear and 4 others like this