That's the Ticket: September Sox
Image courtesy of Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsBelow are the 12 years of the Gardenhire era. The first column is the year. The second is how close the Twins were to the top of the AL Central when September started. And the last two columns were how they did in September:
With the possible exception 2008, a season in which they finished September under .500 but still forced a 163rd game, the pattern has been consistent. When Gardenhire’s team is within range of a division title, they win games. When they are not, they don’t. That has been particularly true last three years, when the club’s September record has only been 27-55.
The Twins entered this month 15.5 games back. That doesn’t bode terribly well for the team.
However, the White Sox are in a similar bind. While the Twins had a rough August, going just 11-18, the White Sox were even worse, finishing the month with just nine wins, including a seven-game losing streak. They entered the month just three games under .500. They exit the month thirteen games under .500 and playing out their second consecutive hopeless year.
Hopeless years seem to be a similar issue for White Sox manager Robin Ventura – or maybe much, much worse. The White Sox August swoon is reminiscent of their swoon last September, when they also found themselves hopelessly out of the AL Central race. As bad as the Twins finished 2013, the Sox were actually worse, finishing the month 7-21.
But Ventura’s problems could go beyond keeping a second division team motivated. He might just have trouble maintaining a team’s focus for an entire year. Chicago also finished Ventura’s first year dismally, posting an 11-17 record in September and missing the playoffs after starting the month atop the AL Central. You might think a guy with that record might feel a little heat, especially from a fan base as passionate as that of the White Sox. If so, it’s not obvious: instead he’s being praised by local media for getting better all the time.
(Too bad his teams aren’t.)
ITPS! (It’s the Pitching, Stupid!)
The two-game series gives the Twins a chance to tie the White Sox for fourth place in the division after returning from a seven-game road trip against first place teams. But if the Twins want to show any kind of improvement over last year, it’s going to have to be the pitching staff that leads the charge, and that is looking less and less likely.
We’ll start with the season-long stats: the Twins overall ERA is 4.56, 28th in the American League. The starting rotation’s ERA is 5.12 and that is dead last. Also, it’s getting worse instead of better: August’s team ERA was 5.51. (Again, last in the majors).
The two guys starting against the White Sox – Tom Milone and Trevor May – have combined to allow more than a run per inning, which means they have a combined ERA over 9.00 as Twins. Both should be seemingly fighting for their jobs, but at this point it isn’t clear if they are or not. Neither seems to be in danger of losing his spot this September. Neither one is likely to be someone the Twins will trust enough to ink into their rotation in 2015. So both are as likely to win a spot in 2015 based on their performance next spring as this September.
Twins fans may want to view the next two homestands similarly; this is extended spring training. It’s up to you as to whether you want to view that as a positive or negative, but I’ll go with the former. We’re going to see a lot of new faces, build some hope for next year, and suck the marrow out of this wonderful weather we’ve had this summer. If this winter is anything like last winter, we’ll be treasuring these September contests, win or lose.
But yeah, it would be nice if we could win some games, too.