Were We Possibly This Wrong?
Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson, USA TodaySimply put, there isn't a member of the Minnesota Twins organization, players, coaches or front office, who is happy with the Twins 9-15 record. Even more than the simple record, no one could be happy with the way that the team is playing. Most important maybe to the ownership, fans are already frustrated with the results.
To this point, an oversimplified summary of the Twins season would include: poor starting pitching, poor relief pitching, poor hitting and poor defense. There are some positives, to be sure, but overall, April was a rough month for the Twins.
There have been excuses given for the team. Some are legitimate. Others just aren't really appropriate. Here is a quick look at some of the excuses or reasons often given for the Twins awful first month of the season.
The weather was awful during the first half of the month, through the season's first three weeks. The Twins had a number of scheduled off days, and then there was an unusual amount of snow that fell on Minneapolis (and many other MLB cities). This certainly could not have been easy, but frankly, the Twins were 8-5 during the spotty part of the schedule.
We mostly assumed that the team would benefit from playing every day. Hitters could get into a routine, and pitchers could get into their normal patterns between starts. That, in theory, should create some sort of consistency.
Instead, since things returned to normal, the twins have gone 1-10.
The Front Office Did Nothing
I hear this a lot, and it's one that is hard to fathom. The Twins were one of the busiest teams during the offseason. The Cubs signed Yu Darvish, who the Twins clearly targeted heavily.
In the offseason, the Twins signed relievers Fernando Rodney, Zack Duke and Addison Reed. They traded A-ball shortstop Jermaine Palacios for veteran Jake Odorizzi. These were solid moves.
Many assumed that the money that was not spent on Darvish would just go unspent money. Instead, the front office played the free agent market wisely. The Twins signed Logan Morrison, who hit 38 home runs last year for Tampa Bay, for $6.5 million and an option. Then they signed Lance Lynn, a pitcher who was projected to make $80 million or more in free agency, for one year and $12 million.
That was the point where many Twins fans nodded and thought, OK, now we can really get excited. Now the Twins have accumulated a roster that could possibly compete with Cleveland for an AL Central title.
Since the season has started, the front office, unfortunately, has again had to reach down to AAA, and reach out via the waiver wire, to address pitching issues.
Judging any of those moves after one month would be very short-sighted, whether positively or negatively. Fernando Rodney has not been good. Zack Duke, after struggling early, has been pretty good the last seven outings. Odorizzi has an ERA below four.
Logan Morrison got off to a very slow start. It will take him some time to make his numbers look presentable. Lance Lynn, frankly, has had five starts that look very similar to the two starts Phil Hughes has had, which pushed Hughes to the bullpen. To attempt to summarize Lynn to this point, he has had no command.
The Twins Have Missed Byron Buxton
While his batting average when he went on the disabled list was just shy of .200, the Twins have won just two games since Byron Buxton went down with migraines... and then a fractured toe.
While Max Kepler can play a solid, adequate centerfield, the loss of Buxton comes in the form of replacing Buxton with Kepler and Kepler with Robbie Grossman. In other words, the defense is weakened in two spots.
Likewise, it's nice to have Eduardo Escobar's bat in the lineup, but the team also misses Jorge Polanco who will not be able to play for another two months due to his 80-game PED suspension. Now Miguel Sano has a hamstring injury, and the team's infield depth is being stretched.
Players Gotta Play
If we're being honest, it's almost completely on the players at this point. Max Kepler is really punishing the baseball. Eduardo Escobar continues to be very good with the bat. Joe Mauer continues to be an on-base machine. Ryan Pressly has seemingly taken a next step. Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios have been solid pitchers most times out. Addison Reed has been quite good. As Mitch Garver has played more of late, his bat has heated up.
The team needs better starting pitching. The team needs better relief pitching. The team needs better hitting overall, but they more specifically need to be better with runners in scoring position.
Reasons for Optimism
It might be difficult right now to imagine a scenario where the Twins turn this around and make a playoff push. The team will need to start playing well soon, but there are some things that we do need to remember.
First, the Twins still are scheduled to play another 138 games. To end the season with 87 wins, the team would need to go 78-60. That means that they would need to win about 56% of their remaining games. That's not an easy task, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility if things change soon.
The team has played just one game in the American League Central to this point. That means they have another 56 games against the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox. If they go 37-19 in those 56 games, that would mean that they needed to go .500 in their other 82 remaining games to reach that 87 win mark. I don't know if winning 2/3 of their games against those three AL Central teams is realistic, but those games will be very important to the Twins.
I still believe that the Twins have a good combination of veterans and younger players. Veterans will typically find a way to reach their typical numbers by season's end. Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn can only get better. Fernando Rodney should get better. Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger will get better.
The front office has shown they're not going to be afraid to make moves, particularly with the final 25- and 40-man roster spots. Tyler Kinley got some time, and now has been DFAd. They added David Hale. He pitched once, and they DFAd him. They are trying Matt Magill. Gabriel Moya made the Opening Day roster, Alan Busenitz has been up, Tyler Duffey got another shot and now he's been sent back, and John Curtiss is up.
And finally, the exciting news from Monday was the announcement that Fernando Romero, the team's top pitching prospect, will be called up on Wednesday to make the start for the Twins. It isn't likely to be a one-time spot start as Phil Hughes has been moved to the bullpen. Hughes got two starts upon his return and the club saw enough. And to replace him, they didn't just call up anyone. They called up their top prospect.
Is Fernando Romero ready? Probably not quite. But he's close, and his stuff can be electric. He's got the upper-90s fastball to go with a slider. He'll need to be more consistent with control and command, and his third pitch (a changeup) is still a work-in progress. But it's the kind of move that tells the organization, we aren't settling and we're going to give this key part of our future a shot.
If Lance Lynn doesn't soon make some adjustments, he may need a three-week DL stint with some sort of "injury" and someone like Stephen Gonsalves - who will make his first AAA start of 2018 on Tuesday - could get an opportunity.
If Miguel Sano can't play in the next couple of days, could the Twins decide to promote another highly-touted prospect, Nick Gordon, directly from Double A? Is he big-league ready? Probably not, there are still questions about him and he could use more development time, but that would be a big move. If they feel he's close, which he might be, that would be the possible move.
So, were we wrong?
I don't know what everyone who reads this thinks the 2018 Twins team would do or should do. I do think most believed that this team can, should and will compete for a playoff spot. I'm not sure how many thought that the team had made up the 20 win distance between the Twins and Cleveland from last year, but on paper, the team had improved. They had added some solid veterans, and they still had young players capable of getting better and better.
I am not at the point yet in giving up on the 2018 season. It's FAR too early for that. I still believe that there is too much talent on this roster and that they should turn it around quickly. Getting Byron Buxton back would be huge. Having a healthy Miguel Sano, and preferably one that strikes out less than 40% of the time, would be helpful. Having Lance Lynn show what he's been capable of through his years with the Cardinals would be nice. Logan Morrison figuring out a way to hit five or six home runs a month the rest of the way would be good. A higher percentage of competitive at-bats would be a good start. Eddie Rosario remembering not to swing at pitches he can't drive would be great. Jason Castro performing as he did in 2017 would be good. The bullpen finding its way will be crucial, and obviously the most important thing will be for the starting staff to throw some quality starts onto their stat lines.
There is reason for hope and optimism. That should not be gone for Twins fans. But right now, little is going right, and they will need to turn things around quickly to encourage fans to show up to Target Field.
- Blake, Cory Engelhardt, Oldgoat_MN and 6 others like this