Where's the Weakness?
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsThe Offense
Minnesota’s offense has ranked as one of the best in the league. There are few weaknesses from top to bottom in the line-up. The Twins rank second in the AL in batting average, SLG, OPS, home runs, and hits. They have also scored the most runs and hit the most doubles.
Of regular starters, Marwin Gonzalez has the lowest OPS on the team (.722) and he got off to a slow start. He ended the first month of the season hitting .167/.244/.256 with three extra-base hits. Since the calendar turned to May, he is hitting .358/.427/.552 with seven extra-base hits. Minnesota’s biggest offensive weakness this season has turned it around.
Yesterday, I wrote about the team’s trend of barreling up the ball. Minnesota’s catching core has been unreal at putting the barrel on the ball. As one would expect, Nelson Cruz ranks near the top of the league. Other players like CJ Cron and Byron Buxton have also made some stark improvements.
Minnesota’s offense was expected to improve but this has to be beyond the wildest dreams of most fans.
The Starting Staff
Even with a strong offense, a poor starting staff can destroy a season. Twins starting pitchers have outperformed many of the expectations entering the season. Coming off an All-Star season, most people knew what to expect from Jose Berrios. The rest of the staff has also gone above and beyond.
Jake Odorizzi’s 1.6 WAR ranks him fourth in the AL among pitchers. He has the second-best ERA, the fourth best hits per 9 IP, and the seventh best WHIP. His ERA is almost 1.5 runs lower than his career mark. Earlier this month, he won the AL Player of the Week and he has continued to perform well.
Martin Perez has also been a breath of fresh air. Since joining the rotation, he has a 2.01 ERA and a 41 to 13 strikeout to walk ratio in seven starts. This spring with the help of Odorizzi and Johan Santana, he was able to start developing a cutter. He uses this more than his other pitches and teams are having a tough time figuring it out.
Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have seen some ups and downs. Pineda is in his first season back from Tommy John, so some struggles were expected. Even with the struggles, Pineda has produced quality starts in his last three starts.
Depth at the back end of the rotation could be a weakness. If one of the top three starters were to be hurt or start underperforming, the rest of the rotation could struggle. Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe, and Zack Littell are waiting in Rochester. Could they be trusted taking over a spot in the rotation?
At this point in the season, the casual fan might consider the bullpen to be the team’s greatest weakness. Most of this thought process comes from the team having a non-traditional bullpen. There is no designated closer and four different players have earned saves this season.
Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Matt Magill and Taylor Rogers all have ERA’s of 1.80 or less. Trevor May has made the most appearances out of the bullpen. Even though he has allowed eight earned runs in 18 IP, he has 17 strikeouts. Manager Rocco Baldelli has been able to turn to most of these pitchers with confidence in any situation.
Trevor Hildenberger, a key component of the 2017 team, struggled through the beginning of the season. In 14 innings, he allowed 13 earned runs and it seemed like his breaking pitch wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do. He is down in Rochester trying to work through some of his struggles. Adalberto Mejia was another player that struggled (11 earned runs in 11.1 IP), but he is now on the injury list.
Fernando Romero has been transitioning to a bullpen role between the MLB and Triple-A levels. Lots of other relief pitchers have been struggling in Rochester. Maybe the switch to using the MLB baseball has impacted their numbers. Perhaps, top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol could be used in a bullpen role later in the season.
What do you see as the team’s biggest weakness? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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