Twins Building Off The Mound
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsThrough a full season last year, the Twins used 11 different starting pitchers, and they trotted out 29 in total. Both of those numbers have been blitzed in 2017, as the club has set franchise records using both 14 starters and 33 arms in total. While that’s a pretty monumental feat in and of itself, those numbers should only be expected to swell over the final 43 games of the season.
A year ago, the Twins' 5.09 team ERA was tied for dead last in all of baseball. Whether looking at starters or the bullpen, the result wasn’t pretty. Realistically, a complete overhaul of the staff wasn’t a one-year project, and the Twins addressed the issues on the bump in an unconventional but interesting way. Jason Castro was brought in as one of the game’s elite gloves behind the dish. Thanks in part to his efforts, as well as those around the diamond, the Twins have written a different story this time around.
Realistically, it’s not fair to say the Twins pitching is all that much improved from where they found themselves in 2016. Instead of being dead last in the current campaign, they find themselves checking in at 26th with a 4.78 team ERA. The results have differed however, as a result of the surrounding parts.
On defense, Twins fielders have been worth 17 DRS (defensive runs saved), a mark good enough for 10th in the big leagues. A season ago, Minnesota found themselves totaling a -49 effort, coming in 28th among the competition. With the growth of the glove Molitor’s club has put its best foot forward.
To date, the hometown nine is one starter shy of having run out three separate starting rotations. Over the course of a season, having to turn to ten starters is seemingly a monumental task, asking to triple the required number is extraordinary. What’s even more mind boggling is that the Twins have traveled this path, and yet remained competitive.
It’s fair to note that the AL Central is far from a juggernaut. It’s only been a matter of weeks that the Cleveland Indians started rolling, and the Kansas City Royals have appeared the only other team with a semblance of competitiveness thus far. However, where things stand today, the Twins were expected to be in the rear view and find themselves just 6.0 GB of the division while remaining within one of the wild card.
2015 was the last time Minnesota found themselves playing competitive baseball late in the year. That club won 83 games and was in the thick of things until the final weekend. In Molitor’s first year at the helm, Minnesota ran out 24 pitchers, and just nine different starters. When reaching their 60th win though, they had already lost 61 games, and found themselves 13.5 GB of the division-leading Indians.
What the Twins have done this season is far from an enviable path. They’ve burned through pitchers at an alarming rate, and the depth of the system has been tested in every way possible. However, thanks to a key acquisition behind the dish, and the emergence of strong play in front of it, Minnesota has remained relevant against all odds. As has been the case for some time now, this organization’s bugaboo remains on the mound. To take the next step forward, pitching needs to become an asset. For where they are however, the sum of all parts must be credited.
It’s a near certainty that the Twins will play meaningful and exciting September baseball. Given the pitching records being set, that’s nothing short of a miracle. This club is plenty close to making some real waves, and while we are now seeing their warts, we can’t ignore the strengths either.
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