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Twins Pitching Excellence but Needing More

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 30 May 2018 · 726 views

minnesota twins jose berrios kyle gibson brian dozier miguel sano
The Minnesota Twins dropped their 8th game in walkoff fashion while playing the Kansas City Royals deep into the May 29th evening. Accomplishing that feat means they've surpassed the mark set in each of the previous 13 seasons, and 43 of their 58 in franchise history. While walkoff scenarios can sometimes be a fluke, there's a systemic trend that has Minnesota in the dire position they now face. The pitching is there, but the offense has been nonexistent.

Going into the year, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were vocal about retooling a pitching staff that needed a lift. Despite a successful 2017 campaign, it was clear that Paul Molitor's offense couldn't continue to bail out the pitching staff. Using a franchise record number of starters as well as arms in total, the quality level needed to be increased in order to reduce the quantity. Now nearly through May, it's fair to say that much has been accomplished.

Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios lead the club in terms of fWAR with tallies of 1.4. Each pitcher has put up a clunker or two, but the vast majority of their outings have been very strong. Gibson has picked up where he left off down the stretch and expanded upon it. Now a strikeout pitcher, he's missing bats and keeping the ball in the yard. Jose Berrios has shown a better level of control, which has led to a walk rate nearly halved from a season ago.

Even beyond the top two starters on the staff, Garvin Alston's group has been plenty good. Jake Odorizzi has served the part of a capable middle-of-the-rotation arm, while Lance Lynn has turned in two recent starts totaling out to a 1.42 ERA. Fernando Romero has burst onto the scene as a potential ace for the future, and the depth down on the farm looks better than ever. To suggest that this is the best Twins rotation in quite some time would be putting it nicely.

Although the bullpen hasn't been quite as sharp, there's a lot to like out there as well. Ryan Pressly looks like one of the best relievers in baseball, while Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney have performed as expected. Zach Duke has been shaky thanks to an uncharacteristic amount of free passes, but the strikeouts have saved him from more trouble. There's room for growth in relief, but the reality is that it's not the significant problem area that the Twins have experienced in the past.

Pitching as a whole has made significant strides within the organization, and it's evident when comparing the club to the league as a whole. Although team ERA checks in at 16th currently (finished 19th in 2017), starter ERA sits at 12th (19th in 2017). Arguably the most impressive boost comes in the form of missing bats, something previous Twins teams simply did not do. In 2018, Minnesota starters have the 9th best K/9 in MLB, and they finished at 26th a season ago.

All of the above represents some very positive developments. The problem however, is that the lineup is doing very little with what they've been handed.

After finishing 7th in runs scored, 10th in extra base hits, and 16th in home runs a season ago, the expectation was for potency from this group. Unfortunately, Minnesota ranks 29th in runs, 29th in home runs, and 19th in extra base hits as of May 30th. Producing at what amounts to a near league worst value, it really doesn't matter what kind of outings Twins pitchers produce.

Through their eight walkoff losses, five of them have come against teams with records at .500 or worse. On the season, Minnesota has played 20% of their first 50 games by scoring one run or less. Simply put, there's way too many guys failing at their jobs up and down the lineup.

Among starters, the Twins have six players with an OPS below .750. Byron Buxton has given Paul Molitor nothing at the plate, while Brian Dozier has decided to slump for a significant period yet again this season. Miguel Sano has dropped off the table when it comes to forcing a fair amount of walks, and Logan Morrison is still attempting to find his footing after a disastrous transition to his new club.

Right now, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler are the only players providing Minnesota any sort of value in the lineup. Eduardo Escobar's hot streak is long gone, and the bench is made up of a handful of players that really have no business being in the big leagues. What's more dire for the Twins is that answers don't really present themselves outside of the clubhouse. Calling up Nick Gordon could provide a spark, but it would be short lived until Jorge Polanco returns. Chris Carter may provide some thump to the lineup, but he could also be an exact replica of what Sano is currently providing.

At the end of the day, it's on the players currently a part of the 25 man (and more importantly the starting lineup) to get their bats going. While veteran leadership off the field is great, there's no better way to lead than by producing while it matters. Sano, Dozier, Buxton, and a handful of others need to get going. The postseason is likely a distant mirage at this point, but turning things around, salvaging something of purpose, and giving the pitching staff much better than they've been afforded are all musts if this collective wants to be taken seriously in the future.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • howieramone2 likes this



Rogers hasn't been effective. He might need to be replaced.

I take it you meant May 29th instead of March 29th at the beginning of your article (not meant critically)

    • Ted Schwerzler likes this
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howieramone2
May 31 2018 08:29 AM

Still have time, but need to at least split the next 4 games. Easy to see how important Mauer is to our offense. Buxton has missed a ton of time, Sano has missed some, and it's hard to know how much we miss Polanco's bat. It's not over yet.

I am trying to think of a clever post.But I can't.We stink.How's that.I know there are lots of rationalizations, but listening to tonight's game andthinking 22 - 30 - 8 games below 500 in the worst division in baseball and then coming up with excuses just does not seem satisfying. 

 

Trying to find good stories in Morrison who I am reminded has done well since he was horrid, but still batting 196 and I shudder - this is good?Seeing Grossman hitting 217 and fielding the same makes me shake.Having LaMarre in center because he hit well early in the spring leaves me frustrated.Watching our Vet Dozier hit HRs when the game is not on the line and bat 237 makes me weep. Seeing our big slugger at 206 completely frustrates.  

 

Yes Kepler has been a good story, but only a 246 story and Escobar keeps holding his own and even batting 4th, but in fact he is batting 259.  

 

The Twins still have a chance.Mathematics has no soul, no emotions, so yes, we are not out of it.If only my head understood mathematics because I am having a hard time being positive.