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  • Twins Playing Over Their Heads, But That's OK

    On Tuesday night, the Twins stole another one away.

    You'd have a hard time arguing they outplayed the Rangers, who outhit them 9-6 and had a one-run lead entering the ninth before Joakim Soria uncharacteristically blew a save (his first of the year, in fact) and took the loss when he misplayed a nubber back to the mound with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

    Hey, a win's a win.

    That's been a good mantra for the Twins, who find themselves within a game of .500 as the end of May approaches, despite the fact that they haven't really played all that well.

    Offensively, they rank ninth out of 15 American Leagues teams in runs per game, and 11th in OPS. Their team ERA is the worst in baseball.

    Despite all that, this team is keeping it interesting. After Tuesday's thriller, they are now 6-2 in one-run games in the month of May. They have heftily outplayed their Pythagorean W/L, which registers at 21-28.

    Not exactly a sustainable recipe for success, but it doesn't need to be. The Twins have been succeeding in spite of a lot of correctable problems, so there's plenty of reason to expect improvement over the next four months.

    Let's flesh out a few of those reasons:

    1) Jason Kubel will be replaced.


    Harsh, I know. But are you aware just how bad Kubel has been since the first two weeks of the season?

    Since April 13, when his red-hot start basically came to an end, the veteran's slash line is .187/.293/.206. Yes that's a .206 slugging percentage over a period of seven weeks from a player who was brought in almost solely for his ability to hit.

    The Twins seem to have a blind spot for Kubel, as they've evidently never doubted his enduring offensive aptitude despite the poor numbers in 2013, but even they can't run away from these blatant struggles. He's been given 163 plate appearances up to this point but has sat out two of the last three games and is amidst an 0-for-14 slump.

    It would have been great to see this one work out, but the Twins are going to cut bait on Kubel. Maybe as soon as Wednesday, when he is due a 60-day roster bonus of $150,000. He'll be replaced on the roster by a more capable bat (maybe Triple-A performer Deibinson Romero) while his at-bats will go toward guys like Oswaldo Arcia, who appears to be back on track after last night.

    Photo by Jesse Johnson, USA TODAY Sports

    2) Center field also has to get better.

    Now that he's given up switch-hitting, Aaron Hicks is either going to improve substantially or get replaced. The Twins are pretty clearly running out of patience with him and it's not hard to see why; Hicks' .585 OPS is worse than all but nine qualified big-leaguers, and is almost identical to last year's paltry mark.

    The Twins have gotten worse production in center than any MLB team outside of Boston. They lack viable replacements for Hicks, which is part of the problem, but eventually they're bound to find an upgrade somewhere if he can't get it going.

    That said, I'm hopeful the big change leads to a resurgence. Hicks is not this bad.

    3) Pitching help is on the way.

    As mentioned above, Minnesota's pitching staff has the highest ERA in the majors, in large part because as a team they are averaging only 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings. That's the lowest rate in baseball, and if it holds this will be the fourth straight year of the Twins being the most contact-heavy staff in the game.

    But maybe it won't hold.

    Down in Triple-A, both Alex Meyer and Trevor May are turning heads with their bat-missing stuff. The Rochester teammates rank first and fifth in the International League in K/9 rate, respectively. Swapping one of those guys in at some point for, say, Kevin Correia -- whose ERA hasn't been below 6 since mid-April -- could change the look of this rotation considerably.

    4) Joe Mauer, guys.

    This has been a frustrating year for Mauer. He's trying to learn a new position, he's been getting squeezed by umpires like never before, and now he's battling a back issue that is apparently more serious than we were led to believe.

    But at the end of the day, this guy is still one of the best hitters in the sport, and if he can get healthy he's going to find a way to be a positive offensive contributor. He has done that this year to some extent -- a .364 OBP isn't exactly a liability in the two-hole -- but we can't pretend that his power output has been acceptable for a first baseman.

    Mauer's OPS is currently lower than any mark he's finished with in his entire career, even in that miserable 2011 campaign. Maybe something's really wrong with him, but I'd rather presume that it's just a slow start and he'll make up for it with the big second half we know he's capable of.



    Tuesday night's walk-off victory means that you can get half off your online order from PapaJohns.com on Wednesday. Just use the promo code 'TWINSWIN'!
    Comments 41 Comments
    1. Carneal&Gordon's Avatar
      Carneal&Gordon -
      I cringe every night I watch Carlos Gomez dominate for the Brewers. I hope I don't have to watch Hicks do this on another team in 5 years.
    1. The Wise One's Avatar
      The Wise One -
      Perhaps in large part the starting pitching staff has a high ERA becuase they have an extremely high BABIP. The Indians starters have a K/9 of 8.8. They also have an ERA of 4.79. Not Twins Territory, but way above league average.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      It's nice to see them have good fortune and get an undeserved win last night. But I really see them making a run at their Pythagorean record.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The pitching can't be worse than last year......I admit to being surprised at just how bad it has been.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Wins, losses, bad pitching, bad hitting, etc. It's still there but for some reason I'm much more interested in watching this team. Maybe it's some of the young guys like Pinto, Arcia, Escobar, Dozier that have either established themselves or seem to be on the cusp of establishing themselves. Maybe it's Phil Hughes, I don't know, but I like watching this team so much more than past teams. It also probably has something to do with decent guys at the lower levels ready to come up. If only Buxton and Sano would have stayed healthy we really could be on the cusp of seeing them come up midway to make an impact.

      Either way, this is a much more fun team to watch and I'm hoping management is ready to pull the trigger as needed on demotions/promotions.
    1. kdrupp09's Avatar
      kdrupp09 -
      Not saying the Twins are going to make a run at the playoffs but remember the first year the Orioles returned to relevance, they played way above their Pythagorean record. So hopefully the Twins will continue to play above their Pythagorean record.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Its been interesting that someone different has contributed at different times. At the beginning of the season it was Colabello and Kubel, then Dozier and Suzuki, then Santana had moments and Escobar has come out of no where and been hitting. Fuld was great for about a week. and now it time for Arcia and Willingham to join in. That's a lot of hitters who stepped up at various times when needed throughout the season so far. And we've had some clutch pitching performances especially from the bullpen. and lastly we won a lot of one run games so far. So we win the exciting games and loose in blow out fashion so its not as big of a let down = recipe for enjoyable baseball.
    1. kdrupp09's Avatar
      kdrupp09 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      So we win the exciting games and loose in blow out fashion so its not as big of a let down = recipe for enjoyable baseball.
      Really this year, enjoyable baseball was my main hope, however a continued run at .500 would certainly be nice too.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by kdrupp09 View Post
      Really this year, enjoyable baseball was my main hope, however a continued run at .500 would certainly be nice too.
      I could see 75-77 wins. Nolasco will be better, Correa will turn into a 6-9 pitcher that throws 98. May might replace Gibson if he doesn't improve. Hughes may regress a bit but not enough to make up for the things above.

      Our offense is 10th in the AL in runs. That is probably where we end up. You can argue we have an above average hitter at 2B and 3B and at least average at C and 1B. Arcia should prove about average. Escobar may prove to be an average hitting SS (I don't see .350 at the end of the year).
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Wise One View Post
      Perhaps in large part the starting pitching staff has a high ERA becuase they have an extremely high BABIP. The Indians starters have a K/9 of 8.8. They also have an ERA of 4.79. Not Twins Territory, but way above league average.
      Strikeouts are not a guarantee of success. NOT striking out anyone is pretty much a guarantee of NOT having success. Even with a good defense (questionable in this case), if you're letting everyone hit the ball around the yard you're just not going to be effective at limiting runs. (Also, the Twins staff's BABIP is .303, which is not "extremely high" by any means.)
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post

      Escobar may prove to be an average hitting SS (I don't see .350 at the end of the year).
      That's all right, tobi.....obviously, the guy who should know best, Gardy, didn't forsee Esco hitting .350 at any point this year.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Are people finding these games entertaining? I am entertained when Hughes is on the mound and Deduno as well....but the rest of the time I keep feeling like I'm watching the same bad baseball as last year, but that everyone has a 4 leaf clover around their necks.

      I guess I haven't found the brand of baseball this year all that compelling. (Though Dozier is fun to watch and Arcia is a welcome relief to see as well)
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "NOT striking out anyone is pretty much a guarantee of NOT having success." Mark Buehrle is 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 5.2 strike outs per 9. Hughes strikeout rate is lower than his career average but having his best year. Its not just the lack of walks though that is huge. Its that he uses both sides of the plate and has command of where he is throwing it. Pitching to contact isn't bad. Doing it badly is bad.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      Doing it badly is bad.
      The problem is the margin of error makes "doing it badly" far more likely than doing it well.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Are people finding these games entertaining? I am entertained when Hughes is on the mound and Deduno as well....but the rest of the time I keep feeling like I'm watching the same bad baseball as last year, but that everyone has a 4 leaf clover around their necks.

      I guess I haven't found the brand of baseball this year all that compelling. (Though Dozier is fun to watch and Arcia is a welcome relief to see as well)
      I don't know about all of "these games"....but.....How could you not be entertained and compelled by last night's game?

      Scott Baker off the scrap heap and back in Target Field, somehow fooling the Twins for 7 innings with little more stuff than magic dust.

      Hughes was busy being Hughes, what a refreshing signing he's turned out to be.

      Hicks gets himself turned around the wrong way, twice on his route, and still has time to recover and make the ESPN top Web Gem of the night.

      A bunch of great defensive infield plays by the Twins all night long.

      Mauer finally deciding to go against his innate instincts and actually pull one of those Baker meatballs for an RBI double.

      More entertaining misadventures in the OF, what with Parmelee/Escobar and Santana insistent on yet again, making things interesting and challenging for Twins pitchers.

      Oswaldo Arcia staking a strong claim to wanting the "Leader" mantel on his nameplate (or at least "Co-Leader" along with Dozier). And then be called "scary" and "crazy" by Danny Santana at game-end.

      And finally culminating in Gardy going out on the high-wire and giving up Pinto as his security blanket, and especially pinch-hitting a RH hitter (Nunez) against a RHP, actually looking up the history and playing the odds, and then having it somehow work out a couple innings later, with a timely hit and heads-up baserunning by Nunez, coupled with boneheaded plays by the opponent's Gold Glove 3rd baseman and Deadly closer.

      I don't know about you, but to me....That's Entertainment.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I was entertained...but Hughes was on the mound and Arcia was back. The next time Correia pitches? Not appointment television.

      Maybe I'm just sour after really trying to invest in watching last weekend's series. I'm probably not being fair.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I was entertained...but Hughes was on the mound and Arcia was back. The next time Correia pitches? Not appointment television.
      That will be Saturday...against the Yankees...with Tanaka on the mound...in Yankee Stadium. While I'm not expecting much from Correia, or even a win, I fully expect that it will contain entertaining elements.
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      Entertaining. Yes, I chuckled out loud when Soria fumbled Santana's nubber, but that was preceded by me seething at Santana's play in center that should have resulted in an insurance run for the Rangers. Clearly the Rangers lost last night's game, the Twins did not win it.

      Having said that, when you have a starting pitcher and a bull pen that keeps you close, these types of wins happen. To me the priority has to be getting May, Meyer, Johnson and Darnell their shots. I have to believe that at least one of them will end up being a significant improvement over Correia and possibly Gibson. Second, we need to find a capable backup/replacement for Hicks. Hopefully Fuld will return soon (what's up with him anyway).

      I would be surprised if they don't give Hicks every opportunity to succeed this season, he is too valuable in the outfield to be sent down. His catch last night was equal to him hitting home run.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I was entertained...but Hughes was on the mound and Arcia was back. The next time Correia pitches? Not appointment television.

      Maybe I'm just sour after really trying to invest in watching last weekend's series. I'm probably not being fair.
      No doubt....the Giants pitching staff...and the Panda....were buzzsaws and buzzkills.
    1. Beezer07's Avatar
      Beezer07 -
      It is almost June, and I am still excited when I'm home and have the time to watch the Twins (and I'm not blacked out). Pretty remarkable considering how bad they were last year and how bad they were expected (by many) to be this year. I'll take "playing over their heads" if it means a win about 1/2 the time. And I'll have continuing reasons to watch as Arcia gets back/healthy, Dozier continues Doziering, Hicks goes to RH-only, Gibson continues getting better (hopefully), Santana gets more time in the majors, Meyer/May get to come up and pitch, and Kubel/Parmelee/Guerrier get removed from the team.
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