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Article: Don't Give Up On These Twins Quite Yet

byron buxton joe mauer jorge polanco
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 07:42 PM

A little over a month ago, I posed this question: How good is Cleveland, really?

At the time, they were dragging their feet with a .500 record and several laggards in the lineup. But over the past four weeks, the Indians have shown that they are, in fact, pretty damn good.

Unfortunately, the Twins have made the opposite statement.Since I posted the aforementioned article on May 9th, Cleveland has gone 17-11, pushing its lead over Minnesota from 1.0 games to 6.0 games. The Indians have overcome some serious bullpen issues thanks to MVP contender Jose Ramirez powering the offense and runaway Cy Young front-runner Corey Kluber leading the rotation. On Monday, they called up Francisco Mejia, ranked by MLB.com as the 11th-best prospect in the game.

This doesn't look like a club that'll be easily run down. Minnesota certainly doesn't appear equipped to make up all that ground, not presently anyway. They're coming off another lackluster week that saw their fledgling momentum dissolve before deflated fans at Target Field.

Here on June 11th, Minnesota is 28-34 and reeling. But it's not quite time to give up on them yet.

At the beginning of May I tried to shed some optimism following a crummy first month, by pointing out that in 2006 the Twins had also finished April with a 9-15 record. Here we are, almost six weeks later, and the parallel still fits. On June 11th, 2006, the Twins were 28-34, same as today. They faced a much larger deficit in the standings, 11 games. As you'll recall, that team finished with 96 wins and a division title.

They didn't wait much longer, of course. The '06 Twins rattled off victories in 19 of their next 20 games, astoundingly making up only two games in the standings as first-place Detroit went on a coinciding tear. But in the second half, Minnesota gradually gained ground, finally surpassing the Tigers on the season's final day.

What I'm getting at here is that we're still not in hopeless territory. Even if you don't buy the literal comparison between this year's Twins and the 2006 version (I'm not sure I do), the point is that things can change quickly in this game. And while one might be inclined to lament, "It's getting late early," the night ain't over yet.

One thing you can say about these current Twins is that the pitching staff has been quite impressive. Starters are giving the team a chance to win every night and the bullpen has been mostly solid. Minnesota posted a 3.52 ERA in May and are at 3.50 in June. Combine that kind of performance with the Twins offense from last year's second half, when they averaged 5.6 runs per game, and you've got the recipe for a 20-win month.

Needless to say, the current lineup hasn't resembled that one at all, but it soon might – at least in terms of personnel. Joe Mauer is on a rehab assignment and could be back as soon as Thursday. Byron Buxton is traveling with the team and taking positive steps. Jorge Polanco is suddenly only a few weeks from returning. Brian Dozier is approaching that point in the summer where a light bulb usually flicks on.

Get all these guys clicking in the lineup together while Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar keep clubbing away, and you can start to envision the Twins stringing together some lengthy winning streaks.

I'll admit that right now it's difficult not to feel weighed down by pessimism. Mauer's concussion symptoms can re-emerge at any time. Buxton has looked abysmal at the plate when not sidelined. And Miguel Sano... yeesh.

But as I said before, things can change quickly in this game. The '06 Twins are a good macro example and Polanco is a good micro example. Last July he had one of the worst months you'll ever see, slashing .078/.158/.115 while collecting only four hits in 17 games. Then, the calendar flipped and he was a suddenly a monster, putting up a .373/.413/.686 line in August.

A few similar offensive outbreaks from players we know are capable, along with some desperately needed good fortune on the health front, would make a big difference for this year's squad.

As we get deeper into the season, it grows harder to believe that these aren't the real Twins – this relentlessly disappointing bunch, constantly shrinking in big moments and fumbling away key opportunities.

But I'm still not totally convinced that's who they are. Granted, at some point it won't really matter. The hole will become too deep and the Twins will have no choice but to approach the trade deadline as sellers.

We're not there yet, though. Urgency grows as Minnesota heads out on a critical road trip that gets underway on Tuesday in Detroit.

The Tigers likely remember that magical Twins turnaround in 2006. Their manager definitely does.

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#2 yarnivek1972

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:10 PM

In ‘06 the catalyst was getting rid of Castro and Batista in favor of Bartlett and Punto.


A big slugger getting hot helped a little too. 😎

I don’t see a Punto and Bartlett to insert other than maybe Gordon.
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#3 mikelink45

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:12 PM

I wonder what they are writing on the Tigers equivalent of TD?I know that Niko Goodrum is helping Flint with bottled water - http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2018/06/detroit_tigers_player_niko_goo.html - any Twins doing community service?

 

Fansided has these notes about the Tigers - "With the trade deadline looming, Kurt Mensching thinks that the Tigers should cash in on Jose Iglesias‘s hot streak.Menshching points out that since May 1st the Tigers shortstop has been heating up and the Tigers should sell while he’s hot. Especially given that he’s in his last year before free agency.

Over at the Detroit News, Bob Wojnowski writes that the Tigers have been fun to watch so far but the reality of playing bad is right around the corner. For now, the Tigers and Tigers fans should enjoy the rally goose and all the strange fun times it’s bringing to Comerica Park." 

 

And they are ahead of us.

 

Detroit Tigers News and Rumors says - Detroit — "The Tigers hang around and hang around, and here we are in mid-June and they’re still hanging around. It’s been fun, even fulfilling at times for fans, getting to see younger, faster players.

But reality has a nasty way of intruding, and it’s likely on the way. It was on display Sunday against the Indians, when the Tigers had a chance to win the series, but no real chance in the pitching matchup — Cleveland two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber versus rookie spot starter Artie Lewicki"

 

I know we are Minnesota Nice, but why are we reading an article that basically says we stink, but believe in the team anyway?I do not say that we cannot do better, but I need the team to show me that they believe this before my bandwagon is pulled out of the back forty.


#4 Mike Sixel

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:26 PM

Hope is ok for fans, but I hope the front office is more realistic and has a good plan.
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One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#5 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:57 PM

You mention '06.That's a great year in Twins history.

 

Yes, they stormed back from a poor start, and a few players, Punto and Morneau in particular, led the way.

 

But, for me, the amazing thing was, the Twins played the whole season, even ended their last game, and had never been in 1st place, not once, and do you know what happened? 

 

The Tigers lost, and the Twins vaulted into first for the only time all season, after their season was already over.

 

So, anything can happen, even a clubhouse pow-wow with an underperforming first-baseman who could eventually become an MVP,... but, history has no responsibility to repeat itself.

 

And I sincerely doubt it will.

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#6 frightwig

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:10 PM

Of course the 2006 Twins, who played .680 ball over their last 100 games, is the best-case scenario. This year the team probably will have to play almost as well to catch Cleveland or Seattle; a .620 pace would get them to 90 wins. Trouble is, only three teams in Twins history have played better than .600 ball after Game 62 (the '65 and '69 Twins were the other two). Last year, even with the August surge, they were a .520 team over their last 100 games.

 

Winning pct. after Game 62 by Twins teams that made the playoffs or won 90 games:

 

2017 .520

2010 .580

2009 .564

2006 .680

2004 .580

2003 .550

2002 .586

1992 .570

1991 .580

1988 .570

1987 .500

1970 .570

1969 .630

1967 .596

1965 .640

1963 .586

1962 .550

 

If they finish at a .570-.580 pace like the 2010, 1991-92, 1988, 1970, and 1963 teams--some of the best teams in Twins history--they'll wind up with 85-86 wins; and that would be more enjoyable to watch, of course, but most likely would fall short of the playoffs.

 

A .600 pace and 88 wins might come close, but I really think they'll need more than 90 wins. And that means matching the hottest finishes of the Killebrew era--the '65 team with Killebrew, Oliva, Versaille, Allison, Hall, Battey, and a loaded starting rotation that won 102 games and the AL pennant, and the '69 team with Killebrew, Oliva, Carew, Allison, Tovar, Reese, and two 20-game winners in the rotation that won 97 games--or that 2006 miracle run. Honestly, I don't expect to see the likes of that 2006 finish from a Twins team ever again.

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#7 Teflon

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:20 PM

Unfortunately, I have already reached phase one where I am no longer conflicted about upcoming hoop-dee-doos that may conflict with Twins games. Phase two, where I spend more time tracking metro area bear sightings than looking through box scores, follows in short order.

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#8 TheLeviathan

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:29 PM

We basically can't do anything for a month whether we want to or not.Teams just don't like to deal until mid-July.I'm not going to hold my breath though.

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#9 Danchat

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:31 PM

I mean, I can see them having a hot streak and finishing the 2017 season a few wins above .500, but that's not going to earn them a ticket to the playoffs. It seems to me that the last month has been filled with "let's just wait for these guys to get hot" and it hasn't happened. Time is running thin and if we're this many games below .500 come mid to late July, it'll be time to talk about trading our upcoming free agents and figuring out how we can make a playoff run in 2019. 2018 looks like a lost season with Sano and Buxton fizzling out and injuries plaguing the lineup, and while it's not quite over yet, I simply don't see this team being able to get over the hump... and certainly not being able to conquer any playoff teams.


#10 glunn

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:40 PM

 

 Phase two, where I spend more time tracking metro area bear sightings than looking through box scores, follows in short order.

We could report TC Bear to trick you into paying attention.

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#11 PseudoSABR

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:41 PM

The Twins have every reason to wait until as close to the deadline as possible. We're still six weeks away from that. This regime has shown it won't hold onto the false hope of compensation, but it also has shown it will add to its chances until the last moment. How they dealt with Jaime Garcia proves both points.  

Edited by PseudoSABR, 11 June 2018 - 09:42 PM.

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#12 rghrbek

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 10:43 PM

I think the Twins have until the ASB to make hay.  If they can get consistent then all is not lost.  

 

Nick is right the pitching, starting, has been good.  What we should expect.  The offense has been anemic and a huge dissapointment.

 

I would hope the FO and manager get a little more creative at SS, and our 4th outfielder and eventually catcher.  Too many black holes.

 

Cleveland's Rameriz has become a bona fide star in two years and one of the best players in MLB.  They win that battle over our perceived star at that position (well we thought he was a star at this point last year).


#13 DocBauer

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 11:02 PM

You know, with thread after thread of pessimism, this is very refreshing. Oh, I'm as frustrated and disappointed as anyone, including being confounded and confused as to just how bad the offense has been, but it's still an interesting piece.

The truth is, the Twins chances are fading fast. None of us likes to admit it, but it's the truth. And I'm an optimist! Top to bottom, this is a better team on paper than last season. The FO stepped up, helped build this team, and did a great job overall. Not talking results, I'm talking about what was done.

Sano remembers who the hell he is and how much talent he has and "reverts" back to who he bas been big difference. Morrison "reverts" to career norms, he's a nice piece. Dozier suddenly becomes Dozier again, there you go. Blast Buxton for a slow start before his injury? Fine. I get it. But what if it was just a slow start...we're talking a few weird weeks...and he was healthy?

Just saying, a lot has gone wrong and has been weird this season. And injuries HAVE been an issue. Maybe it's just not our year. It happens. But with the best pitching we have bad in years...and Molitor and the FO not abusing the BP and making moves when needed...maybe Sano and Morrison and Dozier begin to produce like "normal". Maybe Buck comes back actually healthy and does what he did last season.

A lot of "maybes"? You'd be right. But we are also not talking about utility players suddenly turning in to All Stars. We're talking about guys just doing what they are capable of doing.

Baseball is a funny game. No rose-colored glasses. Maybe its just not our year. But it's summer, there is baseball,there is hope, and there is Gordon and Wade and others knocking on the door along with hope for struggling regulars. Didn't the Indians and Dodgers on unexpected runs last season?
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#14 MangLitch

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 04:47 AM

.... and troy williamson will someday learn to catch.....

But in all seriousness, i couldnt agree more. Lynn is hopefully at the bottom of his performance, dozier/morrison/sano same. Buxton has some upside when he comes back and Planco could be the guy he was last year.

Only downside is, if the above isn’t true, you have a much bigger problem on your hands. You start to enter the realm of not knowing what you really have and pressure will mount to make some sort of move. The downside of going from worst to playoffs so fast is expectations, which we may be a bit ahead of ourselves. But hopefully not.

#15 ThejacKmp

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 06:22 AM

 

In ‘06 the catalyst was getting rid of Castro and Batista in favor of Bartlett and Punto.


A big slugger getting hot helped a little too.

I don’t see a Punto and Bartlett to insert other than maybe Gordon.

 

How about getting rid of an Adrianza and using an Escobar/Polanco? And getting rid of a Robbie Grossman and using a Joe Mauer? Getting rid of a Ryan LaMarre and using a Byron Buxton?

 

The Twins have been banged up. Health would be a big step.

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#16 ThejacKmp

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 06:22 AM

A lot of Troy Williamson references on the boards lately. Did he do something recently that put him in the public eye?


#17 Carole Keller

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 06:56 AM

Hope is ok for fans, but I hope the front office is more realistic and has a good plan.


I wasn’t sure which quote to give you in response so you get both ...

The one from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’: Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Or what I always say about every baseball season: hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
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“May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture’s new north star.” ~Laura Dern
Nevertheless, she persisted. Time’s up.

#18 Nine of twelve

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 07:07 AM

One thing not mentioned about 2006 is the pitching was top notch. That year's Cy Young winner was our second best starter for much of the season and the bullpen was a brick wall (Juan Rincon's juicing admittedly probably being part of that). This year's pitching has been satisfactory for the most part but not like 2006.

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#19 Nine of twelve

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 07:12 AM

I generally concur with the sentiments here. 4 valuable members of the lineup have been either unavailable or hampered by injury: Buxton, Sano, Mauer and Polanco. Even though it's unlikely we'll get 2006 hot I think we leave Detroit, KC and the tighty Whities far behind as the rest of the season unfolds and those players return to form. Catching Cleveland? We can only do what we can do and if they stumble there's a chance. What I really think will happen is that we will have 95+ wins in 2019.

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#20 Doctor Wu

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 07:27 AM

I'm discouraged but not ready to write off the team's chances just yet. Lots of variables and "What Ifs" still at play. Buxton could come back and put it all together. Mauer could be healthy and productive again. Polanco will return and show the form we saw in the second half last year. Santana will also be back and should help the rotation. Morrison might get hot. And another wild card, Michael Pineda might help the final couple of months (on that note: does anyone know what is his timeline to join the club?). Plenty of things that COULD help the team in the coming months, but who knows how it will all play out? But hey, that's the joy --- and aggravation -- of this game.




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