After last night’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles, Rocco Baldelli’s Minnesota Twins had capped off their first third of the 2021 Major League Baseball season. To define it, a lump of excrement fits, a turd.
Sitting at 22-32, the two-time defending Al Central champions find themselves 10.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox. While the Pythagorean results have them at 25-29 due to a -24 run differential, the reality is that positive regression has yet to take shape. This club has scored nearly 75 less runs than the prolific Bomba Squad to the same point, and offense seems non-existent most nights. Combine that with lackluster pitching performances, and you have the result we’re faced with.
It’s still hard to place much blame on the skipper. Baldelli has been very good over the course of his short career in Minnesota, and it’s fair to suggest he’s been on the wrong side of many coin flips this season. The deck he’s been working with isn’t full though, and the front office took some gambles that certainly haven’t paid off. There was no real bullpen addition of note, and the depth there amounted to a handful of waiver claims with the intention of one being able to stick.
Health has also been a problem for Minnesota. On their 54th game of the season, Baldelli was forced to start an outfield that consisted of Alex Kirilloff, Kyle Garlick, and Willians Astudillo. That might be the worst defensive trio any team in baseball has ran out this season, and it’s not surprising that Cedric Mullins ripped a leadoff triple that Astudillo was entirely overmatched on. Everywhere you look on the roster includes positional groupings with guys on the Injured List, and as has been customary this season, players have dropped right as they’ve begun to hit their stride.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s also designed that way for expectations and assumptions to normalize themselves. Coming into the season there was a perception that Minnesota was again a Postseason team with the ability to win a division title. The problem is that was under the assumption that health and production would remain relatively predictable. The former has not, and the latter may be even worse. To call the Twins a good team is overselling the reality of what we’re being shown.
Over the next two-thirds of the season, Minnesota will only go as far as they are available. Right now, there’s too much talent on the shelf to be any sort of competition most nights. If a return to a relatively healthy roster happens in short order, a plethora of players finding even the baseline of their expectation all at once could give this team a shot. The division isn’t good and chasing down a Wild Card spot is easier than it’s ever been.
No matter what happens from here on out, flushing this first third is a must, and putting together something of promise the rest of the way should be the goal. Until that happens, we’ve got nothing but Rob Refsnyder running into stationary objects to define this thing.