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Premature Consternation


Doc Munson

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The Twins are in 1st place in the AL Central by 4.5 games, yet there is creeping concern everywhere regarding the Twins future. Are all of the sweaty palms  and consternation? is it an overreaction to just a bad stretch against a bad team? Are the Twins about to lose their hold on 1st place with us playing the AL East while Cleveland gets Baltimore, Texas, and Oakland?

 

Lets take a look at some of the concern in Twins Territory and see what we think.

1) Our offense.

Before last nights game with the Blue Jays we had scored 3 or less runs in 7 of our last 12 games, with multiple shutouts, and low number hit games. We do not seem to have much consistency overall recently.  and those low runs scoring games came against the likes of KC and Detroit.  Does that make it seem worse? I think it does. also,  Buxton has been a shell of himself, and we have been putting out a number of replacement level players due to injuries.

Hopefully last nights game re-ignites Buxton. It has been incredibly clear to anyone, even morons like me who know nothing about hitting mechanics, that Buxton has been off-balance at the plate. He has been off balance because of his right knee.  His back knee, his leverage knee. As a result of not being able be comfortable putting his weight on the back foot/knee, and torque of it twisting, he has been swinging with his weight on his front leg, causing him to be off balance and losing power.  Hopefully this is beginning to change as his knee gets a little better, but of course even a "healthy" Buxton plays only 2/3 of our games.

The others...

Miranda has been unplayable, although ironically has been hitting pretty well during this stretch. Garlick should not be on a MLB team, Jeffers has been horrible offensively, But really, overall everyone else has been at least decent. Urshella and Sanchez have been hitting well lately, while not eye popping numbers they are playable and have come up big recently.  Losing Correa again, will be a short term hit with no long term impact. Hopefully Lewis is only out for a short time (but then let the debate reignite) Kepler has been decent, Larnach has been hitting well, Arraez has been the Rodney Carew/Tony Gwynn clone many saw him as when he was a rookie. 

So our offense should not be a problem going forward once we get everyone back healthy.

1B - Arraez ??  while nto an ideal position we need his bat in the lineup.

2B - Polanco.  I would actually submit that even though he leads the team in RBI, and even though he is coming off an All-Star year, and has been a great Twin, he has to be the one to be impacted when Royce Lewis gets back with the team.

3B - Urshela - his .270 avg, above average defense and clutch hitting has him holding down 3B for the rest of the year (at least for now)

SS - Correa - He is obviously there longterm... unless we crater, then he is traded and Lewis slides in at SS.

RF - Kepler - very serviceable, and actually having a pretty decent year,

CF - BUxton - with the obvious exception of his rest days is a lock.

LF - Larnach  - Mashing with strong exit Velo, lots of doubles which are starting to turn into HR

C - Jeffers/ Sanchez - Jeffers cant hit but plays majority of games, with Sanchez backing him up and being primary DH

DH Sanchez/rotation - His bat is starting to come alive. His bat was never really the problem.

 

Again the only real issue going forward here is where do you put Lewis?  and what happens if Kirilloff continues his 337/449/932 play in St. Paul??

I am not overly concerned with our offense, we should be just fine. Which brings us... "gulp" to our pitching. and I am going to combine coaching with our pitching, because a lot of the pitching performance is also based on how they are used.

Starters;

While there is good here, lets assume the good is good and only concern ourselves with a few questions.

Chris Archer: ERA is good at 3.89, but just 39 IP in 10 starts???  This cannot hold up, if we only let him go 4 IP then he needs to be in the pen as the "long guy" Each starter impacts the game before and after him as well as the one he starts. we cannot regularly use our pen for 5 innings every fifth start.  Last night he was cruising and still pulled after 57 pitches!!! This needs to change!!  we may be able to compete in a pathetic AL Central like this, but this kind of ball does not win against good teams in the playoffs. At this point it is more of a coaching issue than an issue with Archer, but it is still an issue.

Sonny Gray: Again great numbers, but another trip to the IL? is this concerning? I guess only time will tell, but we will be without him for another 2-3 weeks and then another month plus of treating him with kid gloves to get him "ramped back up".  he only had 33 innings in 7 games for less than a 5 IP per game average as it was, so look for more bullpen busting, innings restricted starts when he gets back

 

Dylan Bundy: Throw out back to back bad starts in Aoril/May and he has been quite good. but can you "throw out" 25% of a pitchers starts?  and can he hold up over the long haul? History says no

What is Smeltzer?:  Is he a fluky guy with a weird delivery that team will hit better the more they see him. or is he legit now? he has always been phenomenal in short stretches in the past.

Ryan is good and Ober has been decent.

 

OVERALL:  Be scared, be VERY scared!!! IF we continue to have starting pitching go less than half the game, whether by plan or by play, then our pen will get overexposed, burned out and we will start losing games we should win.  Unfortunately I think our philosophy about never letting a starter see a batter a 3rd time will be what holds us back. 

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I think the bigger concern is the pen imploding.

All those free agent arms sitting in St. Paul aren't looking too good to even considering rotating in - Angulo, Sanchez, Ramirez, Gonzalez (we saw him - a vet starter - only give us three against Toronto), Bashlor, Viza, Jurado, Patricka. Wood is a project at the training camp. Newbie Thornburg should've pushed any of the previous mentioned name to free agency. Derek Rodriguez probably gets another go, as the Twins hjave been giving Cotton. Not sure if Minaya sticks. But the current bullpen is destined to be worn thru and through.

Duran could (and should) be the closer. But he, too, can only pitch so many innings. Plus learning to be a pressure pitcher in an environment where every win is important can be daqunting to even the msot experienced vet.

We might feel better that Alcala, Stashak, WInder (as a bullpen arm), and Coulombe will come back strong. We also haven't seen overuse of Cano, Moran, and Hamilton yet. ALl three could be destined for the second-half bullpen fulltime after working out some kinks in St. Paul.

The Twins will eventually have a four-man bench. Kirilloff MIGHT push out Miranda. Celestino will probably push away Garlick. I almost wish we could afford to send Jeffers to St. Paul for a month or so, but there is no notable replacement down there (Morales is interesting, but more as a bench bat and third catcher). I wish Jair Camargo was further along. 

For all the "Twins team" stuff that seems to radiate from Rocci and the staff, I would like to see some consistency in the batting order and an understanding of where guys bat and play on a regular basis. Although I loved seeing Gordon getting hit, making a balk, stealing a base...this is what your super-sub does to make it worthwhile to replace a lineup regular.

I think the rotation MIGHT just work out in the end. It has, thru various injuries, been a decent six man rotation - thus spredaing the workload that all guys might only need to start 25 games during this season. Add in another dozen starts from the likes of Winder, Sands and - fingers crossed - Balazovic, the Twins may be solid and have a BIG jumpstart on a super rotation for 2023. Especially if Madea can come back. The secret is: sooner guys can pitch into or past the sixth, the better. It would be nice to have another Jax in the pen for 2-3 innings. And we lose an arm come late June (which means the shuttle may be busier between St. Paul - but we will need a couple of rotating door 40-man spots to make it work).

It hurst when you don't clobber teams like Detroit and Kansas City. But if the Twins can hold their own in the recent run against the East and Seattle, we can breathe a sigh of relief and just worry about where the team is come All-Star break.

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Kirillof could be coming back. Polanco needs to be healthy. Lewis could easily take over 3B. Correa can still have a year worth noting. Larnach has a future and what that looks like is his task. Buxton and Kepler should be fine. The Twins are lucky to have Gordon and Celestino to back up their regulars.  Catching loks a little substandard.

The Twins should be fine.

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In order to beef up their relief corps (at least two are needed).   The Twins are going to need to make some decisions about their surplus of talent in the infield (except 1st base) and the outfield.    Shedding some of that surplus and adding some prospects should help to shore up the the relief staff.  

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