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  • Around the AL Central (5/19): Minnesota Pacing the Pack


    Ted Schwerzler

    In this week’s AL Central Division update we see the consistency of play across the division that may go unmatched the rest of the way. Four of five teams are 5-5 over their last 10 with the Guardians being just 4-6. Minnesota still leads the division as we look to close out the second month of the season.

    Image courtesy of William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

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    The Standings:

    • Minnesota 22-16
    • Chicago 19-19
    • Cleveland 16-19
    • Kansas City 14-23
    • Detroit 13-25

    No team in the division currently has a winning streak going, while Cleveland is bringing up the rear holding a three-game losing streak. The Guardians have a +2 run differential despite being in third place while the White Sox have outperformed expectations given their -27 run differential.

    The Stories:
    While not to the level of Boston, the White Sox slow start is at least somewhat surprising. They’ve dealt with injury and been on the wrong side of some unfortunate games. Ultimately though, the White Sox have an ugly run differential and play some of the worst defense in the league. Tim Anderson is still hitting, but his work in the field has been atrocious. Jose Abreu has just a .625 OPS thus far and is well off his .832 mark from 2021. Despite the solid average, Luis Robert just crossed the .800 OPS threshold on Thursday. There should be plenty of room for that number to rise. Thus far, Tony La Russa’s management of a young star like Andrew Vaughn has been perplexing to say the least. This team has the talent to rush to the top, but it will be interesting to see how they manage their way forward.

    I’d wager that Terry Francona expected this Guardians team to be a bit better. Andres Gimenez has hit the ball well, and Jose Ramirez continues to be among baseball’s best at the hot corner. Cal Quantrill was solid again on Thursday but took a no-decision as Cleveland lacked run support. Shane Bieber hasn’t been the 2020 version of himself and Steven Kwan has come back down to earth a bit. Ramirez is the one to watch over the next week as he left Thursday’s game with a bruised shin and is being called day-to-day.

    Kansas City wasn’t expected to be good this year, but I don’t know if they were pegged to be this bad. Bobby Witt Jr. is settling into life as a Major Leaguer, and despite bumps in the road, has shown why his prospect stock was so high. Salvador Perez was recently placed on the injured list with a thumb sprain which opened the door for star prospect M.J. Melendez to enter the lineup. He and Witt both homered for the Royals against the White Sox on Wednesday night. Veteran outfielder Michael A. Taylor was placed on the Covid-IL before Wednesday’s game after being scratched from the lineup.

    There was reason to believe A.J. Hinch could take the Tigers a step forward this season but the results haven’t materialized. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to be placed on the injured list with what’s being called a “left-side” injury. Michael Pineda broke a finger last Saturday, and Casey Mize has been on the injured list since April 15 due to a right elbow strain. Matt Manning, already on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, is working his way back through a rehab assignment. Meanwhile, key free-agent signing Javier Baez is batting just .204 with a .554 OPS, and last year’s Rule 5 darling Akil Baddoo was optioned to Triple-A.

    The Week Ahead:
    Minnesota kicks off a weekend series against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium before returning home to host both Detroit and those same Royals. The Twins will be looking to exact revenge on the Royals after they dropped two of three during the season’s first month. Rocco Baldelli’s clu
    b already has a series sweep of the Tigers and owns a +12 run differential against the divisions cellar dwellers.

    Looking to close the gap at the top, Chicago has a tough test going out east to play the New York Yankees over the week. Aaron Boone has the Bronx Bombers currently going as one of baseball’s best teams. The White Sox do get a reprieve following an off day as the Red Sox come to town. Boston has failed to meet expectations thus far, and Tony La Russa’s club could be getting them at the right time.

    Similar to what Minnesota is seeing from a schedule construction standpoint, Cleveland hosts the Tigers for three at home before traveling to Houston for a three-game set. They’ll then close out the road trip with another series against Detroit.

    Between hosting and traveling to face the Twins, Kansas City gets a quick two-game set against the NL West Arizona Diamondbacks.

    What are you looking forward to for the Twins this week? How are you evaluating the competition? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

     

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    Call me your typical Minnesotan waiting for the other foot to drop but it feels like once the Twins hit June and face the teams in the east the White Sox and Indians will likely make up some ground.  There are lot's of good statistical signs pointing to the Twins being a good team on both sides of the ball but I just have this bad feeling things will fall apart.

    Honestly I am Surprised and happy the Twins are in first place and I have enjoyed the ups and downs of the season so far.  It is nice that the games still matter and my team is in it.  I should be happy and yet that feeling that this won't last remains.

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    13 minutes ago, Dman said:

    Call me your typical Minnesotan waiting the other foot to drop but it feels like once the Twins hit June and face the teams in the east the White Sox and Indians will likely make up some ground.  There are lot's of good statistical signs pointing to the the Twins being a good team on both sides of the ball but I just have this bad feeling things will fall apart.

    Honestly I am Surprised and happy the Twins are in first place and I have enjoyed the ups and downs of the season so far.  It is nice that the games still matter and my team is in it.  I should be happy and yet that feeling that this won't last remains.

    I know what you're saying. I actually think the Twins can sustain this in the regular season, but it's hard to get excited when they seem destined to flounder in the playoffs again. This lineup really struggles against high-end starters, and I just don't see our starters maintaining their form in the pressure of the postseason.

    But they are exceeding my expectations, so I'm trying to just enjoy the ride as well.

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    1 hour ago, Dman said:

    Call me your typical Minnesotan waiting for the other foot to drop but it feels like once the Twins hit June and face the teams in the east the White Sox and Indians will likely make up some ground.  There are lot's of good statistical signs pointing to the Twins being a good team on both sides of the ball but I just have this bad feeling things will fall apart.

    Honestly I am Surprised and happy the Twins are in first place and I have enjoyed the ups and downs of the season so far.  It is nice that the games still matter and my team is in it.  I should be happy and yet that feeling that this won't last remains.

    45 minutes ago, TopTwins said:

    I know what you're saying. I actually think the Twins can sustain this in the regular season, but it's hard to get excited when they seem destined to flounder in the playoffs again. This lineup really struggles against high-end starters, and I just don't see our starters maintaining their form in the pressure of the postseason.

    But they are exceeding my expectations, so I'm trying to just enjoy the ride as well.

    I can understand your viewpoints and even appreciate the sentiment.  Is it possible the wheels come off and the Mystery Mobile bursts into the expected Viking funeral pyre, taking Shaggy, Scoobes and the rest of Mystery Inc. to the place where hopes and dreams go to die... of course. Viking Ship GIF by Vinnie Camilleri

    It's baseball, these things happen.

    But in the end... this team is good.  Good enough to win it all? I honestly don't know, but sure I hope so :).

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    1 hour ago, Dman said:

    Call me your typical Minnesotan waiting the other foot to drop but it feels like once the Twins hit June and face the teams in the east the White Sox and Indians will likely make up some ground.  There are lot's of good statistical signs pointing to the the Twins being a good team on both sides of the ball but I just have this bad feeling things will fall apart.

    Honestly I am Surprised and happy the Twins are in first place and I have enjoyed the ups and downs of the season so far.  It is nice that the games still matter and my team is in it.  I should be happy and yet that feeling that this won't last remains.

    I feel June will tell us a lot about this team and if we are just an upper middle class team that will fade a bit or not.  It is still hard to judge this team because we have pitched well, but not facing top offensive teams, so is it a product of who we are facing.  We did hold Cleveland down who was one of the better offenses the first month though. 

    However, our offense has not been clicking and dealing with injuries and slow starts I do have some optimism they will start to hit more when people get healthy and heated up.  The main issue has been hitting with runners on base. 

    It looks like the team may be heating up some on offense.  Eventually the starting pitching will start to have some bumps and the pen will have some rough runs too.  We just need to have the offense going when some of that happens.  

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    I have been a surprised and happy fan to date, but always have in the back of my mind our competition and like other posts I see June being the month that we finally take the major league exam and I do not know what to expect.  We do not have a shut down Ace, a shut down closer, or a consistent SP rotation.  

    I want us to keep beating up the weak teams, but honestly, the Central division is so weak I cannot imagine how other teams in other divisions see us.  

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    I think this next month+ is setup perfect for the team and FO. Build the lead by racking up wins over the next 4 series and build the confidence. Get into the meat of the schedule and see how you matchup against some of the big boys. Hopefully everyone is healthy by then and you can get a good read on where everyone is at. Then you get into July, aka trade season, and hopefully still have a lead in the division while having a clearer picture of where the team stands and you make moves to fill the holes. Certainly not predicting any massive moves that put the future in real jeopardy, but I've seen recent reports that they're still in on Montas and I'd think the Reds pitchers will be available.

    I don't think the team as it's currently constructed is a great playoff threat, but I think they're close enough to make a trade or 2 once they see how June goes and put themselves in a place to have a team that could make a little noise. Or at least win a game. 

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    Keep winning the games you are "supposed" to win and win those series against those same teams. June will be here soon enough as an adequate test. It'd be nice to have built a cushion when the schedule gets tougher. This team might be legit. 

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    The Twins have shown thus far that they are a team that could easily win this division.  The White Sox have had some bad luck so are probably better than what their record and stats indicate.  The rest of the division is about where I would have expected.  The question is how do the Twins matchup with some of the better teams in the AL? 

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    As the prototypical Minnesotan and having followed the Twins since 1961, I understand the feeling of doom.  Even in 1987, when the 9th inning started I just had a feeling that the Braves would win.   And when Gaetti made his throw to 1st I figured it would sail into the stands and give the Braves another chance.  Even after the final out, I waited to see if anyone had called timeout and the previous pitch wouldn't count.  And in 1991, it was deja vu all over again.

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    Sounds like so many are happy how the season is going but expecting the worst to happen.  I have beating this drum since putting eyes on this team in Florida....get on board!  This team is

    1. Exciting

    2. Really Good

    3. A true contender

    This is just my opinion...and many can say I told you so if I am wrong.  However...this is the best team and opportunity in awhile.  Let's get excited!!  Let's turn these pessimistic out looks to true hope and optimistic views.  We have a very good young team with veteran leadership.  Trust me on this.

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    This article summarizes why winning the Central isn't quite the prize it is for other divisions.  We have a first place team, but with a winning percentage lower than any other division leader's.  And either second place team in the AL East or West would be ahead of the Twins if they were in the same division.  All in all, good start for the Twins, especially compared to 2021, but I'm keeping my enthusiasm for what comes next in check.

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    I am happy to have a team that's entertaining and that has an exciting future.  I have no delusions about this team being a top contender.  The Yankees and Astros are a different level and the Rays / Angels are also better teams.  I am not really sure what to expect from the White Sox and Blue Jays who both have more talent but are playing poorly.

    The really good news is there is reason to hope they kick it up a notch.  Correa was just starting to square it up consistently.  Sanchez has been a beast this past 6 games.  He is batting .348 with a .423 OBP and slugging .913.  Larnach will be back soon and he seemed to be waaaay better against the breaking stuff that had been a struggle.  Kepler has been contributing and of course Buxton is a beast.  It sure would be fun if it all comes together and this stretch of games against weaker opponents is a great chance to get on a serious roll.  

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    13 hours ago, ashbury said:

    but I'm keeping my enthusiasm for what comes next in check.

    There are some things you should know: 

    A. If what comes next isn't good. You will be forced to spend your enthusiasm during horrible times. Trust me on this... you do not want to do that - I once let a woo-hoo out at a funeral and I'm not kidding... nearly everyone in the chapel turned around to look at me. In the end... I found that to be awkward, unsatisfying and very very hard to explain afterwards. 

    B. The body is always producing enthusiasm. It is produced by the appendix. If you don't use it at regular intervals the organ will eventually burst from the pressure. If those people would have just adequately expressed enthusiasm at decent intervals, they would still have their appendix. Surely, you've noticed how all people who have had their appendix removed are stolid and languid afterward.

    86.7% of all people who have had their appendix removed become butlers, librarians, air traffic controllers and Twinsdaily posters.  

    Just let it out man... You can't take it with you. 

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    6 hours ago, theBOMisthebomb said:

    Keep winning the games you are "supposed" to win and win those series against those same teams. June will be here soon enough as an adequate test. It'd be nice to have built a cushion when the schedule gets tougher. This team might be legit. 

    The next 15 games will be the challenge, each one of these games should be winnable. If they can go 10-5 or 11-4 that will be a huge boost going into early June. If they can distance themselves a little bit going into the series against the AL east that will be another big boost. And hopefully the White Sox will keep losing 😁

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    Count me as a fan worried about the upcoming schedule.  The White Sox are playing a very tough schedule right now.  Yes we need to win most of the games the rest of this month to build up a cushion for the tough teams.  But they are still in first place albeit in a very weak division.  Credit them for beating their lesser opponents.  If they lose these so-called easier games we would be all over them.  Me included.  I'd love to see them add a few games to their lead before June.  Go Twins!!!

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    Maybe I'm not a typicle Twins fan but I'm very excited about this team. With this easy schedule, it'll give offense plenty of opportunities to really break out and gain momentum to carry though the season. It'll also give our pitchers opportunity to arrive at 100% and then they'll be awsome.

    My only concern is managerial. My hope is Baldelli get out of the mindset of over using  the short relief corp. Therefore blowing up both short relif & rotation.

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    On 5/20/2022 at 2:41 PM, mikelink45 said:

    I want us to keep beating up the weak teams, but honestly, the Central division is so weak I cannot imagine how other teams in other divisions see us.  

    Interesting note about that second part...

    Nick Sandlin's brother (the Cleveland relief pitcher) was my son's varsity assistant coach the last two years.  According to Nick via his brother Jake, there is a lot of respect for what the Twins have done and how they are playing.

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    On 5/20/2022 at 4:28 PM, terrydactyls said:

    As the prototypical Minnesotan and having followed the Twins since 1961, I understand the feeling of doom.  Even in 1987, when the 9th inning started I just had a feeling that the Braves would win.   And when Gaetti made his throw to 1st I figured it would sail into the stands and give the Braves another chance.  Even after the final out, I waited to see if anyone had called timeout and the previous pitch wouldn't count.  And in 1991, it was deja vu all over again.

    Totally understand :) 

    But 1987 was the Cardinals

    1991 was the Braves ;) 

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