The Minnesota Twins 2011: What Went Wrong
MLB reports: With the daily moans and groans filling my message box on the state of the Minnesota Twins in 2011, I decided to dig deeper today to analyze what is ailing this team thus far in the season. A steady team that is a perennial contender every year, 2011 has been an unmitigated disaster thus far for the Twins. The Twins record currently stands at 12-21, last in the AL Central. The team is 10.0 games out of first, battling for the basement with the White Sox, who are 14-22. I will be looking at the team’s overall statistics and then view individual players that have flopped and those that still offer hope. To a very special Twins fan out there, I am sorry about the state of the team in 2011, but this article is for you.
With their 12-21 record, the Twins have the least amount of wins in baseball. At home, they have been a respectable on 4-6, but 8-15 on the road. Ouch. The Twins are 3-7 in their last 10 games and currently are on a 3-game losing streak. A 10-game hole in early May is still fixable, but the Twins have to be careful not to slide too much further or a 15-20 game deficit could result. For a team that was expected to be a playoff contender, 2011 has turned into a nightmare for the team and it’s fans.
The Twins have the 3rd worst offense in baseball, just ahead of only the Nationals and Padres. In the American League, numbers like this just don’t cut it:
.230 AVG: 3rd last in majors
.292 OBP: last in majors
.320 SLG: last in majors
15 total Home Runs: last in majors
46 Doubles: 2nd last in majors
104 Runs scored: last in majors
93 RBIs: last in majors
93 Walks: 3rd worst in majors
354 Total Bases: last in majors
Sitting at the bottom on near bottom of almost every major offensive category, the Twins clearly have had little offense this year. They are not hitting, walking, scoring or driving in runs and hitting home runs. At these kinds of numbers, a team cannot expect to win many games. At 12 wins thus far, the Twins will need to get the bats going if they hope to climb back into contention this year.
Looking at the Twins hitters, it is quicker to summarize which players are playing well than those that are not. Literally only 2 Twins hitters have had good numbers this year, while all of the rest of the batters have either been injured or underperformed this year. Jason Kubel has been the rock all season. With a .347 AVG, .397 OBP, .508 SLG and 3 home runs, Kubel has shown good production this year. Span has also been decent, with a .298 AVG, .361 OBP and 17 runs scored. Essentially every other hitter has been missing in action, from Morneau, to Cuddyer, Young and Thome, the bats have been ice all season. Valencia has been decent with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs, but a .229 AVG will just not cut it. The health of Mauer will help, with a rebound from Morneau, Young and return by Nishioka to help ignite the offense. Unfortunately the team may need to look on the open market for some offensive help if they want to improve their numbers. Otherwise, runs may be difficult to come by all year.
For all the hitting woes the Twins have endured this year, the pitching has not been much better. With the 3rd worst pitching staff in baseball, only the Orioles and Astros are below the Twins.
4.62 ERA: 3rd last in baseball
168 Runs allowed: 2nd last in baseball
178 strike outs: last in baseball
The above numbers are fairly indicative of the Twins pitching. They are giving up a lot of runs and not striking out many batters. Another recipe for disaster. However, looking at the individual pitchers on the team, not all is doom and gloom. The bullpen has been fairly steady and the Twins have received decent to good outings from some of its starters. For a team built around pitching, hope still exists on the mound. If the pitching can continue to return back to form, all the Twins will need is some offensive support to jump-start its team.
The Twins starters have been as good as they have been bad all year. Pavano and Liriano have been abysmal all year (except for Liriano’s no-hitter, which still came with a tag of 6 walks allowed). Blackburn has been steady and Baker/Duensing have been very solid. It is ironic that the team’s top 2 starters have caused the most problems for the team this season. Both with ERAs over 6.60, both Pavano and Liriano have to pick up their games if the team is to contend. Kyle Gibson, the team’s top pitching prospect has been decent in AAA, with a 1-1 record, 3.66 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. If he keeps it up, Gibson may get the call this year if the team needs an additional arm. While the prospect does need some more seasoning, the state of the other arms will tell. Kevin Slowey has also pitched well in relief and having come off the disabled list, could take a turn in the rotation if called upon.
The Twins bullpen has actually been very good this year. Matt Capps has taken on the closer role and run with it, sitting at a 3.14 ERA and 5/6 in save opportunities. Glen Perkins has been a rock setting-up, with a 0.55 ERA in 15 appearances. Mijares also has been successful most nights, with a 3.18 ERA in 16 appearances. The problem child has been their former closer to start the season, Joe Nathan. With an 8.18 ERA, 8/9 BB/K ratio, Nathan has clearly not yet regained the form that made him an all-star closer. Thrust too soon into the closing role, Nathan and the Twins dug a hole for themselves that has been hard to climb from. Expect Capps to keep the role for the majority of the year and the bullpen to continue to improve, together with the starting pitching for a team known for its pitching.
The Verdict: The season is still young and it would be foolish to write off the Twins at this early stage of the year. There is nowhere to go but up for this team. With so much talent on its roster, the Twins are due for a hot streak soon. Hitting and pitching are contagious and as the Twins have shown this year, slumps tend to affect most players at the same time. But assuming that the majority of the players can get hot at the same time, 7-8 game winning streaks could be in order. The AL Central has been tough to figure out this year, with the Indians and Royals playing much above expectations and the rest of the teams playing much below. Everything comes in cycles and once the Twins start hitting the hot weather, expect the team to heat up as well. The numbers show that the team has done little from a hitting and perspective in 2011. A continuation of these efforts would bring about one of the worst seasons in team history. But the end is not here yet and the next month or so will be more telling of where the team is headed. That is one of the things we all love about baseball: we never know what is going to happen. Good luck to the Twins and we hope to see you battling for the playoffs come September.
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