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RandBall: Buxton still striking out plenty since demotion

buxtonByron Buxton’s overall numbers in Class AAA Rochester this season are still quite good (and encouraging), as the 22-year-old Twins prospect is hitting .315 with a .944 OPS.

But Buxton, who was demoted in August while hitting just .193 in the majors and while in the midst of a 6-for-46 slump that included 19 strikeouts, has struggled to make contact in his stint in Rochester since being sent down.

In fact, he’s struck out just as frequently at the lower level, albeit with better overall results. Buxton is hitting .261 (12 for 46) since being sent down, but he has 19 strikeouts in that span. Even during a modest four-game hitting streak in his last four games (6 for 19 in that span, including a home run), Buxton has piled up nine strikeouts.

I’m not here to read too much into a small sample size, but that’s a very high rate — even for Buxton, who hasn’t been afraid to strike out even while posting great numbers throughout his minor league career. It bears watching as his season progresses and the Twins consider September call-ups when rosters expand in a week.

The Twins have the worst starting pitching in MLB (again)

duffeyThe term “outlier” is so useful that it tends to get overused. At the risk of doing so, let’s try it on in a couple spots here in a brief discussion of the Twins’ starting pitching.

Of all the discouraging things that have happened over the vast majority of the past six Twins seasons, poor starting pitching feels like it’s at the top of the list. Something that was a relative strength during some of the Twins’ six division-winning seasons between 2002-2010 and at least not a hindrance in the others has become a never-ending problem from 2011-present.

Poor free agent decisions, a lack of pitching development from the minors and some injuries have contributed to the mess. So, too — perhaps — have been some flickers of hope in the wreckage that gave fans and the team false hope. Here’s where we get into outliers.

Check out the ERAs of Twins starting pitchers for the last six seasons and where they ranked in MLB:

2011: 26th at 4.64

2012: 29th at 5.40 (worst in AL)

2013: 30th at 5.26

2014: 30th at 5.06

2015: 16th at 4.14

2016-to-date: 30th at 5.44

In five of those six seasons, the Twins were in the bottom five of the majors. And yes, in three of those — including this year, thanks to a dreadful August — they have been dead last. You’ll notice the blip in 2015, when they were decidedly average. The relative success of the staff last season brought optimism for 2016. The optimism wasn’t necessarily unfounded since some of the pitchers in 2015 were different than those who had failed in years past. Nevertheless, 2015 sure seems like the outlier right now — the one statistical member of the group that doesn’t fit and is not representative of the whole.

Same goes for the starters’ ERAs by month this season.

April: 4.40

May: 6.22

June: 6.05

July: 3.98

August-to-date: 6.89

April was decent (MLB average this year is 4.38). May, June and August have been disasters. July stands out as the only legitimately good month of starting pitching, and not surprisingly it was the Twins’ only winning month this season (15-11). July is sure looking like the outlier, both in terms of starting pitching and the Twins’ overall play. They had seemingly rescued themselves from a disastrous season to merely be bad; instead, they are now 49-77, on pace for a 99-loss season that would match the one which started the mess in 2011.

It’s hard to think there’s any immediate relief in sight.

Ervin Santana has done a very credible job this season, compiling a 3.33 ERA. He’s under contract for two more years and is the only thing close to a sure thing right now. Every other Twins pitcher who has started at least four games has an ERA over 5 this season. That includes Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Hector Santiago — five guys who figure to be prime candidates to join Santana in next year’s rotation.

Maybe a new catcher would help some. Maybe some of those pitchers will improve. The body of work at this point, though, suggests we should expect more of the same until proven otherwise. It’s going to take more than a good month or two before the outlier becomes a bad one.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Detroit at Twins

    12:10 pm on MLBN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Lynx at Connecticut

    6 pm on 106.1-FM

  • Twins at Toronto

    6:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:35 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Toronto

    12:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    6:35 pm on 1220-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at Miami FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • San Diego at Vikings (preseason)

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Twins at Toronto

    12:07 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    12:45 pm

  • Saints at Lincoln

    5:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Seattle at Lynx

    6 pm on ESPN2, 106.1-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Winnipeg at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Fort Lauderdale

    6:30 pm on CBSSN

  • Winnipeg at Saints

    7:05 pm on 1220-AM

  • Canterbury Park live racing

    6:30 pm

  • L.A. Rams at Vikings (preseason)

    7 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Winnipeg at Saints

    7:05 pm

  • Chicago White Sox at Twins

    7:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Oregon State at Gophers football

    8 pm on BTN, 107.9-FM

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