By any comparison, Twins have slipped

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2011 - 10:25 PM

A year ago, the team was in first place. Now, because of injuries and poor play, they have the majors' worst record

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire

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I'm sure Twins manager Ron Gardenhire racks his brain these days trying to figure out how the Twins went from being in first place on May 11, 2010, to last place on the same date in 2011.

You'd expect some difference, with the number of injuries the Twins have had, but not to this level, especially when it comes to scoring runs. Coming into Thursday's games, the Twins were in last place in all of baseball with only 113 runs scored through 35 games. They were 27th in baseball in batting average and dead last in the American League at .231. Their RBI total of 101 was dead last, 18 behind the second-to-last team, the San Diego Padres.

What a difference there is in performance and statistics in the boxscores of the Twins-White Sox game of May 11, 2010, and the Twins-Tigers box from Wednesday. In 2010 you can see one of the best offensive teams in the league; in 2011, you see why they have the worst record in baseball.

No doubt they have had a lot of injuries, but at the same time they have not shown the good, solid, defensive baseball and other intangibles of the so-called "Twins Way" this season.

A year ago, the Twins had a 21-12 first-place record compared to the present record of 12-23.

A year ago the only injured regular was shortstop J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson was a solid second baseman, and the Twins had eight hitters batting over .250. On the same date this year, they have two players batting over .250: Denard Span at .288 and Jason Kubel at .355.

As of May 11 last year, Joe Mauer was in the lineup and hitting .359, compared to .235 when he went on the disabled list April 12.

Justin Morneau was one of the hottest hitters in the league a year ago, hitting .348, compared to .214 this year. Michael Cuddyer was hitting .276 a year ago, compared to .242 this season.

The only big improvement has been shown by Kubel, who was hitting .213 at this time last year and now is the lone Twins hitter with an average above .300.

If you want to blame the pitching, there's plenty to go around in that department as well. A year ago, the pitching staff had a ERA of 3.56. As of Wednesday, their ERA was 4.78. The starters' ERA has gone from 3.96 in 2010 to 4.92 in 2011. And the closers are 8-for-13 this season in save opportunities, while last year at this time Jon Rauch was 8-for-9.

There's no doubt Morneau still is recovering from his concussion and long absence from the lineup. It might take him a season to recover.

So if you take a healthy Morneau and Mauer out of the lineup, you'd expect some decline in run production.

But even Gardenhire, who has managed this team to six AL Central titles in nine seasons, surely can't figure out why there are so few big home runs such as the one Kubel hit against Detroit on Wednesday -- the team's only three-run homer this year -- and overall why so few runs are being scored.

Anderson moves up

According to Joel Rippel, a very good sports historian who recently published another book titled "Minnesota Sports Trivia," the Gophers' three victories at Michigan last weekend gave coach John Anderson 1,056 career wins, to make him the winningest college baseball coach in state history. Former MSU Mankato coach Dean Bowyer has 1,053 victories and former Winona State coach Gary Grob has 1,020 wins. Overall, according to Rippel, Anderson ranks 36th on the Division I baseball coaching career list.

Through Friday's games, only two of the 300 Division I college baseball teams, North Dakota (31) and Centenary (33), had played fewer games than the Gophers (19-18, 11-7 Big Ten), who lost games because of the collapse of the Metrodome roof. However, the Gophers recovered from a slow start and are now in second place in the Big Ten and have a chance to win another conference tournament.

Jottings

Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he isn't in any hurry about naming a successor to Todd Richards. Since the new coach won't be active in the June 24-25 draft at Xcel Energy Center, Fletcher said, it is not necessary to have a coach named by then.

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill will go on a speaking tour with master of ceremonies Dave Mona starting May 19, with stops that day in Hutchinson at 7:45 a.m., Willmar at 11:30 a.m. and Mankato at 4:30 p.m. A June 6 tour will travel to Red Wing, Rochester and Owatonna. The tour will finish July 7-8 in Brainerd.

In the small type in the news release about Tubby Smith's recovery from cancer, the Gophers basketball coach wanted to thank two Mayo Clinic doctors -- Dr. Matthew Gettman, the surgeon, and Dr. Scott Litin, who was involved in the discovery of the cancer. I don't know Gettman, but I've known Litin forever. Litin is a big booster of Smith's and they are good friends.

Northwestern basketball coach Bill Carmody was recently in the home of Benilde-St. Margaret's basketball star Sanjay Lumpkin, where Carmody offered the son of former Gophers football star Sean Lumpkin a Wildcats basketball scolarship.

There was a mention of Ike Davis, the Edina-born son of former Twins closer Ron Davis, is off to a great start this season for the Mets, with a .302 batting average, seven home runs and 25 RBI. But the second-year first baseman had to leave the team from Colorado on Wednesday to get his sprained left ankle and a bone bruise examined by team physicians in New York. Davis was injured when he collided with third baseman David Wright pursuing a popup Tuesday against the Rockies, forcing him to leave the game.

Former Gophers hockey standout Thomas Vanek had a team-high five goals in seven playoff games for the Buffalo Sabres before they were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. Former Gophers defenseman Jordan Leopold had one assist in five playoff games. ... Former Gophers defenseman Nick Leddy didn't register a point in seven playoff games with the Chicago Blackhawks. ... Former Gopher Keith Ballard has played in seven of the Vancouver Canucks' 13 playoff games and has no goals or assists.

Jacob Thomas, the former Columbia Heights basketball player who was recruited by former Gophers coach Dan Monson for Long Beach State, has transferred to Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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