The Twins aren't winning, but four players General Manager Terry Ryan signed in the offseason -- infielder Jamey Carroll, closer Matt Capps, outfielder Josh Willingham and utility man Ryan Doumit -- have made positive contributions.
Carroll, while hitting only .222 going into Wednesday's game against the Tigers, has been good in the field at shortstop, second base and third base. Capps has been a lot more effective than last year with a 3.86 ERA and seven saves. Willingham has cooled off from his hot start, but he's still hitting .296 with seven home runs and he has 21 RBI. Doumit is hitting .252 with five home runs and a team-leading 23 RBI.
Of the free agents Ryan signed in the offseason, only starting pitcher Jason Marquis, who has a 2-3 record with a 6.68 ERA, has really hurt the team.
When you look for the main reason the team has struggled since the beginning of last season, it comes down to starting pitching.
The Twins were 10-26 entering Wednesday's game and had a 12-24 record at the same time last year because many of the pitchers who have won in the past can't get anybody out.
When the Twins won the division in 2010, Carl Pavano had a 3.75 ERA compared to 5.14 this season. Francisco Liriano owned a 3.62 ERA in 2010, compared to 8.79 before Wednesday's game with the Tigers. Nick Blackburn was at 5.42 in 2010, and his 2012 ERA ballooned up to 8.37 after giving up six earned runs in two innings against the Tigers on Wednesday. Brian Duensing is the only pitcher still with the team who was on the 2010 staff that has improved, with a 2.62 ERA then compared to 2.04 now.
Scott Baker, who was on the 2010 staff and now is sidelined after Tommy John surgery, had a 4.49 ERA in 2010. Kevin Slowey, no longer with the team, had a 4.45 ERA.
As for Twins hitters this season vs. 2010, going into Wednesday's game: Joe Mauer is hitting just .270 and has only 15 RBI, while leaving a lot of runners on base. In 2010, Mauer hit .327 with 75 RBI. Justin Morneau has been hurt and was hitting only .230 before he went on the disabled list. Morneau hit .345 with 56 RBI in 81 games two years ago.
Alex Casilla is hitting .250 compared to .276. Danny Valencia was hitting .190 when sent down to Class AAA Rochester, compared to .311 in 85 games in 2010. Chris Parmelee, who hit .355 in 21 games last year when he was called up, had a .179 batting average when he was sent down to Rochester on Wednesday.
Neither Ryan nor manager Ron Gardenhire can figure out how so many of these Twins played so well two years ago and, for the past two seasons, they just have lost it. But both still have hope that some of the pitchers and hitters will regain their form before the season is too far gone.
In Valencia's first four games at Rochester, he went 0-for-4 in the first two and 1-for-4 in his past two. He has a double and an RBI to go along with two runs scored.
Ben Revere has been playing great lately, hitting .395 in his past 10 games before Wednesday's game against Louisville, with three runs scored and two RBI. Overall, Revere is hitting .322 in 22 games.
Clete Thomas has gone 8-for-29 (.276 average) in his first nine games with the Red Wings. He has hit three doubles and a triple.
Anthony Slama has been the best reliever at Rochester this season, posting a 0.51 ERA in 17 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting only .150 against him, and he has 28 strikeouts compared to 11 walks.
Speaking of former Twin Slowey, he's having a rough season at Class AAA Columbus in the Cleveland Indians farm system. Slowey is 2-3 with a 5.79 ERA in 42 innings pitched.
• There is still a good chance that E.J. Henderson will sign with the Vikings once he agrees to a contract paying the linebacker quite a bit less than the $6.7 million he was paid last year. Henderson still is demanding the same pay he got last year.
• Cleveland is leading the AL Central Division despite a $66.4 million payroll, but winning hasn't helped attendance (averaging only 14,665 per game over the first month of the season, last in the American League). On the other hand, the Twins have a $94 million payroll and despite the fact they have the worst record in baseball, they are fifth in the AL in attendance, averaging 33,519 fans per game.
• Chip Armelin, the sophomore Gophers basketball guard who left the program, announced Wednesday that he has signed with Southern Mississippi. ... Gophers running back Duane Bennett and tight end Eric Lair signed free-agent contracts with the Packers. ... Of the five former Gophers who worked out with the Vikings, only defensive lineman Anthony Jacobs signed a contract.
• Wild prospect Charlie Coyle of the St. John Sea Dogs won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the MVP in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs after leading his team to their second consecutive President's Cup championship. Coyle finished with 15 goals and 19 assists in 17 playoff games. Teammate and fellow Wild prospect Zack Phillips, had nine goals and 23 assists in 17 games.
• Former Gophers guard Al Nolen is back playing overseas with the LTI Giessen 46ers in Germany. Nolen has played eight games, averaging 13 minutes, 3.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. ... Former Gophers forward and captain Damian Johnson recently wrapped up playing in the NBA D-League with the Springfield Armor after starting the year with the Bakersfield Jam. Johnson played 47 games between the two teams this season, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game.
• Former Twins pitchers R.A. Dickey and Kyle Lohse are tied for second place in the National League in victories with five. Dickey is 5-1 with a 3.65 ERA for the Mets and Lohse is 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA for the Cardinals.
• Catching up with former Gophers first basemen: Nathan Hanson is hitting .260 with 13 RBI and four doubles through 24 games for New Britain, the Twins' Class AA affiliate. ... Nick O'Shea is with the Dayton Dragons, the Cincinnati Reds' Class A squad, he's hitting .179 with seven RBI and six runs scored through 23 games.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org