santanaThe Twins’ offensive surge in August has placed them into elite territory. They are now No. 6 in the majors — not the AL, not among bad teams, but out of all 30 teams — in runs scored with 570. They are scoring nearly 4.4 per game, which in many cases should be enough to be a pretty decent team. They’ve scored them in binges and droughts, but it adds up to an impressive number.

We’re as stunned as you are. They’re also No. 7 in MLB in on-base percentage and tied for seventh in MLB in extra-base hits.

These numbers suggest an offensive improvement that, while perhaps not sustainable (are Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas really going to keep up their torrid paces?), does at least provide promise for the future.

But just as much, they add a layer of frustration to a season in which pitching was supposed to be much-improved and the offense was going to be the major question mark. Remember, the big offseason bats added from outside the organization were Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. Suzuki has worked out wonderfully. The other two failed spectacularly. And the bulk of offseason spending went into the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes plus the re-signing of Mike Pelfrey.

Hughes has been wonderful. Nolasco and Pelfrey have been dreadful. Add it up, and Twins’ starters have a 5.05 ERA — 28th in the majors, in line with where they have lagged ever since their great decline started in 2011. Their bullpen ERA of 3.47 is 15th in MLB — perfectly acceptable in the middle of the road.

So if you’re looking for a major pleasant surprise this season, look at an offense we expected to be terrible that is somehow near the top of baseball in the most important category. And if you’re looking for the culprit in another lost season, look no further (again) than starting pitching.

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