The grand poobah of baseball prognosticators, Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus, predicted 79 wins for the Twins before the season started. Currently, after losing for a sixth consecutive game Wednesday night, the Twins have a slightly above eight percent chance to make the postseason based on the minute by minute baseballprospectus.com playoff odds report. It's a math equation that would make Will Hunting and John Nash blush, but the site has been deadly accurate for some time. A quarter of the season through, with five more home games than road games played, let's ponder whether Silver's forecast will come to fruition.
In most categories, they rank in the middle of the pack in the league, or slightly below. They don't have a number two hitter, with the collective average of that spot being below .200. Most nights, when shortstop Nick Punto and centerfielder Carlos Gomez are in the lineup, the opposing team has a handful of additional guaranteed outs. Last year, the Twins hit .309 with runners in scoring position. This year, expectedly, that number has dipped considerably to .268, which isn't all that bad. Catcher Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau may be seeing and hitting the ball better than ever, but their surrounding cast, with the exception of outfielder Denard Span, has been below average. 13 times they've scored two runs or less.
An area where success was expected - maybe unjustifiably so - has been a disappointment. In the interest of not getting too number heavy, just know that they rank in the bottom four in almost all the columns at baseball-reference.com. Francisco Liriano will never again be the pitcher he was in 2006. Following reconstructive surgery, his slider is good, but not great like it used to be. The same goes for his fastball. At best, he's a number two or number three starter on a good team. That's what the collection is, a bunch of number two and number three guys, which in this division, could be enough to allow them to stay relevant all year.
Radio analyst Dan Gladden noted on the broadcast Wednesday night that manager Ron Gardenhire was surprised to learn that he lost leftie Craig Breslow on waivers to Oakland. That might be code for Gardenhire and the front office, specifically general manager Bill Smith, not being on the same page. I will defer to beat reporters Lavelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen for the exact answer to that theory. Patrick Reusse wrote a great piece over the weekend at am1500.com detailing the falling off of closer Joe Nathan. He's still a guy that can be trusted though, which is more than can be said for everyone else in the pen, with the possible exception of leftie Jose Mijares. With Jeremy Affedlt, Russ Springer, Juan Cruz (for two years, would've been worth giving up their first round pick for), and others available in the offseason, the front office let the field staff down. The results thus far come as no shock at all.
The Twins, like many teams, have always relied on pitching and defense to win games. While the pitching has been shaky, the defense has been fine. Their 14 errors are the lowest in the league. They rank fourth in the A.L. in defensive efficiency.
88 wins last year in the Central, got you a one game playoff. 85 wins this year may win you the division outright. The sample size is large enough to assume that the central winner will have the least amount of victories of any division winner in all of baseball. Can Smith pull the trigger on a semi-significant deal before the non-waiver trade deadline? He has the pieces to complete a transaction - here's hoping he's trigger happy. Why not also make a phone call to free agent starter Pedro Martinez? He looked more than serviceable in the World Baseball Classic. They have all sorts of payroll flexivbilty - sign Martinez and move Glen Perkins into the pen. As for the lineup, Brendan Harris needs to play four days a week, minimum. And it might be time, don't laugh, to recall second baseman Alexi Casilla. His numbers at Rochester are good and he's still their best option at that spot. This division is still their for the taking, but without a tweak or two, there will be no October baseball.
One additional note:
- If your Thursday night is open, and you're a baseball fan, check out the Saints-Lincoln game from Midway Stadium. For a relatively inexpensive cost, you can watch young phenom pitcher Tanner Scheppers. He'll make his home debut for George Tsamis' club. Scheppers is a lock to go in the first round of next month's amateur draft, maybe even in the top-five or top-10. "Stephen Strasburg is a lock to go No. 1 to the Nationals, but after that, there's no reason at all Tanner Scheppers couldn't go No. 2 to the Mariners," Baseball America's Jim Callis told me in a recent email. "Scouts have been waiting for someone to step up in this draft behind Strasburg, and Scheppers is doing it. In his last workout in California and first exhibition game for the Saints, he pitched in the mid-90s and touched the upper 90s with his fastball and also showed a devastating power breaking ball. That's the same stuff that would have made him a very early first-round pick in 2008 if he hadn't hurt his shoulder a month before the draft. What Scheppers has shown recently is better stuff than any of the other pitchers in this draft other than Strasburg."