The Twins’ season, which was off to a stable, if weather-delayed 8-5 start, has morphed into something ugly. As the games have piled up, so have the losses. Minnesota has lost 9 of its last 10 games heading into Monday’s home game against Toronto, dropping the Twins’ overall record to 9-14.
That’s just 23 games — pretty much one-seventh of the season — but it’s a pace for a 99-loss season. What in the name of 2011 is going on around here?
Well, there are a few things that won’t get better for a while. Byron Buxton is injured. Miguel Sano is due to miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Ervin Santana has been slow to heal from offseason finger surgery that was slow to arrive. Jorge Polanco is suspended for half the year.
So yeah, not good.
But the headline said “reason for hope,” so let’s give it a try. Here are a couple of things that *should* get better.
1) The Twins’ offense has been disappointing this season, averaging just four runs per game after averaging a full run more while surging to a playoff spot in 2017.
At least part of that, though, is skewed by particularly bad — and probably short-term — numbers with runners in scoring position.
See, the Twins have a .713 team OPS — No. 18 in the majors and just below MLB average of .718. That’s not great, nor is it where they want it to be. But it’s not awful.
What’s holding them back in large part is that they’re tied for second-worst in MLB in both batting average (.197) with runners in scoring position and OPS (.564) with RiSP. The Twins were ninth in the majors in both categories last season, and even a return to the middle of the pack would give a sorely needed boost to the offense.
2) Twins starting pitchers are No. 29 in MLB in ERA at 5.26 — and that’s after they didn’t allow a run in 21 innings during the first series of the year.
Near the bottom in starting pitcher ERA is a familiar place for Twins starters to be, but it’s somewhat unexpected this season given the offseason additions of rotation-stabilizing starters Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn.
It goes to show how much they miss Santana, but it’s also evidence that established pitchers have underperformed. Lynn, who didn’t sign until well into spring training, has a 7.71 ERA and has walked 18 hitters in 18 2/3 innings heading into his start Monday against Toronto. He should find his command soon, and if/when he does, the Twins’ rotation should fare better.