If Byron Buxton had a few more plate appearances this season, he would sit atop the Major League Baseball leaderboard in on-base plus slugging percentage with a gaudy 1.408 mark. Teammate Nelson Cruz has those requisite at bats and ranks in the top 10 (1.054).
They are the prime examples of Twins extremes through 23 games this season — a small sample size still, sure, but one that represents roughly one-seventh of the entire season at this point of a very disappointing 8-15 start.
There were encouraging signs of life from those not named Buxton or Cruz in Wednesday's 10-2 romp over Cleveland, and an optimist might suggest that the Twins could get on a roll now with temperatures climbing and six home games followed by three at Detroit.
Unfortunately, an equally likely reality is that for as great as Buxton has been this year — something I talked about at the start of Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast — his supporting cast in the lineup outside of Cruz will continue to let him down as the Twins' season falls short of expectations.
After Wednesday's offensive show in which Buxton went 5-for-5 with a home run and the Twins smashed six homers as a team in a 10-2 win over Cleveland, the Twins rank No. 9 in the majors in OPS.
But outside of Buxton, Cruz and Josh Donaldson, who has been solid (.851 OPS) since coming back from his early injury, no Twins regular has an OPS above .723.
In particular, Jorge Polanco (.523), Jake Cave (.538), Miguel Sano (.555, now injured) have given the Twins very little production. Garver's OPS was .517 before his two-homer outburst Wednesday pushed it to .644. Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff and Brent Rooker all have an OPS below .400 in part-time work. Having that many players so far below league average will doom any team.
There have quite simply been too many near-automatic outs in the lineup, killing rallies and damaging the Twins' hopes — particularly in close games, where their 2-6 record in one-run games and 0-5 record in extra inning games tells a big story of the season.
The feast-or-famine nature of the team has extended to the pitching staff — particularly the bullpen, where the two most-used pitchers in high-leverage situations so far, Alexander Colome and Taylor Rogers, have been polar opposites. Colome has allowed 15 runs (eight earned) in 8.2 innings. Rogers has given up just one run (unearned) in 9.1 innings.
I've expressed this before, but this year's Twins — at least so far — feel like the 2020 Vikings: A team with a handful of dominant players trying to hold things together, while a lack of depth and quality role players holds them back.
That Vikings team went 7-9. If this Twins team follows suit on the same trajectory, this will be a 90-loss season, not a 90-win season. I think there is more hope than that, and it is still early. We can make a more accurate judgment at the end of May instead of the end of April.
For now, though, it's Buxton and Cruz, then the lineup sings the blues.