I won’t profess to know everything about this 2015 Twins team, but 26 games in (after tonight’s game, the season will be one-sixth over), these trends are presenting themselves:
1) This is a resilient team. A lot of us wrote them off after a terrible first week. I was guilty of sending more than one text indicating I thought this could be the worst team of the past five Twins seasons. It was a good lesson in small sample sizes, I suppose, but the manner in which this team started 1-6 was alarming … and the manner in which it has now played itself into a 14-12 record is a testament to the manager and players staying the course (and performing better). That resiliency has been on display in individual games, including Monday’s comeback win over Oakland. Down 4-0 after a first-inning grand slam, the Twins looked like they were headed to an improbable 0-6 record in Phil Hughes’ starts. Instead they rallied and kept their momentum going.
2) This team is going to hit. The Twins are 12th in MLB in runs scored and eighth in batting average (.260), and that’s without any one player getting off to a torrid start. Rather, this lineup has the feel of being able to generate runs even if everyone isn’t clicking. Much of the damage Monday came from the bottom of the order: the 6-9 hitters combined for nine hits and 7 runs scored.
3) The pitching still isn’t great, but it’s better. Twins starters have a 4.43 ERA, 21st in MLB. That’s still bottom-third, but it’s a marked improvement over recent seasons. And that’s without Ervin Santana, of course. It speaks to improved depth.
4) Paul Molitor is getting high marks already for the way he manages. I like his mix-and-match lineups — with a willingness to platoon and take advantage of hot hitters or good matchups. I like the way he uses his bullpen and lets guys pitch two innings. I like that the Twins put Oswaldo Arcia on the DL immediately instead of waiting to see if his injury would clear. Playing with a short bench for multiple games puts a team at a disadvantage; whether that’s Molitor’s call or someone else’s call, it seems to be a difference over past years.
5) The biggest question now is to what degree all of this is sustainable. Resiliency can fade if losses mount, the pitching could go south and the bats could cool off. The question is to what degree. The Twins in recent years have had competent stretches of play that gave way to doldrums. And in general, it hasn’t been the first 100 games that have been the real problem; it’s been the final 62.
That said, this team already has a chance to do something no Twins team since 2010 has accomplished: go 3 games over .500. That chance comes tonight, along with a shot at a six-game winning streak. It’s more than some might have predicted at the start of the season, and certainly more than most would have predicted after the first week.