A few different times this season, I’ve either written off the Twins or been tempted to do so. And a few different times this season, their resiliency has made me reconsider. Even last night, when Minnesota looked as thought it would be bludgeoned into lopsided submission by Toronto’s home run-happy offense, I tweeted what amounted to “game over” only to get sucked back in by a rally that nearly tied the game in the ninth.
So I won’t be writing the season obituary just yet — not with 55 games left and the AL still full of so much mediocrity. The minute you say this team is dead is the minute they come alive.
But there is this: the sample size is more than enough to tell us that some of the things everyone was worried about in the offseason — the very things the Twins did not address — are very real. In short, the sins of spring are catching up to this team in the dog days of summer.
Many of us worried about the bullpen, which was full of puzzling acquisitions (Tim Stauffer) and mediocre holdovers (Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, et al) to go with All-Star closer Glen Perkins. Aside from one magical month (May, 3.45 ERA, which is good but not great), the bullpen has been bad. The overall bullpen ERA now is 4.06 — tied for 23rd in MLB and a half-run higher than the MLB average.
Many of us worried about offensive regression fueled primarily by an over-reliance on the impressive but small sample sizes offered in 2014 by Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas. Those two were major disappointments, and while the Twins have received nice contributions from Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks and Miguel Sano, the approach to youngsters and constant minor league shuffling feels more like a hope than a plan. The net result is an offense that is tied for 10th in the AL in runs scored.
The starting pitching … well, it’s been the saving grace and a boon particularly when compared to previous staffs and when considering Ervin Santana missed half the year. At 3.98, the Twins have the fifth-best starters’ ERA in the AL and are better than the league average. They’re still close to the bottom in strikeouts, among the best in not allowing walks and have given up the highest opponent BA (.275) of any staff in the American League, though — indicating that the success is a little fragile and that some things really haven’t changed.
In short, the Twins were constructed this spring with plenty of potential holes. They were patched up for one-quarter of the season — a 29-13 run that put the Twins into contention during which they had an extraordinary combination of the right things happening in seemingly every game.
During that time, the Twins were getting at least two of three things to go right in most games: good starting pitching, timely offense or stellar bullpen work. That’s a winning formula.
But with three units that can be considered average or slightly below average, the formula in bad times (lately) has been one of three clicking at the same time. Last night the offense was good, the starting pitching as bad and the bullpen (J.R. Graham) gave up three big runs.
It was just enough to lose instead of just enough to win — a thin margin that makes it tough to give up on the Twins but easy to trace back to the way the team was constructed in the first place.