Friday, September 12, 2008

9th Split: 6-10

Overall Record: 80-65
2nd in AL Central by 1 game

Previous Splits:

7-9, 10-6, 7-9, 7-9, 13-4, 11-5, 7-9, 12-4

The Twins picked a most inopportune time to have their worst split of the season. Obviously, it was a tremendous challenge to have to play 14 straight games on the road (including the first 11 of this split). But we know that it was easily within the Twins' power to have done much better. 9 of the 10 losses were by 2 or fewer runs. 5 came after the Twins had the lead in the 7th inning or later. 3 came in games Joe Nathan was supposed to save, and all three of those innings contained fielding mistakes. The Twins lost 5 games in which they gave up 3 or fewer ER in 9 IP. Wouldn't a championship team win the close ones?

The offense put up 83 runs in the 16 games, an average of better than 5 R/game. But the actual distribution was way off balance - the Twins scored 54 R in their 6 wins (9 R/game), but just 29 R in their 10 losses (2.9 R/game). The rotation (with the exception of Glen Perkins) did a terrific job of keeping the team in the low-scoring games, delivering quality starts in 11 games, and coming one out short of a QS in 2 others. But the bullpen allowed one or more runs in 11 games. And the defense committed 11 errors, resulting in some devastatingly painful unearned runs, which led directly to a few losses.

The good news is that the White Sox have been scuffling as well, and they've lost their best player, Carlos Quentin, for the balance of the month. The Twins only have to outplay the White Sox by 1 game over the final 17 to tie for the division title. And they only have to match the Sox over the next 11 in order to set up the final head-to-head series at the Metrodome. I should also note that the 80 wins the Twins have now is already 1 more than they had in their disappointing 2007. Even a lackluster stretch run should result in them surpassing the 84 wins I had predicted they would amass this season. So, though their recent play has been hugely frustrating, they remain in the thick of the pennant race, and have exceeded expectations. Whatever happens over these last 2.5 weeks, the 2008 Twins are a success in my eyes.

Bold prediction: the Twins will win 90 or more games for the 5th time in 7 seasons.

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