Sunday, May 8, 2011

2nd Split: 6-10

Overall Record: 12-20
4th in AL Central by 9.5 games

Other splits: 6-10

Now 1/5 of the way through the season, the Twins are maintaining their 100 loss pace. There were a couple of promising 3-game winning streaks during this split, but it was framed by consecutive losses that featured shutouts and blowouts. However, the last 16 games are defined for me by what came in the middle: a humiliating 6-game skid. 3 losses at home in which the Twins looked like they neither belonged nor wanted to be on the field. 3 tight, mistake-filled losses in Kansas City, where the Twins hadn't been swept in over a decade. I would have expected at least one win in each series, which would have been enough for the Twins to tread water and remain within striking distance of .500.

Incredibly, the injury situation got worse. Delmon Young missed the entire split with a strained oblique. Jim Thome followed him a few days later. Jason Repko eventually went down with a sore quad. That left Gardy no choice but to fill out nearly every lineup with 3-4 players who didn't make the squad out of spring training. It's tough to win with a AAAA lineup, especially when 11 of the 16 games take place on the road. Only 1 week into May, the Twins have already had to call up 10 players from Rochester.

There was some progress on the hitting front. They doubled their HR output from the 1st split to a whopping 10 long balls. The walk rate improved. Michael Cuddyer and Danny Valencia have been getting better results, joining Denard Span and Jason Kubel as credible regulars. But the backups have done exceedingly poorly, particularly at catcher, where Joe Mauer's absence is felt every single game. It doesn't look as though Alexi Casilla is going to put it together, and Justin Morneau is producing the way we're used to seeing him hit in September (when he's healthy enough to be on the field in September, that is). It all came out in the wash - the offense remained basically flat when compared to the 1st 16 games. Which is to say, it still sucks.

No such ambiguity about the pitching - it definitely got worse. Scott Baker and Brian Duensing have been excellent, and Matt Capps and Glen Perkins continue to do solid work in the 'pen. Joe Nathan is showing signs of finding himself again. But, no-hitter or not, Francisco Liriano's control still looks frighteningly shaky, and Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano are getting tagged all over the field. Dusty Hughes earned a demotion back to Rochester, and Jim Hoey looks headed in that direction. Jose Mijares is the bullpen's answer to Liriano. Altogether, they averaged over 5 earned runs a game in this split.

And they didn't get much help from the defense, which committed another 11 E which resulted in 16 UER. Think about that: 1 extra run per game on average from shoddy defense. Part of it is people trying to do too much, but a lot of it comes from guys who are exposed by playing everyday play. Bench players or minor leaguers who aren't mentally consistent enough to thrive at the highest level. But who else are the Twins going to run out there?

Health is everything now. Young should be ready to return this weekend. Thome and Nishioka shouldn't be too far behind. But Mauer still isn't doing any catching, and there's no timetable yet for his return. I don't see how the Twins can go too far without him. But with 50% of the next split taking place at home, and 13 of the 16 games taking place against opponents with losing records, this is certainly an opportunity for them to start to turn things around, particularly as the uninjured regulars continue to warm up.

Bold prediction: The Twins will be closer to .500 16 games from now.

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