The Minnesota Twins currently sit at 13-25 after a loss Sunday to the Oakland Athletics. Currently they are in last place in the AL Central division, a division that they have won the last two seasons. Minnesota’s rapid decline is one that has shocked the baseball world. The Chicago White Sox entered the season projected as the favorite to dethrone the division champs but we are currently 38 games into the season Minnesota looks more like a team ready to begin a rebuild rather than make a run into the playoffs. In fact no team in the last 100 years has been able to overcome losing 25 of their first 38 games to eventually make the playoffs. This was a team that was looking to not only win their division but contend for a world series. So, the question is, why do the Twins stink? I have a few thoughts.
Jose Berrios is not a #1 starter.
The Twins have been waiting for Jose Berrios to take the reins as the star we seem to perceive him to be at the top of the rotation. His numbers look decent, 3.74 ERA, 26.8% K percentage and a 3.38 xFIP. Numbers don’t always tell the full story for Berrios. He has shown an inability to dominate an opposing offense when his team needs it. His team has gone 4-4 in his starts. His 4 wins were against Seattle, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Oakland. Outside of Oakland the other three offenses rank at the bottom of all of major league baseball. When he pitches he gets hit hard, his barrel % is the highest it has been in his entire MLB career sitting at 12% while he has also given up his highest hard hit percentage in his career.
Berrios has had pressure to be an ace since his original call up. The Twins have made efforts to put pitchers around Berrios but they have continued to hope he would ascend into the role rather than understand the player he is. He is a solid, potentially all-star level pitcher that doesn’t have the ability to be the ace of a staff. Guys like Kenta Maeda, JA Happ and Michael Pineda are all similar pitchers to Berrios and that is not enough to bring this team back from a terrible start.
Miguel Sano, .135/.297/.257
Jorge Polanco, .244/.311/.393
Mitch Garver, .189/.255/.422
Max Kepler, .212/.304/.414
The Twins bats haven’t been the biggest issue duing the season. Luis Arreaz, Nelson Cruz and Byron Buxton have been phenomenal to start the season but after the top four of the lineup the fall off is drastic. Minnesota was starting to see the future as top prospect Alex Kiriloff seemed to be finding his stride in the bigs until an injury derailed his progress. The Twins have a top ten team batting average but rank 25th overall in runners left on base while in scoring position. Their top heavy lineup is getting on but the bottom can’ pick them up. For the Twins to dig themselve out of this hole they will need someone to pick up the slack. Max Kepler has now returned from the Covid list and Jorge Polanco has begun to pick up the pace over the last few weeks. If they can get things going the Twins offense can take off to match the top dog of the division, the Chicago White Sox.
Bullpen issues were never addressed.
Minnesota has a bottom five pitching staff. The starters have struggled but the bullpen has been especially troublesome. Offseason additions Hansel Robles and Alex Colome were supposed to fill in the gaps along with Taylor Rogers. Colome, the former White Sox closer, has been a complete bust. Colome’s struggles are just the beginning of the troubles in the Minnesota bullpen. The bullpen ERA is over 4 and has given up leads like they aren’t sure what they are really supposed to be doing when they enter the game. The Twins bullpen has a combined record of 2-12 as a team, so they are not only losing tough games but they are blowing leads.
The Twins starters are just middle of the road and they are being forced to take up more innings due to the fact that Minnesota doesn’t have a single player they can rely on to eat up innings. Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of options in the minors, their top pitching prospect is Jordan Balazovic has the power fastball that can be a good fit in the bullpen, but in a season that may already be lost it would be stupid to mess with his progression as a starter. If Minnesota can make a run over the next month to get themselves into playoff position they will have to use their top ten farm system to get themselves some help in the backend. The offense still has time to rebound and the starters are veterans. This bullpen is a problem, the biggest problem for the Twins. It is the may reason that they stink.