The Twins managed to get a winning record for the first time in 2015 on Sunday, and there was much rejoicing in Twins Territory for something that normally is considered a rather minor accomplishment, especially this time of the year. After all, even last year, the Twins had a winning record as late as May 24.
But considering how this team started and everything it has gone through, it really seems like almost a miracle to get above .500.
Consider this: The Twins' top 3 starting pitchers coming into this season have made just seven starts and are 1-5 with a 5.67 ERA. Just the fact the Twins have a winning record despite being 0-5 in Phil Hughes' starts is amazing. That means the Twins are now 13-7 when Hughes and Ervin Santana doesn't start. Add on to that, that Tommy Milone was already demoted to the minors before the end of April.
Now consider that the Twins' already thin bullpen has been hurt by injuries to both Casey Fien and Brian Duensing, who have both seen time on the DL. Tim Stauffer also is on the DL now, but that goes in the addition by subtraction category.
Now add on to that the fact that the offense has been below average. A number of the younger hitters have had a hard time just making contact let alone making offensive contributions. Brian Dozier, Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas are each on pace for just a dozen home runs this season.
And the outfield defense continues to be terrible and shortstop Danny Santana leads the world in errors.
With all these problems, how is this team not in last place let alone have a winning record?
At the end of April last year, the Twins were at .500, but that felt like a mirage. Many things had gone right for them, especially on offense. Chris Colabello was getting a couple hits and an RBI it seemed like every game, but he quickly came back to earth as scouting reports and a high strikeout rate caught up with him and he was demoted before the end of May.
This year, outside of Shane Robinson in a part-time role and Aaron Thompson in middle relief, it doesn't seem like the Twins have anyone playing over their heads. Even the Twins' run differential has vastly improved after that 22-1 beatdown by the Tigers to start the season. The Twins are now just -1 in run differential. That means they are 13-9 with a +20 run differential since that opening series in Detroit.
More problems will arise, as they always do in a long season, but the Twins also appear to be better prepared to cover their problem areas. Remember, Ervin Santana will be plugged into the rotation in July, so he can pick up the slack if a start like today for Mike Pelfrey turns into more of the norm. Also, Taylor Rogers and Pat Dean both have ERAs near 2.00 in AAA and Alex Meyer has been better of late, including a great start Sunday before walking his final two batters to lead off the 8th inning. If the Twins are willing to go down to AA, Jose Berrios, D.J. Baxendale and Tyler Duffey could all be worthy of consideration for a callup in a few weeks.
As for relievers, the injuries have made room for Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly. Both throw in the mid-90s and have shown improved breaking balls. Pressly was really impressive Sunday. His curveball for strike 3 called with the bases loaded was so nasty that Chris Herrmann couldn't even catch it. Otherwise, Lester Oliveros is in AAA with a 0.833 WHIP and 16.5 K/9. In AA, the Twins have three relievers that can reach triple digits at times, including Zach Jones, who has a 0.625 WHIP and a 14-1 K-BB ratio in 8 innings.
So the Twins have certainly had their fair share of problems, but have they been lucky to win in spite of these problems or have these problems kept them from having an even better record? Only time will tell for sure.