Sometimes when I intend to make an omelet in the morning, things go awry. I have all the right ingredients, everything is chopped and mixed and whipped just as it should be. But somehow, when it comes time to do the actual cooking, I just end up with a scrambled egg mess. It's still edible, of course, but the presentation sure leaves something to be desired. That's pretty much how I feel about this Twins season. Back in April we all thought the team had the roster ingredients to be a contender. But that's life. You don't know how many bad eggs you really have until you start cracking them open. Mrs. Twayn and I decided last night that the weather will be too nice today to spend it watching a game on TV, and since the All-Star break is bound to stall out the momentum the Twins have managed to mount on this home stand I snagged a couple of upper deck skyline view tickets on the third base line for seven bucks each and we're going to the game.
With Slegers heading to the disabled list, the Twins recalled Fernando Romero to make today's start. In ten starts this year he's managed a 3-3 record with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. Not bad for a rookie. Ryne Stanek takes the ball for the Rays. He's started ten games this year and made 16 relief appearances. He's 1-2 in games started with an overall 1.93 ERA and a remarkable 0.95 WHIP. This is the last meaningful baseball game for almost a week ("This time it doesn't count™"), so hopefully we can go into the break on a high note. Play ball!
The Twins have a chance to pull off a rare 4-game sweep today (the last one I could find was August 2017 in Milwaukee). Yes, it's against the more-hapless-than-our-team Baltimore Orioles, but they don't judge by degree of difficulty in baseball, just runs scored. Jake Odorizzi is on the mound for the Twins, the Orioles feature Alex Cobb. If the Twins can cut their deficit in the division to single digits before the All-Star break, they might be able to make at least a little run to keep things interesting through the dog days. They get another series with KC after the break, then it's Blue Jays and Red Sox before going head-to-head with Cleveland. Hey, it's baseball. Weird stuff happens all the time.
"We know we're better than this, but we can't prove it."
- Tony Gwynn
The Cubs send Jon Lester to the mound today. He's got a 2.18 ERA on the year (191 ERA+), and had a 1.13 ERA in June. His ERA at Wrigley is 1.25. His WHIP is 1.084. I guess what I'm saying is he doesn't allow a lot of run(s) or runner(s). Lester has 10 wins already and will likely contend for a Cy Young award. The Twins counter with Lance Lynn. He also has numbers associated with his pitching performance. They are not as good as Lester's and he will likely not contend for a Cy Young award. To my mind this season is still far from over and we have yet to stray into GOSO territory. But if you look real hard and squint your eyes a little, you can almost see it from here. Play ball!
I can not forecast for you the outcome of the Twins' season. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma...
I'm a big believer in incremental improvement, so much so that I built it into my expectations for the Twins this season. Of course, I figured some guys like Dozier and Mauer, Santana and Berrios don't have a lot of clearance between hat and ceiling, so just maintaining last year's performance would be fine. I honestly believed this was going to be the year that Buxton figured out major league pitching and put together a strong season with wood as well as leather, but that hope's been hampered by injury. No, what I had in mind was much more like what Rosario and Escobar are doing this year, which you could argue is a pretty major increment. Last week, the Padre posed a question in a game log about who is to blame for this year's mediocrity -- the front office, the manager and staff, or the players. I think that maybe this is what the Torii Hunters and Joe Morgans mean when they poo-poo advanced metrics and say the game is played on the field. Ultimately, as much as teams try to measure and forecast, there are no guarantees that past performance is a reliable indicator of future performance. It's just all we have to go on, so we tend to put all of our balls in that one bucket. You can honestly say that the starting rotation, on paper anyway, is the most solid the Twins have had in many years. The front office made moves to bolster the bullpen, and some of them have paid off, but we still deal with a lot of inconsistency in the relief corps. But offensively, with just a couple of notable exceptions, the Twins hitters are either treading water or slow sinking below the surface of last year's performance. Now, I happen to think there's still hope for this team this year, but only if they stay close enough to the division leader to be in striking distance if'n they get on a roll. If they're within five games at the All Star break, I'm going to stay interested enough.
We have a bookend match-up on the mound today, with everybody's favorite corpulent 21-year veteran Bartolo Colon (4-4, 4.91 ERA) near the end of his career facing off against the Twins' 24-year old phenom Jose Berrios (7-5, 3.38 ERA). Colon notched is 244th career win last Monday, giving him the most wins ever by a Dominican pitcher. The man has pitched 3,396 innings of major league baseball and he's not done yet. For perspective, Berrios has 24 wins and has pitched just 300 innings thus far in his MLB career. For even more perspective, Greg Maddux amassed 355 career wins and pitched more than 5,000 innings in 23 years in the show, and Walter Johnson compiled 417 wins while throwing more than 5,900 innings over 21 campaigns. Play ball!
Hope is a good thing, but it can be slippery as a greased eel and just as hard to hold onto. For the past few weeks I've been pretty down on this team and at times I've shaken my head in disgust and declared them hopeless, but in the past week or two we've seen some signs that the team may be coming to life again. The two Eds continue to lead the Twins offense with Escobar taking an AL Player of the Week nod and Rosario playing like a bona fide All-Star (.379/.455/.828/1.282 in June). Adrianza's bat has come alive and hopefully his base running competence isn't far behind. I am heartened by the decision to move Miguel Sano to Fort Meyers for a complete retooling of his plate approach. I'll leave swing mechanics to the experts, but he definitely needs to work on pitch recognition, plate discipline, and situational hitting if he wants to avoid being tagged the next Delmon Young (nobody doubts his talent). Joe Mauer is back, Polanco will return to the field in a couple of weeks, and it sounds like Ervin Santana should be available for the second half. A win today would put the Twins four games under .500 and just three games from the division lead, and I like the way the team is trending. In April, the Twins posted a winning percentage of just .364. In May it was up a full 100 points to .464, and for June it's up to .600. That may or may not be enough winning to make it to October. If the Twins play .600 ball the rest of the season they'd only net about 88 wins. While they sneaked into the playoffs last year with 85 wins, they also finished 17 games behind Cleveland in the division, which is not exactly the catbird's seat, and the wildcard competition is looking to be much tougher this time around.
Jake Odorizzi (3-3, 4.19 ERA) takes the hill for the Twins who are looking to not only sweep the Indians but win their last six contests against them. The Tribe counters with 23-year old Shane "Don't call me Justin" Bieber (0-0, 6.35 ERA) in just his second major league start. Play ball!
Because baseball breaks your heart, because baseball is designed to break your heart, the Twins' current season of mediocrity in the wake of great expectations shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. But that realization doesn't make it any easier to watch. It's supremely frustrating, after years of waiting semi-patiently, to finally have a pretty solid starting rotation only to see it, more often than not, let down by the bullpen or the offense or both. Injuries are part of every season for every team, but the Twins luck in that regard this year has been worse than most. Ervin Santana remains hobbled on the DL, his rehab halted for a week by discomfort in his middle finger, and there's no firm timetable for his return. Sano was out for more than a month, long enough to forget how to lay off a slider, apparently. He's hitting just slightly north of Mendoza and striking out like he has food waiting in the dugout. Castro, never a great stick but at times able to deliver a clutch knock, is gone for the season and our current backstops are hitting .216 and .174. Joe Mauer, after a heartening resurgence last year, remains on the DL with concussion-type issues. Byron Buxton, back on the DL with the same bad toe that landed him there in May, has an OPS+ of 6. Not 60, just the single digit, six. To date, Logan Morrison continues to be a bust of an acquisition sporting a .192 BA and slugging just .341, and Robby Grossman is performing only a few points better up and down the slash line. Brian Dozier, who got actual MVP votes last year, has dropped nearly 130 OPS points under last season's mark. Add in Polanco's 80-game suspension that's forced Adrianza and his banjo into the daily lineup and you have a batting order with more holes than a golf course. It's unequivocal that Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar have been carrying this team offensively for some time now, but they can't do enough between them to make up for the weak hitting and below par production in the rest of the lineup. We have a pretty good record in games where we score four runs or more. That has to be the daily benchmark for the offense going forward if the Twins are going to amount to more than a hummock of legumes this year. Rookie phenom Romero takes the mound for the Twins today, his last few starts after a stellar debut in his first few have seen a steady regression toward the mean and indicate that scouting has more or less caught up to him now. Tropeono toes the rubber for the Halos. Play ball!
Today marks the first game of the second third of the season, and folks, the first third didn't give much cause for joy in Mudville. Third place in the weakest division in baseball is not exactly the catbird's seat, more like perching on the middle spot over the transmission hump, squeezed in between your dopey big brother and annoying little sister in the back seat of the family station wagon. So, not a whole lot of fun to be had in this season yet. To make up the fun deficit, the Mrs. and I watched the first two episodes of Brockmire on demand the other night. The rest of season one costs $2.99 an episode from our cable provider, so last night we signed up for a free trial month of Hulu to watch the rest of the first season, we can get all of season two on demand once we're caught up. Hank Azaria is a national [redacted] treasure.
Kyle Gibson (1-3, 3.57 ERA) on the bump, going for the series win against Clevinger (4-2, 3.14 ERA). So what do you say? How about we kill another three hours on our slow and painful march to the grave? Play ball!
Strange things are afoot at the Circled Dot. Despite cruising below .500 all season, the team still finds itself in second place in the AL Central. The pitching, which early in the year gave cause for indigestion, has settled in pretty nicely with both rotation and bullpen performing well. Over the course of the season, the hurling staff has notched a 4.22 ERA, good for an ERA+ of 101, or about as average as it gets. But while the pitching has trended toward improvement over the first two months, the offensive trend has been southbound with a bee in their pants and the boys are suffering through a serious case of assbats. Right now, the Twins offense combines for a total 4.7 WAR. As Beau points out in today's Cuppa, Mike Trout himself has delivered 4.9 WAR so far this year all by himself. I only eyeballed the math, but looking over the lineup the Twins offense right now is basically performing at replacement level. As a team, the Twins have achieved null VORP on offense in April and May. While some of that is driven by injury and actual replacement players in the daily lineup, most of it is simply under-performance. That's not sustainable for a team that wants to contend, and if not for the weakness of the division we'd be in an even worse position than we currently are. This is not a team that can win much with just a few guys contributing at the plate. It's time to burn every bat in the clubhouse and start over. Maybe sacrifice a chicken while they're at it. Berrios (5-4, 3.82 ERA) up against Leake (4-3, 5.46 ERA) on the mound today. I always feel like we have a good chance when José takes the hill.
I'm actually happy that the Brewers are doing well, just not so happy that they've done so at the expense of the Twins this weekend. A quarter of the way through the season, the Twins are below .500, tied for second in the division at 2.5 games back and 6 games out of the wild card hunt, which doesn't seem likely to include the AL Central at this point. Starting catcher Jason Castro is gone for the season. Joe Mauer is on the DL with a neck strain and concussion-like symptoms. Miguel Sano is also on the DL, but started a rehab assignment with Rochester yesterday. Among the healthy players, Buxton, Wilson, Morrison and Adrianza are all hitting near or south of the Mendoza line. Garver, Kepler, Dozier and Grossman are hitting .250 or below. I'm not unhappy with the quality of starting pitching, but the rotation remains fairly inefficient, notching just 210.2 innings over 39 games - just a smidgen over five inning per start (I didn't include Hughes' 2 starts because he'll never be a starting pitcher). Meanwhile, the bullpen has been just bad enough to keep us from contending in the late innings of too many games. Overall, the pitching staff sports a 4.54 ERA (96 ERA+), 4.53 FIP, 1.39 WHIP, and a 2.27 K/BB ratio. On the mound today, Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.35 ERA) takes the ball for the Twins, while Junior Guerra (3-3, 3.08 ERA) will sling for the Brewers.
Hang onto your hats, gentlemen. Today's tilt features a match-up of two rookie hurling phenoms. In this corner, weighing in with a 3-1 record, a 4.10 ERA, and a 0.4 WAR is Shohei Ohtani. In the other corner, sporting a 2-0 record, and a 0.8 WAR, undefeated and unscored upon, Fernando Romero. It's only my humble opinion, but I'll put it out there - these are the two most exciting young pitchers in baseball at the moment. My brother-in-law in Orange will be in the stands today - wish I could join him. Play ball!