MLB Notebook: Are the Twins Doomed? Is Offense Back?

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Are the Twins Doomed?

Leading up to the season, and even through the first 10 games or so, nobody beat the drum harder for the Twins than I did. I even said they’d go to the World Series. It’s now a month later, and they have the worst record in the MLB. They’re a frustrating group. It’d be one thing if we could just look at them, throw our hands up, and say this team sucks. We can’t do that.  

Let’s start with the obvious. They are 0-7 in extra-inning games. Some of that has to be chalked up to bad luck, some of that blame can be put on the bullpen that is 25th in the majors in ERA. Minnesota has eight relievers who have pitched at least 10 innings and Taylor Rogers’ 3.21 ERA is the best of that group. Half of those guys have an ERA currently sitting above 5.00, including Tyler Duffey who was almost perfect in 2020. Rogers has an xFIP of 1.95, which gives us a sliver of optimism with this group, but there’s not much else there. 

Starting pitching hasn’t been much better. The Twins rotation ranks 19th in ERA-, while having a poor K/BB ratio. The long ball has been a thorn in their side as well. Only four rotations have allowed more home runs per 9 innings. It’s reasonable to hope Kenta Maeda starts pitching better, and Jose Berrios has been good enough, but without making a trade, it’s hard to see much improvement. 

The bats have been just fine. Minnesota sits sixth in the league in wOBA, third in barrel rate, and hits the ball hard at a higher rate than any other club. They do a good job not chasing outside of the zone and avoiding strikeouts. As a lineup, there’s no major discrepancies in their production whether they are facing lefties or righties. By all accounts, this is a solid group. They just have not gotten big hits late in games. Why that is, I have no idea. Bad luck I guess.  

Depending on where you look, the Twins’ playoff odds still sit around 10 percent. The sky isn’t falling yet, but it’s starting to crumble. We can debate how good the Twins roster actually is, and what this group should be doing, but I think it’s safe to say this isn’t the worst roster in the league and a team that was projected close to 90 wins at some point should not be barreling towards the first pick in the 2022 draft. 

Is Offense Back? 

Nothing is better in sports than getting to declare something is back. We all love to do it. There was a lot of talk in April about the staggering lack of offense we were seeing. The league average wOBA in April was .307, a historically shallow number. Strikeouts were way up as well.  

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why offenses have been struggling so much. Some blame can be hung on the new ball, but at the same time, the strikeout rate has been increasing each year for a while now and it’s possible we’ve just hit a sensory threshold, meaning it’s become more noticeable.  

I’m not an expert in aerodynamics. I couldn’t tell you for sure what effect the ball has had, but we do know what the MLB’s intentions were. They wanted to limit home runs. As of today, the homer rate is 3.0 percent, the same as it was in 2018.  

The good news, for hitters at least, is that the league average wOBA in May has shot up to .315, a noticeable difference from that April number. That’s just a two week sample though, and I am not convinced it is here to stay.

I think the MLB is playing a dangerous game here. Working to cut down on homers may lead to less homers but it may not make the game better. Players have been working on these swings designed to lift the ball for years now, they weren’t suddenly going to revamp their swing in the offseason. If MLB executives thought so many home runs were boring, wait until they see how boring a game filled with flyouts to the warning track is. 

There is no easy fix. There is nothing that will satisfy everyone. It’s an issue that can’t be fixed in season, and one that is hard to test in the offseason. I just ask that the MLB becomes fully transparent with what they are doing. They need to sit down, talk to players and fans, and figure out what they want the game to be. This needs to be priority one. Just like a lot of sports do, the MLB currently sits at a crossroad, and they can’t blow it. 

Mariners Prospects Called Up 

It’s an exciting time to be a Mariners fan. Seattle has one of, if not the best, farm systems in baseball. It’s a system that’s home to four of the top 30 prospects in baseball, including two of the top five.  

Last week, we saw a couple of these big names make their first MLB appearances. The headliner was Jarred Kelenic. Kelenic probably could have been up to start the season, but I’m pretty sure it’s a rule that no top prospect can make his debut until some good old fashioned service time manipulation has occurred. That’s beside the point. Kelenic has had just 18 plate appearances so far and is batting .167, but he did homer for his first big league hit. He may get hot and look like he belongs right away, or he may take some time to adjust. You never know. It’s a good thing nobody ever overreacts to how top prospects look in their first few series. 

The other heralded name to debut last week was pitcher Logan Gilbert. Gilbert doesn’t bring the same hype that Kelenic does, but Seattle believes they have a solid number two starter in the making here. His first start didn’t go great, but he has good command, and he may be able to adjust quicker than most. The big takeaway from all of this should be the Mariners championship window is beginning to open. How they build around these guys and make use of the rest of their young talent these next few years will decide the fate of this front office. 

Dodgers Add Pujols and Tsutsugo

The injury riddled Dodgers began reworking their bench over the weekend with the additions of Ablert Pujols and Yoshitomo Tsustugo. These moves shouldn’t change how anyone feels about LA one way or another. The Dodgers just need some help against left-handed pitching off the bench, and that’s all they will be asked to do. David Price will be added to the active roster this week as well.

Kris Bryant is Having The Best Year of His Career

Not many people knew what to expect from Kris Bryant this year. So far, he’s having the best season of his life. He’s fifth in the MLB in WAR and has a wRC+ of 175. This is great news for the Cubs who are likely to be sellers at the deadline. If Bryant keeps hitting like this, he could be the most coveted trade piece in a couple months. 

Stanton to the IL

Giancarlo Stanton has dealt with injuries for a large portion of his career and on Monday he made another trip to the IL, this time with a quad strain. This isn’t considered too serious and Stanton could be back by next week, but you always want to keep an eye on players coming back from muscle strains. The Yankees will call up RHP Albert Abreu to fill the roster spot.

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