Call someone in to fix this mess. Call a few people and let them know that they need to start looking for new employers at the end of the season. Call in some grief counselors for the fans of this “team”. The Twins are beyond just being in trouble, this is another season that is over.
There are just too many problems to go into in one post. Coaching, Pitching, Hitting, Fielding, Injuries, you name an aspect of the professional game and the Twins need some major help. The only positive that I can see right now is the farm system. The only problem with having a plus farm system is that the only optimism lies with young players that are unproven in the Majors. Time to break some of the issues down.
Gardenhire has had a long ride in Minneapolis and I think that it is time that we kicked him off of the merry-go-round. The only success that he has had during his time here was early on when the team was still under Tom Kelly’s influence. His coaching record in the playoffs is a horrible 6-21. That is a .375 winning percentage. Oh and the last post season series that he won was the first year as a head coach in 2002. He has lost 12 straight games in the playoffs. He took a team that won back-to-back division championships, and an extra game loss from 3 in a row, to finishing last 2 years in a row and being saved from another by a very pathetic White Sox team this year. Something is wrong when his career W-L is over .500 but he is barely .400 over the last 3 seasons. That is not a good trend and I don’t see it magically improving anytime soon.
Anderson is the pitching coach for the Twins right now and I am firmly behind the idea that he needs to be replaced. The pitching ranks in last or next to last most major pitching categories and those that they aren’t, they are in the bottom 5. That isn’t a miss type, that is a bold fact. The pitching isn’t bad, it is downright HORRIBLE. What has always been one of the Twins’ strengths has now become its biggest liability. Our pitching over the last 3 seasons is consistently in the bottom 3 in most categories. A team cannot continue to be competitive when trying to play from behind in a majority of the games played. Another problem that seems to be plaguing our young arms is an influx of serious injuries. I am not sure though how much of this is Anderson’s fault and how much is just a trend in the sport. It doesn’t help that when we do go after veteran pitchers, they all seem to be coming off of reconstructive arm surgery and have huge question marks on how they will play.
This has a ton to do with Anderson and his performence. He has been the only pitching coach for Gardenhire since he has been hired. The last 2 opening day starters are a combined 3-10, with an ERA around 6.60 and neither made it the entire season on the roster. Any pitchers that are thought to be improving and looking like they could become a viable starter long term, have completely fallen apart. The only positive about the pitching is the bullpen. But that plus only lasts until about the All Star break, when the lack of quality from the starters heaves too much work and pressure to the bullpen and they become overworked. The bullpen would be considered lights out if the starters could average 1 more inning per start. That would make a huge difference in the workload of the pitchers. Also when you still have almost 60 games left in the season and you have already used 19 pitchers, including 9 different starters, your expectations cannot be that good.
I will say that overall the hitting for the Twins hasn’t been that abhorrent when compared to the entire MLB, but when compared to just the AL, bottom third can’t be viewed as acceptable. The biggest issue that I am seeing right now is that there is too much pressure on the hitters. The team is losing more often than not. Every hitter seems to know that they are on short leashes in terms of performance. Gone are the days when a decent hitter with good fielding could survive. Now everyone is supposed to be able to at least .250 with 20 hrs and 100 RBI or at least .300 with 10 hrs and 100 R. In reality, the Twins have always been a team that is average across the board but really good at situational hitting. That entails things like, hit-and-runs, delayed steals, taking the extra base on throws, stealing bases, bunting, sacrifices, hitting behind runners, and others that I just can’t think of right now. I am seeing a huge lack of this type of play in the Twins lineup right now and I am not saying that it is all the coaches’ fault or the players’ either. Brunansky is doing okay, but everything mentioned needs to be stressed more, no more going up and poking for the fences.
The play on the defensive side of the ball is pretty good so far. The only issues that I perceive here are when the errors, both mental and physical, are happening and recovering from them. The guys are making great plays, day in and day out, but every so often they try to do too much because of the situation that the team is in. Sometimes that leads to short arming a ball because they are trying to get the ball out faster so that they can throw it sooner. It is throwing to 3rd to try to throw someone out that is advancing but also letting the hitter go from 1st to 2nd. It is tracking a fly ball that you are trying to make a spectacular catch on, coming up just short and the runner getting a triple instead of playing the carom off of the wall and holding the batter to a single or double.
They happen every year and on every team. Some are nagging injuries that just need a little time to heal. Others are nasty injuries that cause a player to miss considerable amounts of time. Some types of injuries can be prevented with proper stretching before and after games and practices, and the right care in between. Most are just freak accidents though. I don’t know the numbers, but the Twins seem to have had more concussions in the last couple of seasons and not just the minor, 7 day DL kind either. It started in 2010 with Morneau and missing half of a MVP type season, and still not feeling right the next year either. In 2011, Denard Span missed a considerable amount of time, over half of the season, with a concussion also. This year Plouffe lucked out and only missed the 7 days but hurt himself during warmups upon his return. Shortly after his concussion though, Wilken Ramirez went down with a concussion and hasn’t been able to return. His happened in late May. That is crazy to have 3 different players all miss at least a half of a season to a concussion. One happened sliding into 2nd, one running into a catcher at home, and the other by the hand of his own teammate in the field. Im not saying that anything in particular can be done to prevent these but it is frustrating.
Willingham’s knee injury is a bigger concern to me though. The team let him play through it for some time. They then gave him a cortisone shot for the discomfort. Finally after extended poor performances, they finally sent him to the DL before they realized that he had torn his meniscus in the knee. We he is initially feeling discomfort, his stats are way down, and he just doesn’t look like the same player, the staff has to realize that it isn’t just a small tweak. We also have other injuries, throughout the entire organization, but there isn’t much to do about those except lament your team’s bad luck.
The game of baseball is a weird game that we all love because of it. A hitter that just seems to be “on fire” will get a hit on a pitch that breaks his bat or is a check swing, but when a player is struggling, he is hitting line drives right at fielders. Some will lay this to the luck of the draw, and as a fan of the Twins, I say “Lady Luck” is screwing with us. Its a good play on defense here, a missed timed jump or dive there, a seeing eye single, a “Texas Leaguer”, bad bounce, wind gust, bug in the eye, stumble, anything that just always seems to go against the Twins right now. Every game that I watch, I see bad swings that get a hit, an outfielder stealing a HR, a blown or missed call from an umpire. Minnesota just is managing to find itself on the wrong side of the coin on most of these chances and I am hoping that sooner rather than later, the coin finally starts falling our way.
The Twins are 45-60 after their 10th loss to the Royals today and to add to the insult, Terry Ryan sent Scott Diamond and Aaron Hicks down to AAA Rochester. These 2 guys are supposed to be our rising stars. Before Diamond’s surgery to remove bone spurs or chips in his elbow, he was being mentioned as the Opening Day starter and possible long term, top of the rotation starter for the Twins. Hicks won the chance to become the next CF stud for the Twins, following the recent history of Span and Revere last year, Torii Hunter, and Kirby Puckett. While both have been struggling, with this season out of hand, I don’t see the reasoning behind demoting these guys. Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee, and Eduardo Escobar have also been sent down before I felt they needed to be. Doumit is really streaky and only hitting .244 and less than 10 hits and he is considered the DH on this team. Willingham was barely staying above .200 before he hit the DL. Carroll, our super utility guy, is hitting .218 and Thomas is at .226 (lower than Arcia, and about equal to Parmelee and Escobar). If I am Terry Ryan, here are some moves that I would be looking at immediately: cut/demote Doumit, cut/demote Pelfrey, would have tried to trade Correia, (even though I like him) deal Morneau, depending on his health when he returns deal Willingham. My lineup most days (barring injuries and with no trades) would be as follows: Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Dozier 2B, Florimon SS, Plouffe 3B, Arcia LF, Hicks CF, Herrmann RF, Parmelee DH. My bench would be Doumit, Escobar, Bernier, and Collabello.
Overall we have a team of vets that aren’t performing and a front office that seems to be juggling young developing players back and forth to AAA. A finish under .500 and no improvement to the pitching by season’s end, Gardy and Anderson need to be “non renewed”. Every other coach got it last year, it is time to hold the manager accountable for the team’s performance. No more FA signing of vets that have statements like, if he can remain healthy, returns to form, recaptures his swing/delivery. Nurturing of young players better, no more half season and then demote, or month and demote, either commit to developing in MN or leave them in AAA except for injuries. If someone isn’t going to be resigned, deal them early. Returns on trades are better during the season then they ever will be during the offseason. Span should have been dealt last year before the deadline when teams were willing to overpay for him. Revere would have had a whole season to show top of the order ability and been overpaid for this season. Hicks could have been the 4th outfielder this year, with less pressure and more of a chance to develop. Carroll, when he lost his starting position (that he never should have had), should have been let go. 2 players that are catchers and right fielders shouldn’t be on the same roster, will not get enough at bats. If you are going to have a primary DH, make sure he hits somewhere in the neighborhood of .270 with 25 HRs, 80 RBIs, not .240/15/60. Otherwise make it a rotation of players, that way they don’t get out of the groove of hitting when they need a “day off”. Last thing for this post if a power hitting 1B with a violent swing like Prince Fielder can play every game but 13 in the last 8 years, than players don’t “need a day off”, they may want one, but it is in no way a need. They are pros, they can fix their swings in between games. Slumps are broken in the batter’s box, not in the dugout.
Hope the last 2 months show some improvement and development. Let the young guys play if we are going to lose more than we win anyways. Nurture the young talent and remove anyone over 30 that can’t play to league averages.