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Why the Twins crashed out of first place and could finish below .500 in MLB’s weakest division

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While mathematically they remain alive, the Minnesota Twins were essentially out of contention for the postseason over the weekend. The Twins lost four games to Cleveland in a five-game series in four days with the Guardians-top AL Central and lost four of five. Minnesota has lost eight times in nine tries to Cleveland this month and just lost to the fourth-place Royals.

“I’m not ready to talk about the season as if it’s over. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told following Monday’s loss., leaving his team seven games, 15 games behind the Guardians. “I don’t think it’s appropriate. We still have guys at this club who are ready to work and ready to play and we still have games.”

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The season started well enough for the Twins, who secured a team-friendly short-term contract with free agent Carlos Correa thanks to some astute ruse (such as swapping Josh Donaldson’s contract with the Yankees). They were 4 1/2 games up on July 13 and tied for first place on September 9.

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The 2022 Twins’ harsh assessment says they may not finish .500 in MLB’s weakest division, and when the opportunity presented itself in the past two weeks to reclaim the top spot and beat the Guardians themselves, they withered. Even Correa lacks championship-level determination. And that’s not counting the losing streak in the postseason..

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A more condescending assessment of the 2022 Twins acknowledges that they are dealing with a ton of injuries (the Twins have 31 AL-leading players on the injured list) and their forwards are indeed ineffective in important situations. “Grip” is a metric that compares players to themselves. It compares their performance in a high leverage situation with their performance in all other situations, and:

thirty. Cubs: minus-8.85
29. Twins: minus-5.06
28. Angels: minus-4.98

Simply put, this season, the Twins’ forwards haven’t been able to meet the moment again and again. Injuries have played a part in this because the worst forwards have taken on these high-leverage performances, but we can’t be surprised when guys like Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff get injured. In recent years, they visited the list of victims quite often.

Aside from injuries and lack of timely hitting, the bigger problem is the serve, and it’s been a problem for several seasons now. The Twins hired Derek Falvey to run their front office in October 2016, and in the six seasons he was their chief baseball officer, they ended up with a staff below the league average four times. Take a look at their league pitching ratings:











2020 (season of 60 games)









In Fulvey’s six years, the Twins had an above-average pitching staff for one 162-game season and one 60-game season, and that’s about it. It takes some time to turn things around and these 2017-18 clubs reflect more of what Falvey’s predecessors have left than Falvey himself, but the 2021-22 teams are all of him and they’re not good enough.

Falvey went above and beyond by trading for starters (Sonny Grey, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, etc.) rather than signing them as free agents (Dylan Bundy, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, etc.), though even the deals were successful. or skip. Chris Paddack and Tyler Maleh were signed at different times this season, and in total they threw 38 2/3 innings before getting injured.

The Twins won’t have enough pitcher to qualify for an ERA title this year, and while this isn’t automatically a bad thing (the Rays haven’t had an ERA title-qualified pitcher since 2019), know that this is by design. Minnesota rarely lets their starting pitchers go through the lineup a third time, which is understandable given how most pitchers perform worse for the third time on the order. Some numbers on Twins starters:

  • 20.1 batters met per start (second behind the Rays at 19.0)
  • 4.8 innings per start (third behind Pirates at 4.7 and Rays at 4.6)
  • 41 starts with no more than 18 batters (second behind Ray with 47)

Again, the rays show that you can start early and still be successful. However, all those short starts put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, and Tampa seems to have an endless supply of effective power feeders being moved up and down between Triple-A and MLB as needed. Gemini doesn’t have that. These short starts expose the weak side of the bullpen.

It’s too late to save 2022, but it’s not too late to improve course for 2023, and something must give way. Either the Twins need to let their starting players go deeper into the game (which will require bringing in the best starters), or they need to improve their bullpen and overall pitching depth. There are other issues that need to be addressed, such as keeping players on the field, but below-average pitching has been consistent in the Fulvey era. This must change.

The good news for the Twins is that the AL Central is the weakest division in baseball and they don’t need to too much much to return to the postseason mix next year. However, the lack of a playoff this year and possibly a sub-.500 finish in such a weak division has been a concern since the Fulvey era. Geminis continue to face the same challenges every year, and these challenges have flooded them into 2022.


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