Twins’ list of problems reason NOT to panic
There is panic amongst Twins fans. ESPN 1500’s Phil Mackey just wrote a piece titled Twins list of problems almost reason enough to panic. They are off to a slow start, yes, but there is no reason to throw in the towel, and certainly no reason to panic. A good majority of Mackey’s points actually give me reason to be hopeful and even downright confident. Let’s start with his list:
- Two former MVPs with flu-like symptoms — one stuck in bed at the team hotel with fluid IVs, the other suffering through bilateral leg weakness. Indefinitely.
Yes, Mauer and Morneau are both out and have been less than productive thus far. You must keep in mind they are both coming off tough off-seasons, had a somewhat short Spring training, and are recuperating from injury. Morneau hadn’t played in live action games for 9 months. You don’t get your timing back right away, it takes time and, most importantly, patience. Yes, they have the flu, these things happen, then take there course and pass. They are both former MVPs, they will be back soon and they will be productive.
- A left fielder with flu-like symptoms as well, awaiting MRI results on his sore ribs.
When the flu hits a team, it usually hits a team hard. These guys are together a lot. Fortunately, it’s just a flu, not a ruptured achilles. Yes, we hope the MRI is negative, but keep in mind it was Young who said he wanted the MRI done before he would play again, not the team doctors.
- A second baseman with a broken leg.
Truly unfortunate, I have to admit, but consider the following: Nishioka is essentially a rookie. Yes, he has experience in Japan, but coming to the US he must learn a new system, new pitchers, new hitters, new everything. Baseball is a very detail specific game. While it would, of course, be better to have him learn on the field, the injury has given him time to do a little research. Hopefully, when he returns, he’ll have a better grasp of the system, know the pitchers a bit more, and be better versed in where to play certain hitters.
- A starting pitching staff with a collective ERA of 5.00 heading into Thursday’s game (fifth-highest in MLB), 40 walks issued (fifth-most in MLB) and 17 home runs allowed (most in MLB).
It is early in the season. At this point in time, ERA is one of the most useless statistics in baseball. A guy can have a 0.00 ERA and have pitched 4 innings against the Padres. The bottom line is we’ve had some great performances and some sub par performances. Luckily, we’ve had great performances from just about everybody in the starting line up at some point. I really dislike walks and usually think the team that wins the walk & error battle has the best chance of winning a game. Walking batters is not Twins baseball. Rick Anderson won’t let that last too long and if it continues, I guarantee there will be some roster moves. As for homeruns, over these first few weeks of the season, we’ve played some power hungry teams. As the season progresses, we’ll give up less homeruns. We gave up 155 last year, We’re on pace for just a bit more than that now - as long as the majority are solo shots, it’s not too big of a problem.
- Two relievers demoted to Triple-A Rochester. Two called up, with the expectation of helping provide depth for a bullpen diluted by a former closer whose uphill climb from Tommy John surgery looks steeper than most thought last month.
The bullpen was the big question mark going into the season, but no one expected them to be lights out. Yes, Nathan blew 2 saves and has been a little less in the strike zone than usual, but give the man a break, he’s got a tendon from his left wrist in his right elbow and hasn’t pitched in a year. Also remember that Nathan, being a team player, decided it was better that Capps take over the role of closer since he knew he was not 100% back - it wasn’t the doctors or coaches that took him out. Again, have patience. His confidence and effectiveness will return - but don’t expect the exact same pitcher.
- Said closer’s ERA has risen above 11.00, and his slider has less bite — this after posting a spring ERA over 9.00. With a similar slider.
See comments about ERA above. And comments about patience above. You can’t expect him to pitch lights out right out of the gate.
- Another reliever on the disabled list since April 9 (retroactive to April 4) with shoulder bursitis.
Slowey has nothing structurally wrong with his shoulder, he will be back.
- An offense that, heading into Thursday, ranked last in runs (54), home runs (6), on-base percentage (.284) and slugging percentage (.314), and second to last in line drives (15.8%).
Alright, the offense has been anemic. There’s no denying it. Guys look frustrated. They’re trying to hard. They’re in a slump. However, you must remember they’ve played a lot of games with a lot of backup players and without their offensive stars. Once the lineup is healthy, the numbers will increase. The Twins are going to score runs. They are not going to end the season anywhere close to what they are currently on pace to do.
- Not to mention, an offense that still has yet to score more than five runs in a game.
Without scoring more than 5 runs in a game, we’ve still managed to win 7 games, and have lost by 1 run 6 times. There have really only been 4 games that were not winnable. It’s actually a testament to how well our pitching staff has done despite the conditions.
- A complete mess.
Injury, sickness, health, slumping, a bit of back luck. These things are easier to come back from.
- And it’s not even May yet.
A few other things to consider supporting the argument there is no reason to panic.
- Thus far, the Twins have played just 2 games within the Central Division - a division we owned last year. By the middle of the season, we will have played the majority of our games against the East - a division we typically do not fair well against. If we can manage OK though that, the second half of the season will be played mostly against the Central and West.
- We’ve essentially played on the road the entire season. We’ve played at Target Field just 5 times. That wears on a team. As we begin playing more games at Target Field, the home field advantage will return. Playing a lot of games on the road also means that as the season progresses, we’ll play more games at home and less on the road. For instance, starting June 9th we play 59 games at home the rest of the season compared to just 40 on the road.
- Barring some miraculous feat, Cleveland and Kansas City will not end the season on top of the division. The teams to worry about are still Detroit and Chicago, who we sit just 2 and 1 games back of respectively.
- Players will get healthy, our stars will return, our lineup will not consistently include Holm, Tolbert, Hughes, and Repko. They will return to the Bench or the Red Wings.
- Nishioka will get health and return. As we begin consistent play within the division, he will get familiar with the teams and be a better hitter and fielder because of it.
- The Twins don’t panic. Unlike many of the fans and writers who worry to much about the stats of a single game or even a month, the Twins know it is a long season and every team has their ups and downs, their obstacles to overcome. In a 162 game 6+ month season, the best attributes you can have are patience and calm. If the Twins start loosing it mentally, that’s when I’ll start to panic.
Ironically, I hit Erin with a line drive yesterday, too.
Twice in one day? What are the odds of that?!