Time for the Twins to make a move

Marc Elliott

LAKESIDE – The Minnesota Twins will commence a three-game series against their sometimes bitter Central division rival, the Chicago White Sox, at Target Field in Minneapolis tonight. While I'd love to see the Twins get a sweep over the Sox this weekend, the boys are returning from a seven-game, post-All-Star break road trip out west. They swept the challenged Oakland Athletics in a three gamer and earned a split in a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners.  

My concern about this series is borne of a common refrain amongst sports bettors that says to never bet on a home team in their first game back after a road trip. Is that even for real? I'm not into wagering so I can't honestly say, but most serious sports bettors don't throw their money around frivolously, so I'd have to say there must be something to that.  

For this season the series is deadlocked at 3-3 with 3-game series at each venue thus far. At the midpoint of the season the Twins lead the Central, albeit by a slim two-game lead over the Cleveland Guardians. I must also state that it's unlikely to see a team from this division in the World Series this year as it is perhaps the weakest in MLB this season.  

The Twins have clawed their way to a 50-48 record, good for first in the division and a two-game lead over CLE (47-49) and the Sox have basically struggled their way to a 41-57 record that has them 9 games out of the division lead and 16 games under the .500 marker. Just how bad is the Central? Kansas City brings up the rear with a 28-70 record and is a full 22 games out of the division lead. The Detroit Tigers have surprised a bit and find themselves in 3rd with a 44-52 record. The Tigers are within striking distance of the lead at a mere 5 games behind.  

For comparison's sake, the NY Yankees are considered to be having a struggling campaign at this point in the season. They hold a 50-47 record but are in last place in the East, 9.5 GB the leading Baltimore Orioles. (59-37) The Twin's best hope for the playoffs will lie in winning the division. There are no Central clubs in the running for the three Wild Card playoff spots and barring a couple of baseball miracles I don't think there will be.  

So the Twins have to win the division to get into the annual Fall Classic in my humble opinion. Can they do this?   When I was a kid most of the discussion and opinion that shaped what I learned about the game said that strong pitching was a must-have if you wanted to do anything in the game. Strong hitting was also a large necessity, but quality pitching could overcome some hitting challenges. Excellence in the field was pretty big too. How do the Twins break down in these critical areas?      

They have one of the better pitching staffs they have had in the recent past. The hitting is there at times but disappears at others. They are good in the field. The challenge for the Twins this season appears to be in their ability to be at the top of their game in all three of these phases at the same time.   Of course that's what makes it for those at the top of the league and for those who are not. That's the beauty of the game when you can see a team that is at their peak game. Can the Twins elevate?  

The club is 2nd in the league in ERA at 3.94. They are 16th in wins with 50.  They are tied for 2nd with 2 complete games from their starters. They are 1st in least hits allowed at 746. They are tied for 6th least in Home Runs allowed. They are 5th in least bases on balls allowed. They lead the league with the most strikeouts at 940, and they are 1st in MLB in WHIP at 1.168.   Many fans would look at those stats and think that the Twins would be higher up in the league standings all things considered. They are at 16th overall this afternoon.  

At the plate the team stands at 23rd in team batting average, a full six positions below the league average. They are 21st in hits at 775 and 8th in home runs with 129. They are 21st in RBIs with 400, but suffice it to say that they aren't what you would call a "running" team, having only 49 stolen bases to rank 26th. They have been caught stealing on 9 occasions. They are 10th in walks received, but lead the league in strikeouts at 1002. By comparison the next closest team to that stat is at 940. (SEA) They are 13th in slugging percentage at .408 but 10th in runners left on base at 678.  

On the diamond the team is 5th in defensive efficiency at .703. They are tied for fourth in fielding percentage at .987 and the club is currently tied for 6th in least errors committed with 45. The team ranks 17th in double plays with 71. I'm not totally certain what to make of the DP stat, the Twins have usually been very strong at turning the double play, but this could be a reflection of the team's pitching strength.  

At the end of the day the weak link is the team's hitting. There are a handful of players that baseball analysts had higher expectations for at the plate who aren't delivering and if they were, this team would be one of the better teams in the show and would maybe even be considered a contender. When playoff time arrives, great pitching performances can take a club a long way. If the team could elevate their hitting they could surprise. I hope they can get on top of that, and soon. August is right around the corner!      

THE MINNESOTA WILD have signed RFA forward Brandon Duhaime to a one-year deal for $1.1mil. They did so before Duhaime's arbitration hearing took place. No such luck on a deal for RFA netminder Filip Gustafsson as of yet. I'm not certain what Gus's camp is looking for in a deal, but it's no secret that the club is handcuffed as far as what they can offer from an annual basis moneywise, and that leaves GM Bill Guerin with only some term to offer as a means to create a deal acceptable to Gus and his agent Kurt Overhardt.  

The team has 19 of 23 contracts available signed for the big club and Brock Faber and Calen Addison will take up two of the four left. Gus has an arb hearing scheduled for August 4th. A comparable is shaping up for him as the Maple Leafs Ilya Samsonov had an arb hearing this morning and is seeking a deal for $4.9mil. The Leafs offered $2.4mil and are already about $8mil over the cap.  

Personally I think Gus is slightly better than Samsonov and feel that an arb verdict would get Samsonov between $3mil and $3.5mil. A ruling could come as early as Sunday. Guerin WILL be tuned in! PEACE