The Runner Sports

Minnesota Twins Need To Beat Better Teams

The Minnesota Twins split their doubleheader with the Colorado Rockies Thursday. Game one saw Ervin Santana have his second rough start of the season and the end of the franchise record-tying home run streak. Game two saw José Berríos outdo his season debut. All told, the Twins lost the series to the National League West leaders.

This is a familiar feeling. The Twins are still first in the American League Central, by one game, but they have struggled against good teams. Following the series with the Rockies, here are the Twins’ records against each opponent:

Boston Red Sox: 1-2

Oakland Athletics: 2-1

Texas Rangers: 2-1

Chicago White Sox: 5-3

Detroit Tigers: 2-4

Cleveland Indians: 2-4

Kansas City Royals: 5-0

Colorado Rockies: 1-2

First thing of note, the Twins have winning records against four opponents and losing records against the other four. Deeper, three of the four winning records are against teams that the Twins were projected to be better than or equal to. The lone exception is the Texas Rangers, who have been really up and down this season. The four teams the Twins are losing, or have lost, their season series against, are all teams that were projected to be at the top of their divisions, or, in Colorado’s case, were popular sleeper picks.

The Twins are nine games above .500 against the first group and six games below against the second, but the way they have gotten to those records tells more of a story. The Twins have a run differential of +35 against the teams they have beaten. They have a run differential of -44 against the teams they have lost to. In other words, they are taking bad losses from good teams, and getting less-than-dominant wins against bad teams.

This is not a reassuring fact. If you are going to be a successful team, beating other successful teams is essential. A trip to the playoffs would be quite short if Minnesota played the way they have against playoff-caliber teams this year. So how can the Twins get better against good teams?

Well, they could have Berríos pitch in every series against good teams. He has allowed nine baserunners (three of them he hit with pitches) in 15 1/3 innings. His two starts were against Cleveland and Colorado. If he keeps it up, the Twins need not worry who they are facing when he is on the mound.

They could also use a good fireman in the bullpen. The Twins have lost three games by double digits this season, and another by nine runs. In all of these games, a close game became a blowout in one or two innings. If the Twins had a lockdown reliever who could come in while opposing teams are at the outset of a big inning, it would be much easier to keep good teams closer. Obviously, this is not an easily solvable problem, but if the Twins are still in contention when the season gets old, a trade for a dominant reliever could change a few games that could make the difference between the playoffs and a narrow miss of postseason play.

An offensive improvement would also help. The Twins were walking more than any other team for a good chuck of the beginning of the season. They have now fallen down to eighth in the majors for total walks. The team was producing a lot more runs and messing with other teams’ pitching staffs when they were drawing more walks. The decrease in free passes is likely due to an adjustment by opposing pitchers, but a subsequent adjustment by the Twins would be welcome. Twins hitters need to be a bit more patient so they can more consistently put up threats against good pitchers.

Hopefully, these, or other, improvements against good teams occur and the Twins can handle all the teams they face. At the very least, they can take solace in the fact that they have a three-game series against the Royals over the weekend, and plenty of other bad teams to face this year.

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer

Charlie Gillmer is a lifelong Twins fan who spends most nights dreaming of learning a knuckleball and pitching them to a World Series victory.
Charlie Gillmer