What is wrong with the Minnesota Twins? After most baseball authorities picked them to make the playoffs, and make a possible World Series appearance, they have stumbled into last place. The Twins started off the 2021 season in a way that none could have seen coming. Their rotation started strong, then just collapsed. Their bullpen has struggled as well–blowing the few leads that the starting rotation and hitters have given them. The lineup has also struggled mightily with situational hitting to start the season. This has put the team in a quandary that has fans wondering if they will, or even can, recover–and if so, can they contend?
Can’t Seem to Catch a Break
What is wrong with the Minnesota Twins: This team can’t seem to catch a break. Their season started with a stretch of day games, followed by a COVID-19 pause in games. Then came injuries to both starting pitchers and everyday players. Also, the key to their miserable start, is that they have only 3 wins with 13 losses in extra-innings and seven-inning games.
Injuries to Players
They have had injuries to position players in Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Mitch Garver, Max Kepler, and Rob Refsnyder. In fact, as of this writing, all six are still on the IL. Add to that list, the pitchers that are currently on the IL: Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Devin Smeltzer, Caleb Thielbar, and Lewis Thorpe.
Back end of the Rotation
However, injuries are not the Twins’ only problem. The back end of the starting rotation has failed, including Matt Shoemaker, who was being counted on to provide leadership and stability. Shoemaker cannot find the strike zone and has seen his ERA balloon to over seven.
Bullpen pitching has also been lacking and definitely not demonstrating their capabilities. Their newly acquired closer, Alex Colomé, has blown three saves. His ERA is well over five and he appears to have lost his job to Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers. The middle of the bullpen cannot hold a lead and there has been no consistency from them. On top of that, they have been overworked because starters are being pulled earlier in games.
Hitting Has Suffered
What is Wrong with the Minnesota Twins: They have big issues on offense. Their overall hitting has suffered from several hitters struggling. Most notably, Cave, Garver, Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano are all batting under .225 at this point. They are only hitting .240 as a team, the sixth-worst in baseball.
Runners in Scoring Position
Hitting with runners in scoring position has dropped off. They are hitting just .217 with base runners on second and third in the seventh inning and beyond. That simply isn’t going to do the job if they expect to win or even contend. The Twins must do better.
Season Not Over Yet
Could the 2021 season already be over? There is still plenty of baseball left to be played, so this season is probably not a completely lost cause at this point. However, the next 33 games before the July 13 All-Star game will decide whether this team will be in a playoff spot, or whether they will see players leave at the July 30 trade deadline. Some good news is that 19 of those 33 games will be played at home. Though they are currently 12-17 at home, they have a 73-48 record at home since 2019. They’ll have six days off including two in a row after the All-Star game. That should help the overused bullpen.
What It Will Take
So, what will it take for them to get back into playoff contention? If they can get improvement in all areas—offense, pitching, and even defense—they could see themselves in the middle of a playoff race in September. They need a consistent lineup with the position players. That has happened for only 11 games. With several players coming off the IL soon, the Twins are hoping that will help get their bats going. Though hitting with runners in scoring position must be addressed.
The inconsistent play in the field must improve as well. One highlight sees the Twins in the top five in double plays. However, they are near the bottom in errors from shortstop and third base. They need to get stability from their starters and bullpen. The starters need to go at least six innings, even better if they go more, and the bullpen must hold leads and closeout games with saves.
Need Byron Buxton Back
This team needs Byron Buxton back. When healthy, Buxton has the tools and the athletic ability to change the outcome of a game. He was off to his best start ever, hitting .370 with nine home runs when he landed on the IL with a hip strain. He also missed four games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury. Not only has he become an excellent hitter, but he is also a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder with tremendous speed and alertness, along with the ability to chase down any ball hit in a center-field gap.
Whatever their issues, the Twins need to find a way to get into a hot stretch and get their confidence back. The likelihood of a hot stretch seems more realistic with players such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Garver, Kepler, and even Sano. All can find their power stroke once again and get this team back to their “Bomba Squad” time of 2019 when they broke the record for the most home runs in a season. There are plenty of games left for their hitting, their starting pitching, and their bullpen to heat up at some point. However, it needs to be sooner than later if the Twins want to find themselves as a playoff contender.
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Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Mitch Garver, Max Kepler, Rob Refsnyder, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Matt Shoemaker, Alex Colomé, Hansel Robles, Taylor Rogers, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson