The second half for the Minnesota Twins has them in a great position. However, there are questions looming. The Twins currently lead the American League Central, and have been one of the surprise teams in 2022. The question is will they maintain their lead and win the division?
The Twins struggled in 2021, losing 98 games. They were picked to finish last again this season. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians were considered the teams to challenge for the division. However, the Twins’ pitching staff has been impressive, and has kept them in a lot of games. Also, their lineup has hit the last two months to complement the pitching and have gotten the timely hits when needed to keep this team in first place.
The team also benefited from the struggles of the White Sox and the Guardians. Both started off the season slow in April while the Twins had winning months in April and May. While the White Sox and Guardians were losing eight out of ten games early on, the Twins were winning eight of ten.
Cause for Concern for Minnesota Twins
The second half for the Minnesota Twins starts with a cause for concern. They had a losing record in June and are currently 7–8 to start July. Injuries to the starting pitching staff have caught up to them. The bullpen has been taxed.
Lately, the bullpen ERA has increased. They are last in the AL in home runs allowed by the bullpen arms. The bullpen gave up three-run leads and lost games on consecutive nights to the Texas Rangers. Emilio Pagán’s struggles with his ERA, which is over 5.00, has the team seeking a reliable closer. Jhoan Durán, considered the closer of the future, has closed some games; however, he is still a rookie.
Minnesota Twins Lose their Pitching Coach
One of the biggest difficulties affecting the pitching staff has been the loss of their coach. In a surprise move, pitching coach Wes Johnson left the team last month to return to college coaching. It’s difficult to say how much of an impact this will have on the team in the second half, but replacing your pitching coach at midseason is not ideal. Although Pete Maki was named the new pitching coach, it will take some time for both Maki and the staff to get to know each other. With the injuries and the overused bullpen, Maki has a lot to deal with. Will he, his staff, and the pitchers be able to overcome their issues and return to their early-season strength?
Second Half Schedule
There are 68 games left for the Twins in the second half, including 27 games against the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers. Those teams are out of the playoff chase—barring a drastic collapse from teams ahead of them.
That, however, leaves 41 games against teams with better-than-.500 records, all of whom are in contention for playoff spots. This includes 17 games against contenders in their own division, eight against the Guardians and nine against the White Sox. In fact, six of their final nine games are against the White Sox.
Need to be Buyers
One way or another the Twins need to be buyers when it comes to the trade deadline. Yes, they are a good baseball team, not spectacular, but not terrible. They will need help to maintain their lead. If they want to make the postseason, they need to make trades
The question is, are there trades to be made? Not counting division leaders, there are as many as 14 teams considered contenders for playoff positions. Are any of them going to be willing to give up good players to their competition?
Looking at the Twins, will they have enough to offer to get the players they need? Will they be willing to part with some of their younger prospects? Their farm system is ranked 22 out of the 30 MLB teams, will they be able to get anything?
If the Twins decide that they are in on trades, starting pitchers and at least two or more relievers is what this team needs the most. While bullpen help is understandably the first item on their “needs” list—which also includes trying to find a left-handed reliever—they should try to make a splash by acquiring a playoff-caliber starting pitcher. They need someone to complement Chris Archer, Dylan Bundy, Sonny Gray, and Joe Ryan.
Second Half Outlook for the Minnesota Twins
The second half for the Minnesota Twins could still be a positive one, however. Thirty-two of their remaining games are home games. Winning those contests would keep them in a good place. Another key for their second half success is Byron Buxton staying healthy. He also must improve on his current .216 batting average. Yes, the power is there. He has 23 home runs, but he needs to be the leader for this offense with both power and timely and consistent hitting.
The Twins also need to find a way to get their pitching back on track; that is, keep their pitchers healthy and get consistency from their bullpen. And, if possible, add to their pitching staff via trades to shore up their areas of weakness. If the Twins can do all that and if they make the right moves at the trade deadline, they should have no trouble holding on to first place and win the AL Central.
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