The Minnesota Twins‘ collapse the last six weeks of the season will have them missing the playoffs. The Twins’ playoff chances have dropped from “unlikely” to “needing a miracle” status. Yes, there are still 11 games left, but with the Cleveland Guardians staying hot; it appears the AL Central title will elude the Twins. In addition, they now need to pass three other teams to earn a wild card spot.
Fun While it Lasted
Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Twins’ record was 50–44 at the All-Star break, and they were sitting in first place. They found and developed some good players for their future including Jhoan Duran, Royce Lewis, (before his season-ending injury) and Jose Miranda,. These players look like main contributors for the future. A breakout season from Luis Arraez, who has a chance to win the AL batting title, also contributed to their early success.
The team spent 92 days in first place, and played well above expectations. They were picked to finish fourth or fifth for the season. They found their home dominance once again. Even their fielding has them back in the top-three in the AL.
What went wrong
However, it looks like the prognosticators had it right. Their prediction was a fourth or fifth place finish. After leading the division for 92 days, the Minnesota Twins collapsed, and you have to ask what went wrong. First off, the trades they made at the deadline did not work out. Closer Jorge Lopez pitched well, but was not the dominating pitcher they thought he would be. He has four saves, but his 5.60 ERA cost him the closer’s job, which went to Emilio Pagan and Jhoan Duran. They traded for starting pitcher Tyler Mahle and he struggled, and then wound up on the 15-day IL.
The Twins have been shut out 14 times, and have lost eight games in walk-off fashion. They are 5–10 in extra innings, and 20–25 in one-run decisions. Currently, they are 23–32 in the second half. Their five wins against 12 losses against the Guardians did not help things.
Injuries happen to all teams, but the Twins currently have 18 of the 40-man roster on the IL, which the most in baseball. The biggest blows affected their pitching. Kenta Maeda has missed the whole season. Injuries to pitchers Chris Archer, Trevor Megill, and Chris Paddack also hurt the starting staff.
Injuries also took out key position players, including vocal leader Miguel Sano, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Royce Lewis. Their depth chart has been stretched to the limit all season, often requiring a third or fourth options at a position to step into roles and try to succeed in holding on to first place.
The Minnesota Twins collapse was also affected by centerfielder Byron Buxton. He is certainly a superstar and a five-tool player. However, he cannot stay healthy. It was not long ago that we were talking about Buxton being the top prospect in major league baseball, mainly because of his speed and remarkable defensive aptitude and gift for playing centerfield. Nevertheless, those expectations have quieted down due to his injuries.
This season he entered the first year of his seven-year, $100 million extension. The year was filled with high expectations. The team leader, who made his first All-Star starting appearance this year, has played in just 92 of the 151 games this season due to a plethora of nagging injuries.
His power is there, but since the hot start that earned him that All-Star spot, the rest of his offensive numbers have not been great, especially his batting average. The Twins need him; they are not good enough when he is out. In addition, now that he is back on the IL—for the third time—for an extended period that is a contributing reason why the Twins have stumbled.
Twins’ fans are wondering if Carlos Correa will return. He certainly has brought his leadership to this team. He has mentioned that on several occasions he enjoys everything about being a member of the Twins. The front-office, manager Rocco Baldelli and the Twins fans have treated him well.
Everyone will want him back. His excellent September has made him an essential part of this team. However, he can opt to leave the Twins. That will not be a popular choice with fans if he does. However, it will free up $35+ million to spend on a shortstop or possible pitching upgrades. Either way, the Twins are in a good spot.
Although it appears they will not make the playoffs, the future is bright for this team. They should be healthy for spring training in 2023. Their young players who started the season in the minors did get some major league experience, which will certainly help. The front office has shown they are willing to make trades and spend money so we expect a busy off-season for them. They have the talent. If they can remain healthy, maybe 2023 can be their year. Barring the miracle referenced earlier, it will not be this year.
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Jhoan Duran, Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda, Luis Arraez, Jorge Lopez, Emilio Pagan, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Chris Archer, Trevor Megill, Chris Paddack, Miguel Sano, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa, Rocco Baldelli