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Watch out Detroit … The Twins are On The Prowl Now!

About two months ago I wrote about the Twins failing to utilize the full potential of their team; that’s changed in a big way since my last post about Minnesota. 

Since June 8, the Twins have a record of 34-8, by far the best in baseball during that time period, and it has allowed them to run down the White Sox, to tie the Yankees for the lead in the AL Wildcard race.  But the Twins are far from done, and the nickname “Mini Twinkies” can safely be put away for awhile. 

Over the past month and a half, the Twins have been hitting well throughout the lineup, getting quality starts from each of their starting pitchers, and near perfect relief from their bullpen.  Those are the three of the four most important aspects of baseball (defense is the 4th), and if you’re doing them right, you’re going to get hot, then hotter, and (as the Twins are now) become the hottest team in baseball. 

Here’s a breakdown of the keys to the Twins success…

At the plate, the Twins have the MLB batting average leader in Joe Mauer, one of the best young hitters in baseball in Justin Morneau, and a solid supporting cast of Michael Cuddyer, Luis Castillo, and Jason Bartlett.  What’s even more impressive is that every Twins position player is under 30 years old, making it the youngest lineup in baseball, so the Twins will likely be good at the plate for many years to come.  Fans aren’t complaining about Joe Mauer’s lax hitting, they’re asking “can he hit .400?”.  They aren’t wondering why Justin Morneau’s power can’t translate into consistent hitting, they’re watching him launch deep homeruns and reach base every game, propeling the Twins to wins.  The Twins can get away with a few 0-for-4’s each game from their supporting cast, because Mauer goes 3-for-4 or Morneau launches a 3-run bomb and they still win the game.  Another interesting but less important note is that even the Twins backup catcher, Mike Redmond, is batting .333. 

The last paragraph made you think hitting is the Twins stronghold, but the truth is, hitting is probably one of Minnesota’s weak spots.  The 1-2 combination of Johan Santana and mini-Johan Santana (Francisco Liriano) is just about the best in baseball.   A heavy mid-90’s fastball coupled with a devastating change-up allows both of them to fool opposing hitters and rack up the strikeouts every time out.  Liriano, one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year, is 12-2 with a league leading 1.93ERA and a whopping 125K’s in just 107 innings.  His older pitching-style twin, Johan Santana, is 12-5 with a 3.04ERA and 158K’s in 151 innings.  Those two at the top of a team’s starting rotation pretty much solidifies a victory every series.  Behind them are veterans Brad Radke and Carlos Silva and rookie Scott Baker.  Radke, despite a horrible start, has bounced back to put together a 9-7 record with a 4.74ERA.  Over his last six starts (dating back to June 25th), Radke’s ERA is a terrific 2.30, and his success has been crucial to the Twins’ hot streak.  Rookie Scott Baker is 3-6 with a 6.27ERA in his 11 starts, but he’s only made two starts since Minnesota’s amazing run started in June.  While Baker did not pitch well in either of those starts, good run support led to a 1-1 record for Baker since his call-up after the All Star Break (replacing fellow rookie Boof Bonser).  Carlos Silva is, lightly put, another story.  He is 6-9 with a 6.84ERA, and easily deserves to be designated for assignment, but the Twins are giving him a chance because he’s just 27 years old and has decent stuff.  Unfortunately, he’s also out of minor league options, so the Twins will need to make a trade for another starting pitcher or be prepared to score eight runs to win any of Silva’s starts.  Even with Silva however, the Twins starting pitching is among the league’s elite.

But even starting pitching isn’t the biggest key to the Twins success; Minnesota has quite possibly the best bullpen in the MLB this season.  Closer Joe Nathan, who came to Minnesota along with Liriano and Bonser in one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history (with the Giants for AJ Pierzynski), has recorded 21 saves in 22 chances, while compiling a 1.47ERA and 63 strikeouts in 43 innings, to go along with a perfect 6-0 record.  You can’t ask for much more from a closer; Nathan could easily have 35-40 saves if the Twins had been hot the entire first half.  His setup man, Juan Rincon, is 3-0 with a 1.95ERA and 46 strikeouts in 50.2 innings.  Rincon has been the AL’s Scott Linebrink, in terms of his consistency in keeping the lead to get the game to Nathan in the 9th.  The regular lefty specialist for Minnesota is Dennys Reyes is 2-0 with a 1.33ERA and 23K’s in 27 innings.  If there’s a dangerous lefty like David Ortiz or Travis Hafner at the plate late in the game, Manager Ron Gardenhire calls for Reyes, and 8 times out of 10 (lefties hit .186 against Reyes), he gets them out.  The other relievers, Jesse Crain and Willie Eyre, have recovered from slow starts to become solid middle-relievers and they have been solid when the Twins’ starting pitcher struggles (they’ve helped Minnesota win a few of Carlos Silva’s starts this season).  Overall, the Twins bullpen is quite possibly the best in baseball.

With a starting rotation and bullpen like that, the Twins are almost a lock to win every game when they get the lead.  And those games are common, with hitters like Mauer and Morneau in the lineup.  It’s not hard to see why the Twins have been red hot lately, and it’s very hard to see them cooling off anytime soon.  So, as the title says, watch out Detroit, the TWINS are on the prowl now!

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One Response to “Watch out Detroit … The Twins are On The Prowl Now!”

  1. The Twins have really been tearing it up for quite a while now, but just recently flew onto the radar. As the Twins began their incredible surge, the Tigers & White Sox were still both red hot, and Minnesota was 20 games out. Not any more. I counted out the Twins very early this year (and mistakenly so, as it turns out) when it seems they could do nothing right.


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