Thursday, August 4, 2016

These 62 Twins Seem More Realistic

Through the beginning of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins were the worst team in baseball. Paul Molitor's club lost their first nine games, and they were competing on a nightly basis with the Atlanta Braves to see who could pile up losses at a faster pace. Over the past 62 games though, the Twins have looked like a much better representation of what should have happened this season.

Out of the gates, things were bad for the Twins. Through the end of June, Minnesota owned a -112 run differential and an ugly 25-53 record. It wasn't a much better situation than their 11-34 start through the initial 45 games of the season. A team that was expected to be carried by youngsters and supplemented by veterans had fallen flat in every imaginable way.

Recently though, a significant corner has been turned. Sure, over the past few days in Cleveland, the Twins have set the world on fire. They've scored double-digit runs in three straight games for the first time dating back to 2010. Despite facing one of the best pitching teams in the big leagues, Minnesota has made waves with offense.

It's not tied completely to the output in Cleveland though. Across their past 62 games, Paul Molitor's club has played what breaks down to .500 baseball. They are 32-30 in that span, and have been even better of late. Since July, Minnesota owns an 18-11 record and has outscored opponents by 44 runs. The turnaround has been drastic, but it's been more indicative of what should have been expected from the get go.

Sure, Brian Dozier hitting over .300 since June 1 is probably something nobody saw coming. Max Kepler was expected to be a solid contributor, heck I called him a dark horse for the American League Rookie of the Year, but what he's doing now far surpasses those expectations. While the script has been completely flipped, it's the sum of those parts that lands somewhere that it really should be.

Coming into the season, Minnesota was seen by many around Twins Territory as a potential playoff team. After making a late season run a year ago that was masked somewhat substantially by luck, the playoffs as a possibility may have been a fools errand from the get go. More realistically, this group could've been cast as a competitive club that hung right around the .500 mark for most of the season. The AL Central didn't have anybody that was seemingly going to light the world on fire, and Molitor's group could settle in somewhere in the middle.

After getting off to such a poor start, the hole this team dug itself was substantial. If for no other reason, the struggle costing Terry Ryan his job was a necessary evil. The organization needs to clean house and build differently for the future. That being said, continuing at a blistering pace (as has been the case over the past month or so), is less important that simply staying the course.

Should the Twins be able to finish out the final two months of the season playing competitive baseball and toeing the .500 line, you can look back at 2016 as a significantly different season than it appeared destined to be. While not at all where the club wants to be right now, there's a lot less negativity at this point than there was just a matter of weeks ago.

In short, this Twins club is much more the team it was the past 62 games than it was the first 45. What remains over the course of the final 55 is yet to be determined, but continuing to fall somewhere in the middle ground is a pretty good bet.

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