When the Tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe said the line “You cannot be serious” to umpire Edward James on the Wimbledon tennis court in 1981, nobody at the time knew how infamous that line would be.
So likewise, Minnesota Twins fans could say the same “You cannot be serious”. The odds of the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series before the season started were +2400. That number has since changed and is now +6600, and that is generous, depending on who you ask. The Minnesota Twins won the 2020 American League Central Division last year, and they did what they usually do when they make the playoffs, and that is not to try to get better for the 2021 season.
The Twins added free-agents shortstop Andrelton Simmons and pitchers Matt Shoemaker, J.A. Happ, and Hansel Robles. The Twins technically also signed Nelson Cruz, who was a free agent after the 2020 season. The Nelson Cruz and Andrelton Simmons signings are two players that almost any fan would want on their team, so that is understandable. The Twins sit with the Detroit Tigers tied for fifth place in the American League Central with a 26-38 record.
What went wrong with this team? Without a doubt, the most significant factor was not fixing their biggest issue from the 2020 season, which is relief pitching. The Twins pitching staff are last in the American League in Strike Outs, ERA+, Runs. The Twins relief pitchers have the least amount of wins in relief; they also have the most losses in relief pitching. The Twins also lead in IS% (Inherited Scoring Percentage) at 61%. An inherited runner is a baserunner who is already on base when a relief pitcher enters the game in the middle of an inning and scores. The Twins had the fourth-best IS percentage for the 2020 season at 29%.
It’s not just pitching; they have dealt with multiple injuries. The Twins are a different team when Byron Buxton is playing; in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Twins went 88-38 when Buxton was in the lineup. When Buxton was not in the lineup, they went 49-47. Buxton has only played in 24 of the 65 games that the Twins have played this year. 19 of the 45 players that appeared in Twins games this year have been on the injured list at least once. That includes Miguel Sano, Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, Max Kepler, Mitch Garver, Jake Cave, Andrelton Simmons, Michael Pineda, and Josh Donaldson, to name a few.
The Twins are sitting 15 games back as of today from the first-place Chicago White Sox. The Twins are a damn good team, but they are tripping over themselves and are just making ridiculous moves. In his third year of managing, Rocco Baldelli again makes some questionable calls regarding which relief pitchers he is putting into games.
Will the Twins be sellers at the trade deadline? It is safe to assume so; guys like Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, and Michael Pineda might want to get packing and have everything ready to go by the trade deadline. This Minnesota Twins team “cannot be serious” about contending with the effort that they are putting in. An Audacy article from November 2020 said Twins owner Jim Pohlad was tied in tenth for wealthiest owners in baseball at $3.8 Billion. I know it’s easy for me to say, but he should consider putting more money into relief pitching next year, or I suppose maybe Twins fans will forgive him if he helps produce a sequel to Little Big League; his brother Bill Pohlad was the second-unit director for the film. It will turn twenty-six years old on June 29th. That way, possibly Twins can be happy about something again.
The one thing the media talked about last year that was a necessity for the Twins to compete was to get relief help and they did not do that. The Twins used to be a team known for their relief pitching and as of right now there are no signs that will be coming back; especially with the analytics numbers that the Twins are seeing. Taylor Rogers would probably be the best setup man in baseball if the Twins could find someone to close games. The Twins have potential but the main question that needs to be asked is it too late to be fixed and will Rocco Baldelli eventually run out of time? He won’t anytime soon but one thing is for certain, the Twins needs to turn it around and soon.