Last week, columnist Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune wrote a column that concluded with this line:
Maybe this is what the Twins are this year -- a disappointing, opportunity-squandering, .500 team.
This was not a popular sentiment in the Twins clubhouse. Souhan was on Patrick Reusse's morning show on AM 1500 on Thursday morning, with a story:
"I kinda took a shot at the boys... and Gardy got mad at me. He told me the players were very angry with me."
So the players are angry at Souhan. I suppose that's good; it shows they're still in this enough to get mad at a columnist who's pointing out what is obvious, especially considering the team's 43-43 record: the Twins are not only a .500 team, but just about the most average team in the league.
Consider these AL rankings:
|Category||American League Rank, of 14|
I don't think you can argue that I'm cherry-picking those stats to make this argument; that's a pretty broad cross-section of judgments on how the team is hitting, pitching, and fielding. And not only is the Twins' record exactly average, but their batting and pitching numbers all place them among the middle four teams in the American League. (Their fielding numbers are in disagreement, which seems to me to indicate that they're truly in the middle of the pack.)
Unlike some other average teams, though, this seems to be the product of wild imbalances in quality between players. In Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, they have two of the best five hitters in the AL - but they've also given at least 100 plate appearances apiece to Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, and Matt Tolbert, who are three of the worst 10 in the league.
On the mound, they've had one pretty good starter (Nick Blackburn) and one pretty bad one (Francisco Liriano); out of the bullpen, they've had two good ones (Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier) - and three of the worst by any measure (all of whom are gone - Sean Henn, Jesse Crain, and Luis Ayala).
They have several very good fielders (Joe Crede, Denard Span when he's in left field) and at least one truly awful one in Delmon Young,who's been one of the worst fielders in all of organized baseball.
It's hard not to agree completely with Souhan, no matter how "angry" the players might be. With three games to go until the All-Star break, the Twins are right at .500 - and are right where they belong.