Hey all, I'm a student at Bethel University and was recently asked to write an article about the Twins season so far for the campus paper. While it is extremely basic and already outdated by the win yesterday, I figured I'd post it on here just for fun and see what a more dedicated Twins audience thought. So here it is...
There is an old saying in sports, "You can't win a game in the first quarter, but you sure can lose it!" While this saying is referring to a singular game, this seems to be the attitude many Twins fans have already taken while their hometown team has gotten off to a slow start.
From a quick glance it is hard to fault these fans for jumping off of the bandwagon, since (at the time of writing the article) the Twins are not only tied for last place in the AL Central, but have one of the worst records in all of baseball. They are already six games behind where they were at this point last year, en route to their sixth division title in the past decade.
But there are a few reasons I'm not so sure jumping off the bandwagon is necessary at this point. For starters, there have been the obvious injuries coming into the season. While the Twins started out the year with no players on the disabled list (a very rare feat), several key players were limited in spring training, putting them behind most players when it came to reps, and it has been evident in their season production thus far. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young all missed substantial time this spring, and opening the season they have been clearly rusty, as all four got off to uncharacteristically slow starts.
Then there have been the injuries during the season. Starting with new Japanese second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka going on the DL with a fractured fibula just one week into the season, then long reliever Kevin Slowey going down with a sore right bicep, and culminating with the face of the franchise and fan favorite Joe Mauer hitting the DL with what was described as bilateral leg weakness. All three of these injuries happened during the span of one week, and were added to by more minor injuries and illnesses, as Young has already missed multiple games due to sore ribs, and Morneau missed five straight games while fighting a nasty flu bug.
While injuries and illnesses are certainly expected over the course of a long season, this rash of key players missing time this early in the season has undoubtedly played a large role in the slow start. Looking at their Opening Day lineup, the Twins have already been without their No. 2 through 5 hitters for multiple games, including all four of them for some. All that considered, it is easy to see why this usually solid offensive club ranks near the bottom of the league in nearly every key offensive category. It's tough to score a lot of runs when half of your proven and productive starters are out of the lineup.
Then there is the schedule. The Twins are notoriously good at winning games at home, and they have been for quite some time. In fact, last year in their first season at Target Field they had the best home record in the American League at 53-28. What does that have to do with this season? Well, (as of my writing this article) there are no other teams in baseball that have played fewer home games than your Twins. Also, the Twins often struggle against the AL East, especially on the road, while typically taking care of business against their Central Division rivals. So far they have already played in road series at four of the five teams in the AL East, accounting for 14 of their total 20 games (5-9 record), and have played a miniscule three games against divisional opponents (2-1 record).
While it may seem cliché to say that it is a long season when your team gets off to a slow start, in baseball, this really rings true. There are still 142 games left for the Twins to play, only 25 games against the East, and 69 against Central opponents. If Mauer and Nishioka can come back healthy, and if Morneau and others can stay healthy, there is no doubt the Twins can bring home yet another Central Division Title. And if fair-weather fans want to jump off the bandwagon based on the slow start, go ahead. That just leaves more room for the rest of us when the Twins prove you wrong!