The Twins are 5-14. It's really not even a stretch to say they deserve to be there, as Pythagoras would suggest perhaps a one game improvement based on run differential.
The failings of the Twins largely boil down to pitching, or more accurately, starting pitching. Twins starters are a combined 2-11, with a 7.09 ERA, and a 926 OPS allowed through just under 100 innings toiled. By comparison, Twins relievers check in at 3-3 (record basically irrelevant anyway), a 3.74 ERA, and a 685 OPS allowed in 65.0 innings. That's not a healthy innings balance, especially considering the back three guys -- Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, and Matt Capps -- have all had injury flares come up in recent history.
But the starters aren't solely to blame. The offense is squarely just below average, checking in 11th in runs scored. Interestingly, the Twins are well above the midpoint in batting average and OBP (fifth and sixth in the junior circuit, respectively), but are woeful in the slugging department, with a .382 team mark that checks in 11th.
So how can this club be fixed in the short-term? You may note that I don't list any options to re-work the rotation; that's going to be pretty hard to do right now. The Twins are best off letting that sleeping dog lie, for now. Otherwise, let's take a look:
1. Designate Sean Burroughs for assignment; promote Brian Dozier
This isn't as much of a slam-dunk as the average fan might think; Dozier has cooled to a moderate .308/.375/.446 after a scorching start. He's still showing great plate discipline, and has shown good versatility by splitting his time up the middle at second and short. If the Twins are so inclined, they can move Jamey Carroll, but I probably wouldn't. Carroll has been steady up the middle, and at least in my view deserves the right not to move just yet. If/when the season is deemed a total loss, then the club may hand the reins over. As for Burroughs, he's a great story and all, but he just doesn't provide much to the team. He has no plate discipline whatsoever, and plays a position that the Twins could simply fill from within if Danny Valencia needed time off or was injured.
2. Bat Jamey Carroll leadoff.
This is by no means an indictment on Denard Span; outside of Josh Willingham, Span has been one of the Twins best hitters to date. But when two players are likely to post a similar BA/OBP -- which I think may be the case at the end of the season with these two -- the one with the lower SLG should bat in front of the other in an effort to use the second player's extra-base tendencies to drive in more runs. All of which is to say that Denard may hit a few more doubles than Carroll, and will be more likely to drive him in. Also, with a runner at first -- as Carroll will be about 35 percent of the time -- a first baseman holding the runner on will give a left-handed hitter like Span a bigger 3.5 hole (between 3 (first base) and 4 (second base)) to drive a ball. It just makes sense to me.
3. Use a 'closer-by-committee'
The Twins did this for a spell in the late 90s, when guys like Dave Stevens led the club with 10 or something like that saves (off the top of my head). It's relatively simple: in the ninth inning, if two of the three hitters due up are left-handed, Perkins gets the ninth. If they're right-handed, Jared Burton gets the ninth. If the lead is three runs or more, Matt Capps gets the ninth. Now there are obvious modifications; I don't want Glen Perkins saved for a ninth inning to face David Murphy when he should be facing Josh Hamilton in the eighth. But there isn't a lot of foresight needed to implement this change; Capps has improved but is still scuffling a little bit, and all three of those guys are a terrific trio to move around the back end of games. I know this won't be popular, because when I interviewed Perkins last season he bristled at the notion that pitching the ninth wasn't different than pitching the seventh (a relatively popular notion held by many sabermetrically-inclined folks), but at the same time, I can't imagine that all three guys wouldn't love that chance, and competition breeds success.
A few others that may help:
- DFA Clete Thomas
I don't want to give up too soon, but he isn't really working out. Still, he's only a fourth OF and it's just to keep Revere playing every day in Rochester. I go back and forth on this one. DFA-ing Thomas would allow the club to either add J.R. Towles or Rene Rivera to the 40-man, or would also all the club to bring up Drew Butera. Nonetheless, that feeds into....
- Promote another catcher
If the Twins are going to play it so close to the vest to keep from having to enter Ryan Doumit into the game as catcher -- as in, not starting Doumit -- then the club just needs that added flexibility on the bench. The club needs Doumit's bat in the lineup -- even though he's not hitting yet -- and having him on the bench just really isn't helping anyone at all.
- DFA Matt Maloney, bring up one Rochester flamethrower
Maloney has really struggled out of the pen, so why not bring up someone like Samuel Deduno, Carlos Gutierrez, or Esmerling Vasquez? May as well take a shot on a flamethrower in the front of your bullpen and see if they stick, right? I think Maloney would clear waivers, anyway. Jeff Gray might be next on the list, because behind that fancy ERA are some pretty ugly peripherals.
What do you think, TwinkieTown nation?