I've been as critical as anyone about the issues the bullpen has been having lately, but one of the more overlooked problems surrounding the Twins' nose dive is the fact that they just aren't scoring. Or, more accurately, they aren't getting hits, aren't drawing walks, and therefore aren't scoring.
When the Twins went 20-7 in May they scored 5.4 runs per game (a season high), and allowed 3.9 runs per game (a season low). The team was able to back up strong pitching with hot streaks from critical players. Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier, and Torii Hunter all raked in May. It made it very easy for Minnesota to win games, because on any particular day one of those guys was either hitting a big home run or otherwise starting rallies. Getting out to those quick starts was a great way to set the opposition on its back foot.
That's all come to a screeching halt. The Twins have played 15 games since the All-Star break, going 5-10 in that time frame and scoring more than four runs just five times. When a competing team averages 3.7 runs per game, it doesn't matter how many runs the other team scores; they're not going to win very often.
Since the break the Twins have scored an average of 3.7 runs and allowed an average of 5.3 runs. It's essentially a full 180 degree shift from the club's position when it was streaking in May. And while it's absolutely fair to blame the bullpen, too many batters have been going through some serious skids at the dish. Here's a look at Minnesota's hitters since the All-Star break.
(Clicking on row headers will allow you to sort columns)
In the second half the Twins have hit .228/.286/.375, which is a far cry from their first-half totals of .254/.307/.400. It's only been 15 games but they're generating runs at 81% of the league average rate. Something has to change.
Right now Paul Molitor is running with a three-man bench, which consists of Eric Fryer, Eduardo Nunez, and Shane Robinson. As you can see from the table above, there is zero help for hitting.
An alternative would be to go back to a four-man bench and call up Oswaldo Arcia. Hunter is scuffling enough at this point where he could probably use some extra time off, and Hicks could get a day or two versus right-handed hitters and let Rosario play center on occasion to help keep Arcia in the lineup. Granted, Oswaldo isn't doing that well in Triple-A right now, but at least he has a track record of hitting Major League pitching and has some serious power.
To be honest, there aren't a lot of good internal options for the Twins. Unless they want to hand shortstop over to Jorge Polanco everyday, or screw with the outfield for Arcia or Max Kepler, Minnesota's options are limited.
Maybe A.J. Pierzynski and Jose Reyes will become available through waivers, but at this point even August bats fresh off of other teams cause their own issues. Can you tell I'm really reaching for options?
The best thing for the Twins, right now, is for the guys already in-house to pick up their game. Hunter needs to find his swing again. Mauer has been getting better but has slowed again since the break. Suzuki, Escobar, and Nunez all can do something simple: just don't be as bad as you've been these last 15 games. We're talking increments here - baby steps - but until a miracle answer presents itself, the club can only rely on itself.