We’ve all had a couple days to decompress from the bitter playoff loss(es) to the Astros that pushed the Twins’ streak of postseason futility to a record-smashing 18 games. So the natural question we all turn to is “now what?”
For years the refrain has been “fix the pitching.” The Twins did that. At least for two playoff games. The starters, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios shoulder no part on the losses. Both pitched brilliantly, giving up a combined one run in 11 innings. That should have been more-than-enough for a team to have a fighting chance, and indeed the Twins had a fighting chance. We never even saw Michael Pineda, who you could argue is the best starter on the team when available, and I wouldn’t fight you too much on the point. “How will we ever win in the playoffs without starting pitching” rings hollow—we got the starting pitching, and still didn’t win in the playoffs.
Its not entirely fair to blame the bullpen, either. They gave up six runs, only half earned, in the remaining seven innings. Not a great showing, but certainly managable. Especially without the Jorge Polanco error that could have ended Sergio Romo’s nightmare before it really started. Surely any playoff team in 2020 could be expected to provide enough run support to extend a series in which their staff only gave up 3.5 runs per game.
But the run support was the issue. The Twins scored two runs in two games. Runners got on base, but the offense didn’t carry through. This team lived-and-died by the home run for the last two seasons. In 2019 it kinda worked—they hit 307 and set a record. In 2020 it didn’t as much. The injuries might be to blame, or the departure of a couple coaches, or just the short, weird season. It doesn’t matter why. The offense didn’t come through. How the hell can you fix that though?
The team signed the best free agent bat on the market last season. Josh Donaldson couldn’t come through. Nelson Cruz is going to garner some MVP votes. He couldn’t come through. The cheap young core of Sano, Kepler, Buxton, and Polanco couldn’t come through. The Twins couldn’t buy a run with the wealth of King Midas. How the hell do you fix that? Who do you sign this offseason that offers an offensive upgrade? Who do you promote from the minors that will make a difference? I can’t see anyone. The Twins will have to win with what they have.
Maybe its going to be a strategy change, although neither Rocco Baldelli nor his front office bosses will be going anywhere. The Twins will need them to steer the ship another direction. Or win in spite of them. Either/or. Perhaps its a change in the culture of the team. I don’t know how that gets fixed. Veterans like Cruz, Romo, and Donaldson haven’t made the difference. Outspoken young guys like Eddie Rosario haven’t made the difference. At this point, what will?
I leave it to you Twinkie Town: What do the Twins need to do next? What realistic changes can be made to reach the next level?