If you are still watching the Twins, like I am, you are probably having the most fun you’ve had all season. Seeing Buxton back, Arraez hit RBI triples, Jorge hit bombs and Jolan Ryan mow down batters by pitching and not just throwing, it’s been fun. Do last-place teams go on four-game winning streaks, even up against playoff contenders, apparently the Twins do. With this team though, it’s expected. They completely underperformed in 2021.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
Being the optimist I am, we will start with the good.
1. Hitting bombs. The Twins still have power, that’s no secret. This bomba squad is still around. Oh, by the way, I’m very happy the announcers and field reporters stopped saying ‘bomba’ because they all said it differently or just didn’t know how to say it, and it drove me bonkers. Anyway, back to the dingers... remember back when Justin Morneau hit 34 home runs in his 2006 MVP season and everyone went wild because no one had done that for the Twins since 1987? Well now 30 homers is no biggy, especially with ‘golden sombrero or moonshot Miggy’ on the squad. Polanco already has 30+ homers. Sano and Donaldson are not far behind, again I remind you, this is the last place team in the AL Central. Did you know, as of September 25, the Minnesota Twins are second in the AL in home runs, only behind the league-leading Toronto Blue Jays? I mean, just wow. Why did this season have to end up the way it did? Anyway, this is good. Bombs are good. They are good for the fans. Good for the score, and it’s good we likely will have most of this power back next season and some. Praying for a healthy Byron Buxton.
2. Luis Arraez. Arraez is one of the biggest assets to the Twins. In my personal opinion, he is, we’ll say the second most crucial player on this team. He hits for contact, finds gaps and can play all over the field. Other than Polanco, he leads the team in hits with a .350 OBP. Arraez is 24 and someone I hope to see in Minnesota for years to come. Keeping him at second base will only make him stronger defensively. He’s also an electric guy in the dugout I imagine, something this team desperately needs.
3. Jorge Polanco. I’m not sure what happened, but this guy just turned it on in the second half of the season. In August he walked off three games in a row. Three Twins wins. Three Jorge Polanco walkoffs. I mean, what? Can you say clutch? Many guys strive to have one walk-off hit in their career, but three? Alrighty then. He was the first to do this since former Twin David Ortiz did it in the 2004 playoffs. Of course, he wasn’t playing for the Twins, but the Red Sox at the time. We all remember that amazing series; the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees. Much to my dismay, I had to go to a friend’s birthday party for game seven of that ALCS, and I still have the VHS I recorded the game on. I recorded over Friends. What an amazing series. Again, ANYWAY, Polanco has turned up the heat. He’s close to a 30 HR 100 RBI season, his best season ever. Let’s catapult this into 2022.
4. More good: Byron Buxton and Joe Ryan. I’m bunching these two together because both could either be greatness or complete disappointment. I am going, again on the optimistic side, and saying we are going to see a dynamite, explosive, healthy year from Byron Buxton in 2022. We saw what he is capable of in the beginning of this season and now at the end, we need a full season of this. Drink milk Byron, take Vitamin D. Baseball needs to see a healthy Byron Buxton. As for Joe Ryan, I don’t think we could have handled the Nelson Cruz trade any better. Ryan has so much control on the mound; he has Twins fans excited. He took a perfect game into the 7th in his second start, and he also struck out seven in a row to finish another start (he was pulled of course.) This guy may have never seen a big-league game in 2021, and now he’s all Twins fans can talk about. He averages more than a strikeout an inning, and he has nice flow too, that always helps. I hope he can continue to keep his composure and keep batters guessing in 2022. Also, Nelson Cruz hasn’t done astounding since joining the Rays. He’s hit homers, but his BA has tanked. Maybe he’s meant for...Minnesota. If Nelson came back to Minnesota, it would be the greatest trade in Twins history, but I won’t get my hopes up.
Next we move to the bad.
1. Trevor Larnach. I called this from the beginning. The guy strikes out, a lot. He did so in the minors. He was going to at the big league level. He’s just that kind of batter. Was he a good corner outfielder for the Twins? Yes. However, he has to get his plate appearances under control, or he is going to be treading in Miguel Sano territory. Also, a contending team with a lot of big hitters is going to find a corner outfielder who is just as talented on defense but hits for contact and OBP.
2. Rocco Baldelli. I could talk about Rocco for a while, but I’m going to point out just one managerial flaw from this season. The Twins started the season going 0-8 in extra-inning games. In these eight games the Twins scored only one run. A free runner on second, with no outs and the Twins scored one single run in eight games. I do blame the manager for poor/no strategy. I will leave this critique at that.
3. Willians Astudillo. People like the guy. I get it, and so do I. He’s fun. He hustles. He plays literally everywhere on the field. He hits for contact... but hitting for contact isn’t cool if you are going to just pop it up. We need contact and production at the plate, not a BA of sub .250. It hurts me to put Willians on the ‘bad’ list, but it just wasn’t his best year. Also, I think we should make our bullpen throw when everyone is sucking, position players are only fun when you are up by 10, not down.
4. Kenta Maeda. Kenta had an okay year, sorta. He’s mainly making this list because of what is to come: a nearly non-existent 2022. Maeda’s injury hurts, for him of course, literally and figuratively, but it really hurts the Twins. Not having a solid pitching rotation is the biggest concern for the Twins come next season. It’s completely up in the air, and that’s frightening. Kenta will be 35 years old in 2023, when he is likely set to return after Tommy John surgery. His 4.66 ERA in 2021 was subpar, and his confidence on the mound just wasn’t there. We will see how the healing process goes.
5. Andrelton Simmons. Many people probably think he should be on the ugly list. I’m putting him here in the ‘bad’ category because I like him in the field. Was this $10.5 million contract worth it? Absolutely not. It all started on the wrong foot when Simmons showed up, and everyone learned we had been saying his name wrong for nearly a decade. His sub .225 BA is the worst it’s ever been. As of September 25, he’s tied his career-low for home runs, and his OBP, OPS and SLG also are at an all-time low. It’s just all-around been a tough year. Hopefully, Royce is right around the corner.
6. Max Kepler. Kepler quietly has crept up there in the power category, but it’s been just that, almost unnoticed success. He’ll likely finish with a 20+ HR season with an OBP above .300, so that’s great. He even will have the most stolen bases of his career, but he really has not had a big impact on this team, not like the Twins are “good,” but maybe they would be if he produced. His .211 BA is what has me placing him on this list, and it’s something I just cannot get over. I mean it’s worse than Miguel Sano. Little production at the plate and poor situational hitting puts you on the ‘bad’ list. Let’s hope for a better season next year.
7. Pitching Overall. The Twins have the second-highest overall ERA in the American League, only losing this last place battle to the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. The Twins have also given up the second-most home runs in the American League, once again the Orioles take the top spot. It’s a common trend, the Twins have also given up the second-most runs, the Orioles only being worse. Look, many of us thought some of the signings in the off-season would work out. Those signings included Matt Shoemaker, Hansel Robles and Alex Colomé. Sigh. Also, we signed Randy Dobnak to a five-year extension, so there’s that.
The Ugly. Look, I’m not going to even get into the details, just by seeing the names you will know. Some have set MLB records not to be proud of, others have blown save after save and hold after hold, it’s just been a tough season.
1. Yep, you guessed it. Miguel Sano.
2. Alex Colomé
3. Hansel Robles
4. Matt Shoemaker
5. Adjusting to the Manfred rules
Here’s to a fun final few series and a more promising 2022. Pitching, pitching, pitching. We’ve been saying it for years.