We all know the numbers. On June 1st, the Twins were a whopping 16.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central division. Now, about a month and a half and 35 games later, the Twins have advanced past the Royals (no shock there) to sit 4th in the division, just 6.5 games behind Detroit.
The issue with the team, other than injuries which cannot be controlled, has to be their bullpen. While trotting out names like Hughes, Hacker, and Hoey (alliteration not intended), the Twins have racked up a 5.01 ERA on the season for relief situations. That’s good for…well, it’s good for absolute last in all of the Majors, and nearly half a run higher than the second-to-last team (which happens to be the Tigers, by the way.) In fact, the team doesn’t even have two relievers with sub-4.00 ERAs. Glen Perkins has shined in his newly-acquired relief role, posting a 1.87 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 33 and 2/3 IP. And although Joe Nathan has come around lately, he still has a little bit to go to prove that he is back to his old, dominant self. Jose Mijares’ walk rate has ballooned much like his weight and he is now our second-best option as a lefty reliever. If Capps can get his head on straight, and return to his form from last year when he had as many blown saves (6) in 48 chances as he does this year in just 21 chances, we have a great shot at winning the division.
And let me remind you that if the Twins win the division, it’s more of a testament to how weak the Central is this year rather than how great the Twins are. The next 12 games for your hometown team are all at the sophomore stadium, Target Field. The best part about that is all 12 games are also games within the Central division – four against Kansas City, four against Cleveland, and four against Detroit. It will be a very important stretch for the club this season and should give us some serious ideas as to how the team will turn out come the end of September.