Why did the Twins fall out of first place and manage to finish below .500 in MLB’s weakest division?

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correa strikes out getty Why did the Twins fall out of first place and manage to finish below .500 in MLB's weakest division?

Although they are mathematically alive, the Minnesota Twins were eliminated from postseason contention last weekend. The Twins took a four-game deficit to Cleveland in five games into a four-game series with the AL Central-leading Guardians, and have lost four of five. Minnesota has lost eight of nine attempts against Cleveland this month and was swept by the fourth-ranked Royals.

“I’m not ready to talk about the season like it’s behind us.” Twins manager Rocco Baltelli told MLB.com following Monday’s loss, which put his team seven games behind the Guardians with 15 to play. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. We still have guys in that clubhouse ready to work and ready to play and still have games to play.”

The season started well enough for the Twins, who brought in prized free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa on a team-friendly short-term deal with some shrewd trade craft (namely dumping Josh Donaldson’s contract on the Yankees). They were in 4 1/2 games on July 13 and as recently as Sept. 9. Then gave it down.

A harsh assessment of the 2022 Twins suggests they may not finish .500 in MLB’s weakest division, and when given a chance to hit first and beat defenders themselves these last two weeks, they wilted. Even with Korea, there is a lack of championship-caliber determination, It also didn’t suffer losses in the postseason,

A more forgiving assessment of the 2022 Twins admits they’ve had a ton of injuries (the Twins have put an AL-leading 31 players on the injured list) and their hitters haven’t really performed well in critical situations. “Clutch” is a statistic that measures players against themselves. It compares their performance in the high-performance situation with their performance in all other situations, and:

30 Cubes: Minus-8.85
29. Twins: Minus-5.06
28. Angels: Minus-4.98

Simply put, the Twins’ hitters have failed time and time again this season. Injuries have played a part in this, as lower hitters have taken those high-leverage plate appearances, but we can’t be surprised when guys like Byron Buxton and Max Kepler and Alex Grilloff get hurt. They have frequently visited the injured list in recent years.

Beyond injuries and not hitting at the right time, the bigger issue is pitching, which has been an issue for several seasons now. In October, the Twins hired Derek Falvey to run their front office. 2016 and, in his six seasons as their chief baseball officer, they have finished with a pitching staff below league average four times. Check out their league-wide pitching rankings:

2017

18th

24th

2018

22nd

122nd

2019

8th

4th

2020 (60-game season)

4th

3rd

2021

On the 25th

On the 25th

2022

20th

23rd

In Falvey’s six years the Twins had one 162-game season and one 60-game season with an above-average pitching staff, and that’s about it. The clubs for 2017-18 reflect more of Falvey’s predecessors left than Falvey, but the 2021-22 squads are all him and they’re not good enough.

Falvey has done his best work for trade starters (Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan, etc.) and not signing them as free agents (Dylan Bundy, JA Happ, Matt Shoemaker, etc.), even if the trades have suffered. or miss. Chris Paddock and Tyler Mahle were acquired at different points this season and each threw 38 2/3 innings before getting hurt.

Just know that the Twins won’t have enough innings pitched by a pitcher to qualify for the ERA title this year, which isn’t automatically a bad thing (the Rays haven’t had a pitcher qualify for the ERA title since 2019), it’s intentional. Minnesota rarely allows its starting pitchers to go through the lineup a third time, and it’s understandable to see how. Most pitchers perform poorly the third time through the ordersome numbers among the Twins starters:

  • 20.1 batters faced per start (second fewest behind Rays at 19.0)
  • 4.8 innings per start (third fewest behind Pirates 4.7 and Rays 4.6)
  • 41 starts without facing more than 18 batters (second behind the Rays with 47)

Again, the Rays can pull your starter early and still show success. All those short starts put a lot of pressure on the bullpen, however, and Tampa has an endless supply of effective power relievers who can switch back and forth between Triple-A and MLB as needed. Twins don’t have that. Those short starts reveal the weak underbelly of the bullpen.

It’s too late to save 2022, but it’s not too late to improve 2023 and something has to give. The Twins either need to let their starters work deep into the game (which requires bringing in better starters) or they need to improve their bullpen and overall pitching depth. Other issues should be addressed, such as keeping players on the field, but below-average pitching has been a constant during the Falvey era. That has to change.

The good news for the Twins is that the AL Central is baseball’s weakest division and they don’t have to too Gotta get back into the postseason mix next year. However, missing the postseason this year and finishing below .500 in such a weak division raises concerns about the depth of the Falvey era. The Twins have faced the same problems every year, and those problems overwhelmed their 2022.

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