Minnesota Twins: Looking For Consistency In the Dome

Duane WinnCorrespondent IApril 13, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 6:  Michael Cuddyer #5 of the Minnesota Twins connects for a single and RBI against the Seattle Mariners in the fifth inning on Opening Day at the Metrodome on April 6, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

Most preseason baseball pundits felt the Toronto Blue Jays would struggle to score runs in 2009.

The Minnesota Twins, in contrast, were expected to field an above-average offense, perhaps slightly less productive than the 2008 edition which scored the third-most runs in the American League.

Wouldn't you know it?

The Blue Jays have emerged as offensive terrors and the Twins are desperately seeking to string together a semblance of an attack.

The Twins and the Blue Jays will collide later tonight in the first game of a four-game set at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Toronto's lineup features five regulars and two reserves who are hitting better than .300. They are averaging more than six runs per game en route to a 5-2 start, another development which analysts didn't expect.

Adam Lind is spearheading the Blue Jays' offense. He's hitting .400 with three runs and 12 RBI. Half of these came in Toronto's 12-5 victory against Detroit in its season opener. Lind also produced four RBI in the Blue Jays' victory against Cleveland on April 10.

Meanwhile, the measure of the Twins' woes on offense can be summed up in two words: Nick Punto.

You know you're in trouble when a career .253 hitter is your main offensive triggerman. But there it is. Punto is hitting a team-high .353, exactly 100 points higher than his career mark, and he is tied for second on the Twins in runs scored. His on-base percentage (.476) and his OPS (.829) are also setting the high-water mark for a Twins' offense that is, to be kind, anemic.

The Twins showed signs of busting out of their offensive doldrums Friday night against the White Sox. But they followed up that 12-run performance with just one run Saturday and Sunday against Bartolo Colon and Mark Buehrle. Overall, they've scored just 26 runs in their 3-4 start to the 2009 season.

Minnesota has struck out an alarming 50 times in the seven games, led by Carlos Gomez's nine whiffs in 22 at-bats. Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede are one behind their teammate in the fan parade and Delmon Young, who provided the only charge for the Twins Sunday with a solo homer, has fanned five times in 15 at-bats.

Justin Morneau, who leads the Twins with seven RBI, voiced the belief that Minnesota's offense will revive once they reach the friendly confines of the Metrodome. There's a bit of irony here as the former MVP is a better career hitter on the road than at home. Yet, his point is well taken.

Cuddyer is a lifetime .298 hitter in the Metrodome (.241 on the road). Jason Kubel (.283 at home vs. .253 on the road) and Gomez (.278 vs. .236) also are markedly better hitters when they are in front of the Twins' faithful.

The Twins' young pitching staff, however, stands to benefit even more. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins were a combined 31-12 at the Metrodome in 2008. Baker, Blackburn, and Liriano each had ERAs under three at home.

The relief corps also enjoyed some quality time in the Metrodome, fashioning a tidy 2.48 ERA indoors as opposed to 5.22 on the road.

The four-game homestand,  coupled with three home games to follow against the Angels, should provide Twins' fans with greater insight into their team's chances for success in 2009. As such, it could be a crucial indicator whether the Twins can afford to stand pat with the troops that nearly captured a division title a year ago.