Dear Minnesota Twins Fans: Don't Panic
Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" featured user-generated content and a graphic user interface years before those ideas gained a cultural foothold. On the cover of the fictional guide were the words "Don't Panic."
I wish Twins fans would heed the advice.
After a very rough road trip where the Twins went 4-6, including a 16-1 thrashing delivered by the Oakland A's, some Twins fans were already suggesting Bill Smith should pull the plug on the season and start a fire sale.
(An aside, what on Earth did the Twins have to offer in a fire sale? Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede? Big sale there. The Twins don't have the overpriced mediocre veterans necessary to deal to unsuspecting contenders in a fire sale.)
In reality, the Twins road trip along the West Coast meant nothing. What matters are the numerous series the Twins have coming up against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Twins have 16 more games against their division rivals this season.
The Twins are an even .500 on the year and are only three games behind Detroit. A series sweep or two, an injury or two, or pure random fluctuations of performance could put the Twins into the playoffs.
Naysayers talk about the Twins offensive black holes at second base and shortstop, the lack of quality starting pitching and "one good reliever."
Fair points all. But the Twins do have resources inside the organization to upgrade the two infield positions.
As for pitching, it is true the Twins lack star power.
The xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) stats among the Twins starters and starter options aren't great:
Scott Baker 4.14
Francisco Liriano 4.55
Glen Perkins 4.91
Nick Blackburn 4.97
R.A. Dickey 5.00
Anthony Swarzak 5.32
Bobby Keppel 4.82
Brian Duensing 6.15
The median xFIP among qualified starters in the American League is about 4.50. The means the Twins have one above average starter and a group of below average Joes.
A strong offense can give a team enough runs to make up for the poor pitching and the Twins are slightly above average in that department.
A good bullpen can also help pick up where the starters fail.
Okay, so the Twins need to make a move here. Converting a starter is an option (converting a starter to a reliever results in about an .80 drop in ERA and Liriano looks to be a good choice based on the distribution of his ERA over innings).
Also, there are some minor league options and there's always the open market (Cla Meredith was traded for some gum I think).
Still, despite the Twins' shortcomings there is plenty to be positive about as the playoff race starts.
So don't panic.
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