Minnesota Twins: 7 Things the Twins Must Do Now to Win the AL Central
The Minnesota Twins first half of the season can be described in one word: disappointment.
At one point, they were 16.5 back.
But the Twins have not given up yet. The Twins are only 6.5 back and rolled into the All-Star break with a lot of momentum.
The Twins are undoubtedly a second-half ball club, and they are trying to make their biggest turnaround yet. It is not impossible for the Twins to win the AL Central, but it will be a challenge.
The Twins are turning heads around the league and are starting to be recognized as an actual contender in the Central.
If the Twins can do these seven things, they will come out on top in the AL Central.
The Starters Keep Dominating
The starting pitching started off slow for the Twins, but in their recent starts they have been the biggest part in the Twins success.
Since the start of June, the Twins starting rotation has been excellent.
Since June 1, Scott Baker has an ERA of 2.20, Francisco Liriano's is 4.11, Brian Duensing's is 2.47, Carl Pavano's is 2.68, and in Nick Blackburns' last 13 starts, his ERA is 3.93.
The recent success of the starters has helped the Twins go 24-12 since the start of June, turning the season around completely.
Get the Bullpen in Order
The Minnesota Twins bullpen is the worst in the MLB.
The bullpen's ERA is above five. With Matt Capps not being consistent as a closer, and Joe Nathan coming off the DL, the closer position may be up for grabs.
To say the least, Matt Capps has been terrible out of the bullpen. He has a 4.42 ERA with six blown saves already this season.
With those numbers, that is not a guy the Twins can have in the closer position.
Joe Nathan was supposed to be the setup guy but he has been called in a couple of times to make the save. He has three saves on the year in six attempts, which is not good at all. He has a 5.82 ERA, and he is having one of the worst years of his career.
The only guy doing well out of the bullpen is Glen Perkins. He has a 1.87 ERA with 12 holds and a WHIP of 1.19.
Winning the one-run ball games is going to be crucial if the Twins want to make a playoff run, and to win one-run ball games, you need guys who can hold leads. With a bullpen like this, the Twins best opportunity to win is to make a move before the trade deadline.
Be Buyers Instead of Sellers
The Twins are not out of the AL Central race. They are only 6.5 back behind the Tigers, and the Twins are known for their dramatic comebacks.
In 2009, they were down seven games with only a couple weeks left and tied the Tigers, forcing a game No. 163. This was probably one of the best games in Twins history. They are also one of the best second-half ball clubs in all of sports.
The Twins need to be buyers this year and pick up a middle reliever or a setup man. The bullpen has been terrible. They have lost nine games when leading in the seventh inning or later. The Twins bullpen has the highest ERA in the MLB. The Twins need a bullpen pitcher, badly.
To get a good bullpen pitcher, the Twins will have to deal not only prospects, but some guys in their lineup as well. The Twins have five guys who could start at an outfield position, opening up the door for teams to make offers.
Jim Thome's name has been tossed around in some trade ideas, along with Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Kevin Slowey. Any of these guys could make a great addition to a team needing a big bat, or a fourth or fifth man in a rotation.
The Twins could send a package deal of Kevin Slowey, and any of those three other players for a solid middle relief pitcher, or closer. This would dramatically cut down the bullpen ERA and keep the lead late in ball games.
Make Ben Revere an Everyday Player
Ben Revere has been outstanding since he was called up to replace Denard Span due to his concussion.
This season he is hitting .275, with an OBP of .310, and has 24 runs in only 178 at bats. He has shown that he belongs in the MLB by having a breakout month of June. In June he hit .294 with 14 runs, four doubles, a triple, nine RBIs and seven stolen bases, earning him AL Rookie of the Month.
Revere was called up on June 2 and helped the Twins get on track again. He has been all over the highlight reels providing excellent defense in center. Since Revere has been in the everyday lineup, the Twins are 19-7.
Revere adds the element of speed to the game and has been a huge part of the Twins top of the order. Ben Revere has been an excellent replacement to the injured Span and has proven to the Twins he deserves a spot in the starting lineup.
Go Back to the Piranha Ways
In the middle of the 2006 season, the Twins lineup consisted of Jason Tyner batting eighth, Jason Bartlett ninth, Nick Punto first, and Luis Castillo second. These four guys were given the nickname "Piranhas" by Ozzie Gullien because of their ability to all hit like leadoff hitters, for average, and not power.
Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Ben Revere, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are very capable of being the new piranhas. All four of these guys hit for average and not power, and putting these guys 1,2,8,9 in the order would be great for the Twins.
With these guys hitting for average and not power, it would give the Twins a perfect balance of guys who can hit for power, and guys who can hit for average. By putting Ben Revere and Denard Span at the top of the line up, Joe Mauer and Micheal Cuddyer would have more opportunities to drive in more runs.
Revere's and Span's speed at the top of the lineup would open up a new gate for the Twins offense. They could call hit and runs, straight steals and sacrifice bunts.
Eight and nine hitters need to be scrappy, and get on any way possible. Alexi Casilla, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are pretty scrappy hitters. They can beat out infield hits, and put the ball in play anyway they can.
Going back to this kind of offense would be the perfect balance of power and speed, something that a team needs to make a playoff run.
Get Joe Mauer as Many At-Bats as Possible
When Joe Mauer came back off the 60 day DL, he did not start off like an All-Star catcher. In the month of June, he only hit .195, and his average on the year is .243.
Things have seemed to be getting better for Mauer, as he is starting to look like his old self at the plate.
In the month of July he is hitting .306. Mauer also has an option to be in the lineup everyday if Ron Gardenhire wants him there. He can play first base if he needs a day to rest from catcher, and he can DH with Jim Thome on the DL. With Drew Butera playing so well, it might not be a bad idea for him to take a little break from catching.
Drew Butera, the backup catcher, has started to prove that he can hit. Since the start of June, he is hitting .324. With Butera hitting well, Mauer can get more starts at first, and DH. Most importantly, he can rest his legs for a little bit to focus on getting his average up.
Mauer needs to get as many at bats as possible to get comfortable at the plate, so the Twins can get the Joe Mauer who is capable of winning a batting title.
By getting Joe Mauer in the lineup everyday, he will get a lot of at bats and finally start to produce for the offense, giving the Twins a guy they can count on in the No. 3 spot in the order.
What Twin has not been on the DL this season? Not many of them. The Twins have had their fair share of injuries and are making due of what they have.
Mauer was on the 60-day DL with a leg problem, Morneau is on it with a neck surgery coming up, Span has a concussion, Kubel has a sprained foot, and Thome has a strained quad.
Most of these players are due back a little after the All-Star break. If the Twins can stay healthy, they have a lot of depth within the team. With Delmon Young returing to the lineup right after the All-Star break, he will add a power aspect the Twins have been missing all year.
And when Span comes back, he can come in and play rihgt field over Jason Repko. He can also play center if Ben Rivere needs a day off.
If the Twins can get all their guys back healthy, there is no doubt in my mind that the Twins can make some serious noise in the Central, even the playoffs.
With the Twins only 6.5 back, the Central is still up for grabs. The Twins have owned the White Sox this year, and Cleveland seems to be cooling down. The Tigers have had their fair share of problems this season as well.
The Twins are going to start the second half of the season with 12 straight at home versus the Indians, Royals, and Tigers. By the end of the home stand, the Twins could easily be within a game or two, or even tied for the lead in the Central.
If the Twins can have a second half like they usually do, there is no doubt in my mind that the Twins will be right at the top, fighting for the AL Central title.