Minnesota Twins: Are the Twins This Terrible or Is This Just a Sophomore Slump?
Can the Twins really be this bad? Sure, they have had several players out of the lineup.
Former MVP and All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, left fielder Delmon Young and slugger Jim Thome are all on the disabled list and have not been able to contribute like they did last year.
Yet the Twins' starting rotation is pretty much in intact from last season, and while they lost Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, the end of the bullpen still has closer Matt Capps and the return of Joe Nathan.
Perhaps this is just one big sophomore jinx as the Minnesota Twins, in only their third homestand of the season, are playing in their second season at Target Field.
I looked over the Twins roster and found several "sophomores" who are playing their second season with Minnesota.
In all cases, it would appear this is a double-sophomore jinx.
Here are seven "sophomores" that are not performing to their 2010 levels.
Back-Up Catcher Drew Butera
Drew Butera, much like his father, broke into the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins as a back-up catcher.
Based on the genes he inherited, no one should have expected much offense out of Butera.
In four seasons with the Twins, Sal Butera would bat .233 with only one home run.
In 2010, Drew Butera batted a lowly .197 in 49 games, but doubled his father's total of home runs with two.
So far in 2011 Butera's batting average has actually dropped to .109.
This prompted the promotion of Rene Rivera, who has taken over the majority of the catching duties as the Twins await the return of Joe Mauer.
Third Baseman Danny Valencia
While Danny Valencia is currently second on the Twins behind Jason Kubel with three home runs and 18 RBI, his average is currently 81 points lower than last season.
In 2010, Valencia was called up in June and quickly became the Twins everyday third baseman. Playing in 85 games, he batted .311 with seven home runs and 40 RBI.
He is currently hitting only .230.
Designated Hitter Jim Thome
In 2010, the Twins signed Jim Thome with the intention of using him off the bench as left-handed power threat and occasionally as the DH.
Those plans went awry when just before the All-Star break, the Twins lost Justin Morneau for the season with a concussion.
Thome took over as the everyday DH and led the Twins with 25 home runs, the most for Thome since hitting 34 in 2008 for the White Sox.
In 108 games, Thome hit a home run once every 11 at bats.
Granted, he has been on the disabled list this season and limited to 20 games, but he is only hitting a home run every 28 at bats.
His batting average has also dropped from .283 to .214.
Thome didn't start playing full time until July last season, so hopefully his bat will heat up just as soon as the weather does.
Reserve Outfielder Jason Repko
It's glaringly apparent that the Twins signed Jason Repko as a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield.
Playing in 58 games in 2010, Repko batted only .228.
So far this season, in only 13 games, he is batting an even lower .208.
Fortunately for the Twins Delmon Young has returned from the disabled in time for the Toronto series—this should limit Repko's plate appearances.
Closer Matt Capps
For Matt Capps, the Twins have been his third team is just a little over two years, so I can give the guy a break for not being able to establish a routine.
Last season, when he joined the Twins, Jon Rauch was the closer, but Capps would eventually take over that role.
Opening the 2011 season, Ron Gardenhire named Joe Nathan as the closer and Capps was the set-up guy.
In short order, it was clear that Nathan was not fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that took his whole 2010 season from him, and Capps was again named the closer.
In 2010 for the Twins, Capps appeared in 27 games. He had a 2-0 record with 16 saves and a 2.00 ERA.
So far in 2011, he has appeared in 15 games—he has a 1-2 record with two blown saves and a 4.24 ERA.
Starting Pitcher Carl Pavano
In 2010, as the Twins workhorse, Pavano led the team with a 17-10 record, seven complete games, and 221 innings pitched.
So far in 2011 in seven starts, Pavano has yet to finish a game, going 2-4 with a 6.64 ERA—the second highest in the starting rotation, second only to Francisco Liriano's 7.07 ERA.
After signing a two-year deal that will pay him $8 million this season, Pavano needs to start pitching the team to some complete-game victories.
In 2010 the Minnesota Twins had the best home record in baseball going 53-24 for the inaugural season of Target Field—a .654 winning percentage.
So far in 2011, the Twins have only managed to go 4-8 after being swept by the Detroit Tigers earlier this week.
Granted, the Twins are suffering through a plethora of injuries that have impacted the lineup that Ron Gardenhire has been able to pencil into the lineup card each day.
Yet, with the payroll currently sitting in the top 10 of Major League Baseball, the expectations are much higher for this team.
Gardenhire, the reigning AL Manager of the Year needs to find a way to put this team back on the winning track if he plans to avoid only his second losing season in his 10 years as the Twins manager.