It's getting close to the end of the first fourth of the season and the Twins are still flirting with the .500 mark. There is a lot of baseball left to play but it has been an encouraging first portion of the season for Twins fans. Some surprise pitching performances, a good offense and a stingy bullpen have the club in range of the top of the division.
So how did this Twins team get here and is this pace sustainable for the remainder of the season?
The starting staff has been one of the weaknesses of this club and there have clearly been some holes in the rotation. Vance Worley, the team's opening day starter, has an ERA north of 7.00 and WHIP is almost 2.00. Mike Pelfrey's numbers are nearly as bad as Worley's and these two men were supposed to play key roles on this team.
Kevin Correia has been a big surprise and he leads the starters in almost every major category. Scott Diamond has put together some solid efforts since he returned from injury. His addition to the staff should provide a nice boost to the club. Pedro Hernandez has filled in as the fifth starter but there are other arms hot on his heels.
Even with some good performances mixed in, it is hard not to imagine the Twins rotation getting better as the season goes on. Kyle Gibson and Cole DeVries are scheduled to join the rotation at some point in the coming weeks. It will also be tough for the players like Worley and Pelfrey to be as bad as they have been so far this year.
This leads one to think that the starting pitching could be able to help the Twins stay around the .500 mark.
On the offensive side of the ball, thing have been off to a good start. Joe Mauer is near the top of the leader board in multiple offensive categories. Justin Morneau has helped pace the middle of the line-up and Josh Willingham is finding ways to get on base though his average is low. Even young players like Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are starting to figure out MLB pitching.
The team currently ranks 8th in the American League in runs scored and this has helped the club to a positive run differential. Minnesota's 69 doubles ranks sixth among AL teams and this is the second highest total in the AL Central. With some slow offensive performances in the early weeks, the Twins team batting average of .251 might not be as bad an omen as it seems. So far, the club is below league average in batting average, slugging, and OPS.
With Hicks and Arcia already in the MLB line-up, there isn't a ton of offensive help in the high levels of the minors. The club might have their best offensive core in and playing on a regular basis. If the players not named Mauer and Morneau can raise their numbers, this could be a very good offensive team.
Minnesota's recent offensive performance makes it hard not to think that the team can stay close to the .500 mark.
Over the weekend, Terry Ryan was asked about the Twins still being around the .500 mark especially with a lot of underachievers
. His response was that .500 is not good enough. He wants this team to contend.
The .500 mark seems pretty good after the last two awful seasons. It's hard to know if the club will be able to sustain this pace for the rest of the year but there are signs that it could be possible. Underachieving players might start to figure it out and then the Twins could be a dangerous club in the AL Central.