Living Below the Mendoza Line

Due to the weather warming up, summer-time wedding season alive and kicking, the birth of a new wiffle ball league in Fargo-Moorhead, and my wife and I planting our very first garden; I wasn’t able to see too much of the Red Sox series over this past weekend. Apparently I didn’t miss much, as the Bostonians completed the three-game sweep of the Twins, outscoring the home team 20-8 in the process. This was especially disappointing after the Twins took three out of four just over a week earlier in Boston, outscoring the Sox 31-18 in the four-game series. Obviously, Boston has a pretty good team put together, so these rough patches are going to happen over the course of a year; but despite a somewhat torrid scoring pace in May, the Twins lineup has been surprisingly most disappointing.

Josh Willingham – Credit: Jesse Johnson/USA Today sports

One of our favorite followers pointed out last night via Twitter that none of the Twins starting outfielders are currently hitting above .200 – it’s 40 games (25%) into the season, for frame of reference. Statistics should begin to balance themselves out to the norm this far into the season. A week or so ago I wrote about how Oswaldo Arcia might be the one player they can send back down to AAA when Darin Mastroianni comes back (which isn’t going to happen for a while now). Arcia, however, might be the only MLB-caliber hitter in the entire outfield we’re now realizing, and would be the last outfielder I’d send down if I’m Terry Ryan. Of course, Josh Willingham‘s proven track record suggests that he’ll eventually come around, but Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee are putting together Drew Butera-type seasons offensively so far in 2013.

Because of the struggles of the three outfielders, the Twins are currently hitting just .247 as a team. That would be tied for the 5th worst average in Twins history. They’ve only hit 30 home runs, putting the team on pace for about 120 this season. The team has hit less than 120 homers only 3 times in the last 13 years.

Joe Mauer is having a normal year hitting .342 with 2 home runs, and Jamey Carroll has been solid hitting .304 in just 61 plate appearances. But, no one else is hitting .300 or better, and Trevor Plouffe (4) and Josh Willingham (5) are the only two guys with more than 3 home runs. At this pace, only Willingham will even reach 20 home runs, making this lineup look more like the 1999 Twins than the Twins of the 2000’s.

It gets worse. At AAA Rochester, outfield help is pretty much non-existent. Clete Thomas has been one of the best hitters on the club, hitting .346 with 6 home runs in 94 PA’s; but his history at the Major League level suggests he wouldn’t be much of an improvement over what’s already there. Brandon Boggs (.184) and Joe Benson (.182) clearly haven’t earned a promotion with their bats, and there’s no fast-forward button to hit to get 19 year old Byron Buxton up to the majors fast enough.

The lack of success at the plate from the outfielders has caused the running game to disappear as well. I’m looking at you, Hicks. Currently the Twins have 17 stolen bases (in only 25 attempts), good for 12th in the American League. Pedro Florimon leads the team with 5 steals (on pace for 20). To put this in perspective, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres currently has 18 stolen bases himself, and he’s been on base just 62 times.

I’m still somewhat pleasantly surprised this team is still within 4 games of .500 right now, but even with below average starting pitching this lineup should be able to win some games themselves just by outscoring the opponent. To do that, Willingham, Parmelee, and Hicks absolutely need to start producing at a level Brian Buchanan wouldn’t be ashamed of. Once that happens, and Kyle Gibson finds a spot in the rotation, anything can happen in any given year in the AL Central. The Twins, of all teams, should know this.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.