Cleveland Indians Look to Find Themselves Versus Rebuilding Twins
The Indians had a rough go of it during their first homestand of the 2015 season. A sweep by the Tigers and a split of a two game series with the White Sox has the Indians sitting at 3-5 heading into weekend number two. But, have no fear because help is on the way. Yes, folks… It’s time to play the Twins. The continuously, offensively challenged, Minnesota Twins.
I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just being honest. When it comes to scoring runs, the Twins have been about as potent as a fourth grade girls basketball team. Anyone who has ever had to sit through a fourth grade girls basketball game knows exactly what I’m talking about. Now imagine that only slower, and about a hundred times less entertaining.
It’s been the same old story for the Twins in 2015 as it has been over previous seasons. Granted, this is a small sample size alert, but right now (at least as of writing this) the Twins rank 30th in hits, runs, home runs, RBI, total bases, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging. In case you weren’t aware, there are only 30 teams in Major League Baseball.
So yeah, things have been better. And they will get better for the Twins… eventually… possibly as soon as this season.
For everything that’s wrong with the Twins big league roster right now, they have that much going right for them in their minor league system. There is hope for the future thanks to talented youngsters like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Buxton is a super elite athlete with game changing athleticism. Sano, on the other hand, is a physical freak in terms of his size and strength. Yes, they’re only two players, but their ability alone is enough to make Twins fans salivate.
Just check out this video of Buxton in a recent minor league game.
You can’t teach speed like that. Just ask the Reds the impact Billy Hamilton has had on their lineup. Buxton may be just as fast as Hamilton and a much better all around player.
But this weekend’s series isn’t about the future. Twins fans are stuck living in the present. That means watching a lot of strikeouts, plenty of poor pitching, and even more wishing and hoping that Joe Mauer turns back into the 2009 version of Joe Mauer. Unfortunately at this point, Mauer appears to be on the back nine of his career and a shell of his former self.
Apr 8, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer (7) against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Mauer’s struggles can be traced back to the leg weakness issues he suffered in 2011. Even since that season, a season in which he played in only 82 games and batted .287/.360/.368, Mauer has been about average no matter how you try to look at his stats. A career .327/.407/.481 hitter that averaged 16 homers and 92 RBI from 2004 through 2010, Mauer has hit .304/.389/.418 with 10 homers and 76 RBI ever since. Sure those numbers aren’t terrible, but in terms of making an impact, it’s been night and day.
Of course, while it’s easy to point the finger at Mauer, after all he is the highest paid player on the Twins roster at $23-million annually, he doesn’t have much of anything around him. The power protection of Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer is gone. Table setters like Ben Revere and Denard Span are a distant memory. In there place is a group of unproven youngsters and past their prime veterans. So again, it’s hard to really blame Mauer for the Twins troubles.
Obviously the blame should be Ron Gardenhire‘s and not the Twins’ front office, but that’s a story for a different day.
Because of the Twins offensive struggles, the Indians should be able to get their bullpen some much-needed rest and get their rotation back in order after a rough week that included short starts, injuries, and just overall poor performances.
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As for the Tribe’s offense, they too should be able to get themselves back on track over the weekend. The Twins won’t exactly be throwing anyone anywhere near the caliber of some of the pitching they have seen so far. There are no real flame throwers on the Twins staff and no one that makes you say, “I have to watch to see what that guy is going to do.” Unless, you’re a fan of Phil Hughes. If that’s the case then something went very wrong with your life at some point.
Regardless, the Indians need to put together a strong showing this weekend against a Twins team that is expected to occupy the AL Central basement for the entirety of the season. These are the games the Tribe is expected to win and will need to win if they have any hopes of winning the division. They cannot afford to play down to their opponents. In this case, a team that is very clearly rebuilding.
It’s time to right the ship and get this thing back on track. If not, I guess we can always form an angry mob and storm the Sports Illustrated headquarters.
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Danny Salazar (0-0, 0.00/0.00) vs. Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.25/1.42)