There is nothing wrong with sitting at .500 midway through the season. Of the league’s 30 teams, 12 are below the mark, two are even with it, and four of the other 16 teams are two or fewer games above.
Winning half of the season’s contests and losing the other half after six months of play won’t propel any team into the playoffs. But at the break, after just over 81 games, .500 ball is nothing to be upset about.
Last season, as the players scattered, some for their hometowns in the Dominican, some for their homes in Florida, and a select few for the final All-Star Game in New York, the Twins found themselves an impressive 53-42. This season, in six fewer games before the four-day retreat, the Twins sit at 45-44.
The mark places the Twins behind the Detroit Tigers by four games with 73 games remaining in the span of two and a half months. Playing .500 ball the rest of the season will surely end the team’s tenure in the Metrodome with their October regular season finale against the Kansas City Royals — it doesn’t need to end that way however.
Assuming the division winner ends with a similar record as the White Sox sported last season, the Twins will need to win 89 games. With 45 victories thus far and 73 games remaining, the Twins would need to go 44-29 to reach that possibly critical mark.
The fight to the finish won’t be easy, but at the break the Twins have positioned themselves to make a run. The first half of the season has seen inconsistency; in the rotation, bullpen and lineup.
With another bat, maybe in the addition of Alexi Casilla, and a collective effort from a rotation that unexpectedly started off slow, going 15 games above .500 isn’t out of the question, and it surely is a possibility.
At the Break…
…the Twins have a combined batting average of .268 compared to a .278 average from the lineup before the All-Star Break last season. The biggest weakness has been the second spot in the lineup as it has posted a .191 average when Mauer hasn’t occupied it.
…the rotation has a decent 4.60 ERA despite slow starts from Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. Both posted numbers well above 6.00 early on, but in June especially, both started to find their groove.
…the bullpen has, as a surprise to some, been pretty good. The guys seated down the left field line have posted a 3.74 ERA in the first half including sub-3.00 averages from four relievers.
…the offense has hit 93 homeruns compared to 65 last season before the break. The average may be slightly lower this season because of the surge, but the Twins have recieved similar production.
…the defense has been one of the league’s best with 34 errors through the first half. The Twins have the second fewest in the American League (Toronto), and the third fewest in all of baseball (Philadelphia).
…the Twins have the best interdivisional winning percentage, and have the most remaining games within the division.
There are several keys to the second half, but the three biggest involve one thing at each key area:
- The Twins must get production from the second spot in the lineup. Having Denard Span reach via walk or hit, only to have the next hitter end a rally in front of guys like Mauer and Morneau, won’t get the Twins to the playoffs. Alexi Casilla could be that help, but only time will tell.
- The rotation must continue to grow. Nick Blackburn had a superb first half, as did Slowey before he was injured, and Perkins before and after his injury with the exception of a select few starts. Scott Baker was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in June and Francisco Liriano was 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA. If the two can continue to grow and the rotation can improve and stay healthy, they could lead the Twins to the postseason.
- The bullpen must maintain its first half production. There is still room for improvement, but June was a great month for the bullpen, and it has been very reliable as the season has progressed. The Twins must continue to finish off games and need Mijares, Guerrier, Nathan and others to do what they’ve done thus far. Blown games bit the team in ’08, and they need to avoid the same wound in ’09.
The Twins have room to grow, and the growth must take place for the Twins to win a division title in the final year indoors. Sitting at .500 isn’t a bad thing however, and the Twins are well positioned for a second half battle.