As I watched Alex Burnett fall apart last night, costing Scott Baker the win, I started wondering, when does a bad start become more than just that? The Twins have been pretty bad for a month now and things don’t show any signs of improving. Their best player is on the shelf and there doesn’t seem to be any timetable for his return. Their “ace” pitcher has been dreadful and is showing no signs of life. The bullpen has been completely rebuilt and continues to struggle. And injuries and illness have seemingly affected all of the best players. I mean, why can’t Matt Tolbert get the flu instead of Justin Morneau? Basically everything that could go wrong so far has and it makes me feel somewhat optimistic that they can right the ship, but at what point do you stop making excuses or stop telling yourself that these guys are too talented to be playing this badly?
I wrote about not making excuses for Francisco Liriano anymore and I think I should do the same for this team as a whole. The bats started heating up and then the pitching failed them, then the bats cooled off for a three-game set against Tampa. It just seems like they can’t put it all together for one night. Scott Baker was pretty good, again, last night and the bullpen failed him. So it just keeps piling up here.
Right now the Twins are 9-16 and sitting in last place in the division. But they are still very talented and have played poorly in the first half of seasons in the past. In 2006 the Twins posted a 9-15 record for the month of April. That season they went on that epic second half run to win the division title. In 2009, the Twins were 11-11 after April and went on to win the division in a 163rd game playoff. It isn’t like the month of April has been great for them in the past, except for last year, when they were on fire, going 15-8. I just wonder if this team can go year after year making late season comebacks. It is only April, but the old adage “you don’t win divisions in April, but you can lose ’em” is pretty true. The Twins are eight games back right now and if that number keeps climbing it is really going to make any late season push pretty challenging.
The last time Joe Mauer missed an extensive period of time, 2007, the Twins finished the season under .500, winning only 79 games. I wonder if this season could end up playing out in a similar fashion? Mauer is on the DL currently, with no real timetable for a return. He only played 109 games in 2007 and at this pace it looks like he might struggle to get to that number this season, which makes me worry about where the 2011 Twins are heading.
I haven’t given up hope on these guys yet, as there is so much baseball left, but I am starting to wonder when a bad start becomes a bad season?