I think it's about time I laid out my case against the Twins. Assorted pockets of SSS denizens are clamoring "Beware!" And perhaps to some degree they're right to be concerned. Ever the grindaholics, the Twins are a half game back and the hoi polloi are growing angsty. The Twins are our old nemesis and we don't call them The Piranhas for nothing. So let's look at what this team's done so far, how they can plug holes and what the outlook is going forward.
As I'm wont to do, the first place I'd have you look is the THT team stats page. In sum, it's a great rundown of macro-level performance. Except for figuring out a way to incorporate pitch f/x (it's everywhere! and that's the way daddy likes it.), the page really does have everything one needs. Let's have a look...Hmm. From an offensive standpoint, it is not a good team. Sure, they've scored an above average 4.83 runs a game, but how have they done it? It isn't clear. They don't get on base. They don't hit for power. They don't hit an above average number of line drives. In other words, I see an inflated average powering an already below average OBP. Speed and carpet are perhaps responsible, so I won't say they're due to regress. But it's bad enough anyway.
Is there anything the Twins can do to improve their lineup? Their in-house options were recently exhausted, as Brian Buscher and Alexi Casilla were both called up from Rochester in order to purge the lineup of below replacement level lead weights Nick Punto and Mike Lamb. Buscher is a 27 year old non-prospect with a .270/.346/.439 peak translation. Since this is probably his peak, that's more or less what you can expect from him. Better than what Lamb has put together in a half season, but certainly not better than what they were expecting to get from the offseason signee. Casilla's 90th percentile projection is .289/.345/.384 and, though he at least has former prospect status (he was expected to come in and start last year), his ceiling is limited by his lack of power. His current .133 ISO is by far the best he's ever posted and he's yet to demonstrate an acumen for line drives. Good enough on base skills to test VORP +, it's not going to transform the offense. The bottom line is that this simply isn't going to become a good hitting team without outside intervention. For good measure, here's the BP Team Audit with accompanying VORP.
Okay, so the hitting isn't good. What of the pitching? Up and down the staff, it's a bunch of strike throwers. The White Sox are second in the AL in BB/G at 2.8. The Twins are first at 2.4. But whereas the White Sox are also tied for 3rd in K/G, the Twins are 3rd worst at 5.6. In addition to that they're HR prone thanks to a poor GB%. And they put that staff in the homer-happy Metrodome. They've got a number of difficult-to-distinguish starters who all have roughly the same command-and-hopefully-conquer approach who have performed fairly well, but are by no means dominant. And, of course, there's the guy who's currently thrown the most innings on staff, Livan Hernandez. He of the -4.1 VORP. If there's a guy begging to be relegated to the pen, it's Livan. Perkins, Slowey, Bonser, Baker and Blackburn is a respectable rotation, but would you take it over the White Sox' staff? Remember, that's the point. It isn't a matter of the Twins sucking. They don't. They're a ~.500 team that's been playing over their giant collective weird accent having head.
Don't believe me? Check out their third order winning percentage. Pretty crappy, no? While they've faced above average pitching to date, even after adjusting for that the Twins have still outscored their adjusted expected run total by 20. An additional 15 runs above expectation from their pitching paints a telling picture: this mid-season playoff push has been substantially aided by smoke and mirrors. So they've got that going for them, which is nice.
This is what I think I know and why. If you've got objections to level, do so, but if you can't provide even anecdotal evidence, I'm going to find some ridiculous photo on the internets and use the power of html to incorporate it into my reply to you. Cuz if you tell me to beware, I'll tell you where to be.
Speaking of the Hoi Polloi (wiz):