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Know Your Enemy: Minnesota Twins

Why is their mascot a bear?

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!

The White Sox sweeping the Royals shot them down to third in the AL Central standings, but still above the Twins. Cleveland is in second place, and Detroit is trolling around in the basement. Let’s continue our quest of dominance of the AL Central this week by stomping on the Twins, shall we?

2020 Minnesota Twins: 36-24 (first in AL Central)

The 2020 season was kinder to than the Twins than 2021 has been (but we’ll get to that). They were coming off their 2019 home run record season and, already having a regular dominance in the AL Central, were poised to go far into the postseason. Only not really, because it’s the Twins and they continued their trend of blowing it in the playoffs. They got bounced out in two games by the cheatin’ Astros and thus, their offseason began.

Fun fact: the Twins broke a losing streak previously held by the 1975-76 Chicago Blackhawks for the longest postseason losing streak in North American sports. Quite a feat!

But the 2020 season was where the team really found a quality top of the rotation. Kenta Maeda had a career-best 2.70 ERA in 66 23 innings. José Berríos had a 4.00 ERA in 63 innings and Michael Pineda only had 26 23 innings because he spent most of 2020 suspended for PEDs. Nelson Cruz continued his reign of terror, hitting .303/.397/595 with 16 home runs in 214 plate appearances.

2021 manager: Rocco Baldelli

Rocco has had a relatively successful career in Minnesota. In 2019 he got 101 wins and was named the AL Manager of the Year for his efforts (being the youngest manager to win the award, on top of it). He’s also apparently a horse owner with an interest in breeding and racing (weird).

The start of the 2021 season has been the first time Baldelli’s been truly tested as a manager. Successful 2019 and 2020 seasons have granted him a lot of goodwill from Twins fans, but that appears to be coming to a fast end.

2021 so far ...

Cruz is sticking around Minnesota for some reason, perhaps he wants a career wasted just like Joe Mauer. Offseason signings it made in an attempt to snap its postseason losing streak include Andrelton Simmons, JA Happ, perpetually poker-faced Alex Colomé, Matt Shoemaker, and Hansel Robles — offset by tough losses in Jake Odorizzi, Eddie Rosario, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo, Rich Hill, Matt Wisler, Marwin Gonzalez, Homer Bailey, Alex Avila, Ehire Adrianza, and Sean Poppen.

In continued evidence that PECOTA is garbage, that particular projection had the Twins in first place in the AL Central and, if so, they have to turn into a better team quick. The offense, bullpen, and Baldelli have all worn out their welcome. The signing of Colomé has definitely not gone the way the Twins were expecting, as he’s blown more than a few leads and saves, posting a 1-3 record with a 5.68 ERA in 12 23 innings pitched (woof). Also, despite having the fourth-best bullpen in the AL in 2020 (3.62 ERA), the Twins have dropped to 12th-best this year, with an ERA of 4.92.

Series matchup: two righties and a lefty

Today is going to see Kenta Maeda face off against Dylan Cease. Cease has been on fire lately. His last start also included some offense, where he went 3-for-3. Currently his ERA is sitting at 2.37 with a 13-inning scoreless streak, as he heads into his fourth career start against the Twins. Cease’s current record is 2-0 with 40 strikeouts. Maeda, meanwhile, was supposed to start Sunday (game was postponed) and was pushed back two days to face the White Sox. Maeda’s ERA is a 5.02 with 28 strikeouts and 2-2 record. His last start was his first scoreless appearance of 2021.

Wednesday is J.A. Happ vs. Dallas Keuchel. Happ is doing quite a bit better than Maeda, being the most consistent Twins starter this season. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in his first five appearances, with a 2-0 record and 1.91 ERA and 16 strikeouts. Happ is going against a lineup with amazingly good track records against lefties. Keuchel, meanwhile, has a 1-1 record and his ERA has started to trend down, now to 3.79. Against the Reds in his last start, Kuechel allowed two hits and three walks with one strikeout over seven scoreless.

For Thursday’s close of the series, Michael Pineda is going to face Carlos Rodón. Rodón continues to dominate, with a 5-0 record and a 0.58 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 21 innings, allowing 12 hits and nine walks. Pineda’s record is at 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 32 strikeouts. He recently took a comebacker off the wrist, but appears to be doing fine since. He has allowed more than two runs in one start (out of six) with 32 strikeouts.

Why do we hate the Twins?

Like the Royals, it’s really not hard to hate the Twins — especially the last few years. A lot of it involves Nelson Cruz, and some guy named Ted.