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In this edition, Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland and Wild/Twins analyst Peter Ripka discuss YOUR red-hot Minnesota Twins. Just how good are they? What has been the most surprising thing about the team? Should they make some trades? The guys cover all this and more.
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After taking three of four from the Astros, the Twins have the best record in the American League.
What are the most and least surprising aspects of how successful this team is?
Erik: Considering that I predicted that we wouldn't have a great season, almost everything is surprising haha. Practically everyone in the lineup clicking, even back of the rotation starters doing well (Odorizzi, Perez), the bullpen holding up...it's all a surprise to me.
For most people, the least surprising thing would be how powerful this lineup is, but I genuinely didn't see that coming. Cruz is getting older; Cron hasn't had sustained success; Schoop had a down 2018; the young Twins players haven't had a large enough sample size to know how well they'd do. Amazingly, though - to me at least - they're all coming together to make an earth-shattering lineup.
Least surprising things to me include Berrios and Taylor Rodgers doing really well.
Peter: The most surprising aspect is the starting pitching. Minus a few starts here and there they have been a lot better than I had expected.
The least surprising is the offense. When they signed the players they did this off-season I knew they were going to have a good lineup. I was just expecting them to have to win games 10-8.
What players are you most surprised are doing so well? Is anyone underachieving?
Erik: Martin Perez is the big surprise for me. He looks like he's for real. His newly-minted cutter is devastating. The league will catch up eventually, but I see him as a solid #3-#4 starter with 10+ wins and an ERA around 3.00-4.00.
Pineda is the obvious choice for underachiever. He looks sluggish and lost. I haven't lost hope for him, though. Sometimes it takes awhile for pitchers to return from Tommy John.
Peter: I am very surprised with how well Buxton has been offensively. It is a welcome surprise, especially considering the struggles he had last year. Marwin Gonzalez has been underachieving so far, having struggled to get going at the plate. This is a minor issue, though, as it has opened the door for Sano to take back over at third once he returns to the MLB lineup towards the end of the month.
How much of an impact with having Miguel Sano back have?
Erik: It can't hurt, can it? It'll be nice to have a solid, everyday third baseman, and another strong bat in the middle of the lineup to compliment Cruz.
Peter: This is a hard one to figure out. He has a lot of pop but also a very high strikeout rate. Hopefully he has figured that part of his game out, as Buxton has seemed to.
Are you convinced that this Twins team is for real yet?
Erik: Not yet. Lots of teams have had good streaks like this and then fallen off. I'm glad that it's happening, and with how bad the division is there should be a lot of easy wins in there, but it's too small of a sample size to say at this point. Think of all the Oakland A teams - who also heavily use analytics - that have strong parts of seasons but end up not being successful. I'm hopeful, but not sold yet.
Peter: I personally would like the to add a few arms to the lineup and/or rotation. The middle relief still has me worried. Outside of that, I think this team has the makings to make some noise into late October. Of course 29 games is a small sample size in a 162 game season. If they are still playing this well into the dog days of summer, though, everyone better take notice.
Do you think the Twins will make some moves closer to the trade deadline? Do you think they should?
Erik: It depends. If they're still playing as well as they are now towards the deadline, they have to make a move or two. Another top-tier starter and a bullpen piece would make this team, as they're playing now, one of the best in the league.
Peter: I think they will try to add a bullpen arm. Not sure if it will be someone in the middle or at the back end of it. I would be surprised if they stay in the hunt and don't add a piece or two.
Any other thoughts about the team, their sweep of the Orioles, or the upcoming Yankees series?
Erik: The first real challenge for the Twins was facing the Astros, and they passed pretty well. Lest we forget, though, they lost 2/3 to them in Houston. If the Twins can take 2/3 against the Yankees I'll be a bit closer to jumping on the bandwagon.
Peter: The Yankees series will be a good gauge for the team. As everyone in this market knows, the Yankees have been the Achilles Heel for this franchise since the turn of the century. Should also be fun to watch our lineup in a true hitter's park.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Founder of Rambling On, he has written hundreds of articles and hosted almost a hundred podcasts. He began his career as Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. He directs all of the content on Rambling On, created and maintains the website, and is social media content director. He is also copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota. Support Erik's music on his music site or BandCamp, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.