COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins are showing improvement in the second half of the 2013 season. This is a nice change from the previous two disappointing seasons, which ended with the Twins going into tailspins.
Going into the games of Tuesday, Aug. 26, the Twins are 18-19 in the second half of the season. If you add the final two games before the All-Star break, which the Twins won against the New York Yankees on the road, the Twins are 20-19 in their last 39 games after starting out the season 37-53.
In 2012, the Twins went 36-49 in the first half before falling to 30-47 in the second half, including 9-19 in August. In 2011, the Twins were 41-48 in the first half before falling to 22-51 in the second half, including a dismal 10-40 from Aug. 1 through Sept. 24. The Twins won three of their final four games that season to just barely avoid 100 losses.
The Twins have an outside chance for their first winning month since June 2012. However, they need to win four of their final five games in August, with three coming at home against the Kansas City Royals and the other two at the Texas Rangers. So, it would certainly be a tall task, especially with All-Star catcher Joe Mauer likely to miss all five games while on the concussion disabled list.
The Twins did manage to go 3-3 on a road trip without Mauer, despite playing the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians.
While the Twins have shown improvement overall, it is not because of their hitting, which has actually gotten worse in the second half. This is mostly due to a drop in batting average on balls in play. The Twins' second-half walk rate is basically identical to the first half, and they have hit for slightly more power in the second half.
The big difference has been the pitching in the second half. The Twins are allowing about 0.3 runs per game less in the second half. Most of that improvement has been from the bullpen, which went from above average in the first half to very good in the second half.
The relievers went 11-14 with a 3.18 ERA in the first half to 10-3 with a 2.52 ERA in the second half. They're striking out almost a full batter more per nine innings in the second half, and their strikeout-to-walk ratio has gone from a very-good 2.58 in the first half to a terrific 3.94 in the second half.
Unfortunately, the starters haven't seen as much improvement. While their ERA has gone from 5.23 to 4.83, this has mostly been due to better luck on balls in play. The starters' dismal strikeout rate has only seen a tiny improvement in the second half, and their walk rate has actually gotten worse.
It is important for 2014 for the Twins to finish strong this season. The Twins will finish with a losing record for the third consecutive year, but a strong finish will help them convince their fan base that they are improving -- as they would have an improved record for the third straight year. That along with the expected promotions of top prospects Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer next season and possibly even baseball's best prospect, Byron Buxton, could generate a lot of excitement.
The team also will be hosting the 2014 All-Star game, which means the Twins and Target Field will be the focus of baseball fans in July. The Twins most likely won't be contending unless they go on an unexpected spending spree this offseason, but they would at least like to be able to show the world that they are a young, exciting team on the rise.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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