Having lost six of their last seven games, the Minnesota Twins' fast start has slowed considerably.
Though still six games above .500, the Twins are no longer at the top of the AL Central. While fans and media are jumping off the bandwagon left and right, Minnesota is trying desperately to find what's ailing them and fix the problem.
Are the Twins being hurt because of a poor offense, or is the pitching doing them in? As is usually the case, Minnesota can attribute their drop in the standings to a combination of both offense and pitching.
Check out the table below for a quick run-down on the Twins' struggles in June:
Runs scored per game
Runs allowed per game
In the 25 games the Twins have played in June this season, they have had a net loss of 1.14 runs per game. As you can see, if the Twins don't burst from this slump and start scoring and preventing runs at a much better clip, they will have no chance of postseason contention.
But in order to break free from the shackles they currently find themselves in, the Twins will need to bank on a few key players finding their groove once again.
Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer have lost an average of 159 OPS points in June. JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson, Minnesota's starting shortstop and second baseman, have combined to appear in just 15 games during the month of June.
As a team, the Twins have dropped 82 OPS points in the same month. Essentially, Minnesota hitters have transformed from Cody Ross to Christian Guzman.
Clearly, the offense has been an issue for the Twins. Luckily, most of these players will be unable to keep up this futility for too long, and should start slowly pulling themselves out of the mud.
Minnesota's starting rotation, though, could be a bigger issue.
Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano have been excellent for the Twins this year, but the other 60 percent of the rotation has been downright dreadful. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn have combined to post an ERA of 7.17 in the month of June, which, at the major-league level, is laughable and simply unacceptable.
Still, a few of these rotation members should be able to get back on track before too long.
Blackburn, though, has sandwiched an outstanding May with a horrendous April and June. If the Twins were to acquire a starting pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline, Blackburn would be the one to go. And, let's face it, replacing Blackburn's innings with that of a league-average starter (or even Cliff Lee) would drastically improve the team.
Chicago won 15 of 17 games at one point and are about to hold a mini-fire sale, though, and will inevitably fall back to third in the division. The Tigers will endure a tough month or two, as well, and the Twins will have an opportunity to re-gain some ground.
After all, baseball is a six-month sport.
Unlike football or basketball, one extended losing streak won't derail a season. The Twins have plenty of time to address their needs, catch their breath, and engage in a dogfight with Detroit.
There's no time like the present, and with the Tigers in town for a three-game series, the Twins need to take advantage.
We've hardly reached the do-or-die point in the season, but a series win against Detroit this week would do wonders to Minnesota's attempts to break out of a funk.
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