September 26, 2014

Twins recap: Pitcher Phil Hughes shines in another losing campaign

Update: So that’s a wrap on the 2014 season for the Twins, the team finishing 70-92 after splitting a final four-game series with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers, meanwhile, won the division and will advance to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, while the Twins have lost 90 or more games over the same period.

At least the Twins pushed the Tigers during their final series, and there’s some hope for next year based on the team’s late-season play. Leave it to Twins pitcher Phil Hughes, who won 16 games, to strike the right note.

Win or lose, couldn’t be prouder of the fight, grit, and determination we showed down the stretch. Good things to come.
— Phil Hughes (@PJHughes45) September 28, 2014

Earlier: Twins pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who struggled this year, ended his season on an upbeat note after beating the Detroit Tigers 12-3 to earn his sixth win. Nolasco struck out six over six innings and lowered his ERA to 5.38. This clearly is not a stop-the-presses moment, but maybe whatever worked for him during game No. 161 of the 2014 season carries over to next year. Let’s hope so.

Original post: The baseball natives of Minnesota are getting restless.

That statement likely isn’t going to mean much of anything to most people, unless, of course, you’re a fan of the Minnesota Twins. There aren’t many of us in the Northwest, but there are plenty in that part of the world known as the upper Midwest, and they sounded the alarm this week after the team lost 90 or more games for the fourth consecutive season.

It’s been a tough stretch for a team that had shaken off its losing ways and produced a consistent winner last decade — six division titles between 2002 and 2010 — creating a new sense of pride for a team that struggled during the 1990s, except for when it won the World Series in 1991. The Twins also won it all in 1987. For those keeping track of such things, the Twins lost to Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games — no, it was not a sweep — during the 1965 World Series.

Fans took to social media to air their frustrations after the Twins lost their 90th game of the 2014 season.

Here’s some reaction on Twitter:

— Ex Twins News (@Ex_Twins_News) September 23, 2014

Who should be accountable for the #MNTwins‘ historically bad run? My column:
— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) September 24, 2014

@Ex_Twins_News blame it on the ownership, spend some damn money already, we have the money they are just too cheap, so frustrating.
— Jack Niedenfüer⚾ (@J_Marcus21) September 23, 2014

But in an otherwise terrible season, there were some bright spots, and you didn’t necessarily have to search high and low to find them.

Free agent pitcher Phil Hughes, who joined the Twins from the Yankees this year, had a terrific season, winning 16 games. Even more impressive, he set a new record with the best strikeout-to-walks ratio in Major League Baseball history.

With his final scheduled start complete, @PJHughes45 has the best single-season strikeout-to-walk ratio IN HISTORY.
— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2014

Other standouts: the arrival of outfielder Danny Santana and designated hitter Kennys Vargas, both of whom look like they’re ready to become every day players for the team. And both performed well during limited play, with Santana hitting .318 over 98 games while Vargas has hit .277 in 50 games.

Free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki also hit .300 for most of the season, and second baseman Brian Dozier led the team in home runs, although he needs to raise his batting average (.240) and get his strikeouts under 100. He’s currently at 127, according to Baseball Reference.

Yes, there were bright spots, but mostly it was bad, particularly the pitching rotation, with the exception of Hughes, of course. Free agent pitcher Ricky Nolasco, who the Twins signed to a four-year deal for $49 million, has been a disaster, winning only five games with an ERA of 5.47.

Kevin Correia was no better, but thankfully, he no longer is with the team. And Mike Pelfrey, who the Twins re-signed, surprisingly, racked up an ERA near 8.00 and then spent the rest of the season on the disabled list. Newcomer Kyle Gibson was better, winning 13 games, but he wasn’t very consistent, getting blown out in one game, then winning the next.

Nolasco, Correia and Pelfrey have proved my personal maxim that if you’ve had some modest success pitching in the National League, stay put; the American League, its hitters and the DH rule are going to be too much.

A sports team that loses more than it wins, soon enters the zeitgeist as the frequent butt of jokes. If this isn’t clear to you, please see Cleveland, Ohio.

The Twins have entered that realm, too, but they have their defenders.

It’d be pretty amazing if Jeter retired, took year off, unretired, signed with, oh, the Twins, hit .209, played a season in Korea, then quit
— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) September 25, 2014

@jeffpearlman As a Twins fan, I’m OK with this, unfortunately.
— Rolf Boone (@rolf_boone) September 25, 2014

–Rolf Boone


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.