After going 15-3 in June, easily the best record in the majors' in that time, our gimpy Twins have fallen back to earth in a big way, dropping the last five games, including a three game sweep at the hands of the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers.
They are now 32-44, 12 games under .500, nine games back, and once again sport the worst record in the American League.
But that's not all: apparently, there's enough drama to make up for all the canceled soap operas on the dial. And Joe Mauer's seems to be playing the James Franco character on General Hospital, though he seems to be enjoying it a whole lot less.
Apparently, Mauer needs to move to first base, or start giving some of his money back. Apparently, Mauer can't call pitches right, resulting in lost games. Apparently, Mauer is the most beloved Twin in the Bear community (see photo above.)
Not even the reliable (for a few games) Skippys could make a difference: the Twins bats were totally anemic, scoring six runs in three games, while giving up 21.
And to make matters worse, Delmon Young, trying no doubt to shut the mouths of the wags who claim he's a defensive liability, by slamming into the wall... no wait, he "caught his foot in the base of the wall"? How do you do that? So now he's out with a strained ankle.
Then there's Justin Morneau. Morneau, you may recall, was about to have a cast taken off his wrist and return to play anytime soon. But the dude's been complaining of numbness in his left hand is now going to have neck surgery to fix a pinched nerve. He'll be out for at least six weeks. Some folks are speculating that his season might be over.
Which brings us back to Joe Mauer. Mauer didn't start behind the plate on Sunday in the Twins 6-2 loss, but he did pinch hit and go 1-2 that game (raising his batting average to .200... oh, wow.) But everyone from Joe Souhan to Nick Nelson to Aaron Gleeman are wondering the same thing... shouldn't Joe play first base and get his hopefully-soon-to-be-white-hot-bat in the lineup?
Then there's even more compelling evidence for hauling Joe away from behind the plate--the dude is lousy at pitch calling. Souhan wrote the other day that "I've always been told by Twins people that Mauer is not an exceptional pitch-caller." As usual, he relies on mysterious insiders who have no names to complain about players. Bloggers, on the other hand, guys without press access, have to rely on numbers.
As Parker Hageman points out at Over the Baggy, in the case with Francisco Liriano, who could be our ace if he'd just get his head screwed on straight, Mauer's pitch calling might actually be Liriano's achilles heel.
Hageman, using Baseball-Reference.com information, reveals that with Mauer, Liriano has walked 15.5% of the batters that faced him, struck out 16.6%, giving up 4 runs per game and a healthy .956 OPS to opposing batters.
The numbers are fairly similar with Butera. But with Rivera? Wow--7.8 % walked (almost literally half), 28.9% struck out, the OPS is a miniscule .497, and he's only given up 1.6 runs with that Skippy behind the plate.
In my mind this brings up yet another problem: Ron Gardenhire. Earlier this season, when Joe Nathan was stinking up the place, the closer pulled himself. Joe Mauer doesn't want to leave catching, so he doesn't. Those numbers that Hageman pulled above? Certainly Gardy has them, so why isn't Rivera catching Liriano all the time?
Who the hell is running this circus?
Still, I will wait to panic. The Twins lost five in a row to the reigning World Series champion and their amazing pitching staff, and then three in a row to perhaps the hottest team in the National League, and both on the road. They play the next few games at home, so we'll see if any of the Skippys can put this club on their thin shoulders, or maybe Michael Cuddyer will singlehandedly win every game.
A man can dream, can't he?