Has the Bomba Squad Been Diffused?

The Minnesota Twins have gotten off to just about the worst start imaginable. At 6-11 the one-time AL Central favorites now sit in last place, behind even the Tigers. In fact, the Yankees are the only American League team with a worse winning percentage.

The slow start has a lot of fans and/or analysts questioning the decisions of manager Rocco Baldelli at every turn. Why did he pinch-run Blankenhorn for Donaldson? Why is Mitch Garver leading off and why in the hell is Jake Cave an everyday player while Alex Kirilloff sits in St. Paul?

When a team is playing as bad as the Minnesota Twins are right now, the manager is always the first to be blamed but his team isn’t helping him out.

What happened to the 2019 Bomba Squad?

Since Rocco has taken over the dugout, this team’s identity has become that of a laid back, never worried, always cool team who can overcome anything. In 2019, we saw Baldelli’s style payoff when the Twins offense set MLB homerun records and bomba’d its way into the the top of the American League. Guys like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Mitch Garver all had career years offensively. Unfortunately, that dream season (which still ended in ZERO playoff wins) is beginning to look like the outlier for this offense.

Since Opening Day of the shortened 2020 season, the Twins are hitting .244/.318/.423 (.741) with a wRC+ of 102. That slash line looks more like the 2018 team than what they portrayed in Rocco’s rookie 2019 season. They’ve nearly fallen out of the top-ten in homeruns too, currently sitting 9th; and their 19th most RBI’s are an even uglier portrayal of offensive woes. Not terrible, but not good. This is now just an average-hitting team.

When looking at individual players, there are a few very notable drop offs. Let’s look at four that stick out.

Those are some terrible drop offs, especially for Polanco and Garver. Regression to the mean was always expected, but a few of these guys just took their career trajectory and drove it right off the cliff, with a seemingly impossible climb back up. It’s no wonder this offense has struggled.

Max Kepler2019/2020-21.252/.229.855/.742121/102
Jorge Polanco2019/2020-21.295/.247.841/.627120/73
Mitch Garver2019/2020-21.273/.174.995/.557155/53
Miguel Sano2019/2020-21.247/.186.923/.718137/93

Hey, not EVERYONE is terrible now…

Not all Twins players have gone the wrong way since 2019, however. Since the start of 2020, there have been four very productive hitters for the Twins too. Unfortunately, three of them also come with a dark cloud of injury history and/or age hanging over their heads.

Byron Buxton is hitting .299 with a 1.001 OPS since the start of 2020 but he’s played in just 63% of Twins’ games in that period. Josh Donaldson is hitting .283 with a .935 OPS but has played in just 44% of the games. Nelson Cruz is hitting .314 with a 1.024 OPS… but he’s older than time itself and likely won’t be on the team next season. Luis Arraez is the fourth and he’s the outlier. Arraez is just an elite hitter (without the power).

Searching for a new identity?

Since walking off the playoff field to close 2019, this Twins team has not only been annoyingly average, they’ve also been boring. The Bomba Squad can probably retire its 2019 identity but that leads us to another question.

What is this team’s identity now? The offense is average. The starting pitching, behind the struggles of Maeda and Berrios, is average; and the bullpen is a disaster. Oh, and the defense blew a chance to wash all of that away in extra innings vs Oakland. Outside of Byron Buxton, the Minnesota Twins really have nothing for a fan to be proud of.

Off to face Pittsburgh, I guess.

Cooper Carlson | (Depressed) Minnesota Sports Fan