While no one expected the Twins to lose their first nine game, that they struggled is not really surprising in retrospect. The allstar break is a good time to look back at what caused the struggles, but also to look forward to evaluate what to expect in the future.
A lot was made of the Twins almost making the playoffs last year. While a lot of people seemed to think they got better as the year went on, they were actually worse in the second half. The team that had them at nine games over .500 at the break was not the same team that ended the year. The Twins team that ended the season was 5 games under .500 after the break.
Other than the hope that young players would improve, there was actually no reason to think the 2016 Twins would be better than the team that ended the season. To the contrary, they had lost their team leader in Torii Hunter, their starting center fielder in Aaron Hicks, their number two starter in Mike Pelfrey, their backup catcher in Chris Hermann and their fifth outfielder in Shane Robinson.
The guys who replaced those players were all young unproven prospects. In fact, 4 players in the Twins opening day batting order had less than 500 major league at bats. Rosario, Buxton, Sano and Park. Only one player on their bench had more than a 1000 major league at bats, Nunez. Two of the other bench players, Santana and Arcia were there primarily because they were out of options. The new backup catcher, Murphy, had less than 500 at bats. Arcia ended up being released and Buxton, Rosario, Park and Murphy were all demoted to Rochester. None of that was really a big surprise, or should have been. The surprise is that Sano has managed to stay in the big leagues. At least so far...
The Twins starting pitching was supposed to be improved, despite losing Pelfrey. But it was a rotation filled with question marks whose upside was steady medicority. Thats about what they got that from Nolasco, Gibson and Santana. The rest of the staff had the injuries and performance problems to be expected from pitchers who have never strung together two consecutive seasons of success at the major league level.
In addition to losing Pelfrey from the rotation, the Twins let Duensing and Boyer walk over the winter and Aaron Thompson was released at the beginning of the season. Again, the replacements were pitchers with little proven major league experience.
There was a lot of hope going into this season with all the ink and commentary about how good this team could be. There was very little thought given to how bad it was likely to be. If the Twins play .500 ball from here on out it will be a better record than last year over the same period. The last couple weeks have provided some hope that they can do that.