When the Twins limped out to a slow offensive start in early April, fans assumed things would turn around in short order. This was one of the better offenses in the league last year, and they'd kept their hitting corps mostly intact.
Yet, rather than improving, the offense has stagnated and at times further deteriorated as the season has unfolded, with Saturday night's effort establishing a new low point. The Twins faced crummy right-hander Sean O'Sullivan, who issued seven walks over six innings of work yet allowed only two runs. One hundred and four pitches, 55 strikes, two freaking runs. TWO!
Bad games can happen for any offense every now and then, and in isolation that kind of performance doesn't merit such agitation. But for a group of hitters that has collectively underperformed as much as this one throughout the season? Atrocious. More shameful than the eighth-inning bullpen implosion that saw the Royals add eight runs to a narrow lead in the same game.
There have been many contributors to this lingering drought. Delmon Young posted a .566 OPS over 16 games before landing on the disabled list; he now has the overmatched rookie Rene Tosoni starting in his place. Justin Morneau has looked totally lost at the plate. Michael Cuddyer inexplicably can't do a thing with the bat. The middle infield has been a giant black hole.
Yet, perhaps no position has been a bigger liability to the Twins than the one where they made a $184 million investment only a year ago.
Injuries and an inexcusable lack of depth have exposed catcher as arguably the team's biggest present weakness. Joe Mauer hasn't been right all year, slumping through nine games before landing on the disabled list indefinitely. He's given way to Drew Butera and Steve Holm, who quite obviously are not major-league caliber ball players.
Altogether, the Twins have gotten a .158/.206/.200 hitting line from the catcher position, including .111/.149/.159 from Mauer's replacements. For reference, National League pitchers have hit .133/.161/.161 this year.
Not acceptable. It's tough to concentrate blame on a single position with nearly the entire roster playing at such a miserable level, but even when Young and Tsuyoshi Nishoka return, and some other guys (hopefully) remember how to hit, the Twins will have an awfully tough time breaking out of this slump while getting sub-pitcher-level offensive production from a position their lineup was initially built around.
It's time for this front office to wake up. They blundered badly by entering the season with no quality depth behind Mauer, who they now acknowledge was never ready for the start of the campaign. They're exacerbating this mistake by continuing to alternatively trot out two of the league's worst hitters in the former MVP's stead, with plenty of offensive issues already plaguing the rest of the lineup.
The Twins need to figure out what's going on with Mauer and lay down a firm timetable for his return. If they can't do that, or if they determine that his return is still several weeks away, then find another catcher. Sign one from free agency or trade for one. This is ridiculous.