First, let’s review the 1st half…
Coming out of spring training, here’s what I said would have to happen for the Twins to win 80 games, be fun to watch and potentially challenge 85 wins (please read the season-opening blog):
Starting pitching- Santana would have to be Santana, Gibson would have to find strike zone consistency, and one of Hughes/Santiago/Mejia would have to give them a chance to win in their starts. Reality: Santana, check; Mejia, becoming a check. Gibson, Hughes, Santiago, oops. BUT, Berrios more than takes Gibson’s role. So, 3 starter scenario is intact.
Kintzler would have to save at an 85% clip. Reality: check, check, check. He was AllStar terrific.
Dozier would repeat. Reality: Well…it ain’t over yet. I didn’t think 42 HR’s was likely two years in a row, and though he hasn’t been what I expected yet he did most of his damage post AllStar break last year. I think a streak is still coming.
Buxton will break out–oops. Still a work in progress at the plate, but oh that speed and defense.
Sano figures it out–check. And, he has a lot more room to improve. He is going to be some kind of fun to watch as he continues to get better and better.
Kepler, Rosario, Polanco continue to improve. Reality: I’m going to say check. They’ve been solid in the first half and justify the belief that they will get better and better.
So…what to think about the 2nd half? For the purposes of prediction we’re going to assume that all of the above positives play out roughly the same as the first half (because, frankly, if they don’t the season becomes moot). They’ve hit the AllStar break 2 games over .500 at 45-43. With 74 games left, if they play an even .500 the rest of the way they win 82 games. If Dozier gets hot and Buxton starts finding it (again, all other things static) things get fun.
2nd half bottom line: it comes down to pitching. For the Twins to have a 2nd half that puts them in the relevant-to-wild-card-
Here are the two variables that will be the deciding factors in the the Twins making the 2nd half as fun as the 1st half has been: 6th and 7th inning relief and the 4th and 5th starters.
Bullpen–there will be a substantial number of games when the bullpen will have to hold down the fort in innings 6 and 7 (and sometimes 5 and sometimes 8) to give Rogers/Kintzler a chance.
Starters–they have to get probably 8 or 9 decent starts each from starters 4 and 5 the rest of the way, whoever those turn out to be. The Twins can be relevant with 3 starters. They can’t get much better than .500 with 4 and 5 being a liability.
Who will step up? Who might show up?