So What You’re Telling Me Is the Minnesota Twins Don’t Do Anything Well

So What You’re Telling Me Is the Minnesota Twins Don’t Do Anything Well

The Twins are a team full of bad hitters who can’t field, and their pitching staff is incapable of picking up the slack, to paraphrase Marc Normandin for SportsonEarth.com. Before you can say that sounds familiar, Normandin insists Minnesota is taking that combination to new extremes.

On the heels of what could only be described as an embarrassing series in Milwaukee, the Phillies will get a shot to clean up this latest mess they made with three games in the Twin Cities. And while they aren’t sporting a much better record than Minnesota (27-33), the Twins apparently can’t do anything right.

Normandin’s scathing analysis from June 7 breaks down the Phils’ next opponent.

They aren't hitting. The team's OPS+ is just 92, third-worst in the American League and tied with the Houston Astros, who have been accused of intentionally trying to lose in order to bolster their draft quality while they rebuild. What's fascinating -- or infuriating, if you're a Twins fan -- is that the hitters aren't all great defenders who are making it up elsewhere: this is a team full of bad hitters who can't field, and it's eliminating any of the good from the players who can do any of either.

Defensive Efficiency is a Baseball Prospectus defensive statistic, and it's the simplest one to understand -- even simpler than the so-simple-it's-pointless Fielding Percentage, except without the "pointless" bit tagged on. Defensive Efficiency measures the percentage of balls in play that are converted into outs. That includes errors, which, as you're aware, are not outs, so it penalizes teams for not only the balls they don't get to, but also the ones they muff. The Twins, who can't hit, also rank third-to-last in Defensive Efficiency, in both the AL and the majors as a whole.

It would be easier for the Twins' pitching to succeed if they were missing bats, given how few balls in play the gloves behind them are effectively taking care of. The Twins don't strike hitters out, though, making things that much worse. They are dead last in strikeout rate, at 5.8 per nine -- they are the only team with fewer than 6.5, well below the current league average of 7.6. It's not the bullpen's fault, as they're punching out a decent enough eight batters per nine, but the rotation is at -- brace yourself -- 4.4 strikeouts per nine. That's bad without context, but let's make sure we all realize how terrible it actually is. There are 99 pitchers who qualify for the ERA title in 2013 as of Thursday. Only two of them have personal strikeout rates per nine innings lower than what the Twins have received out of all of their starters as a unit.

Here’s one thing the Twins did do well though, much better than the Phillies in fact: they swept the Brewers two weeks ago. I wonder what that must be like.

The Phils send Cole Hamels to the hill tonight to face 28-year-old right-hander P.J. Walters, who is a career 6-6 with a 5.92 ERA in 35 career big-league appearances. That match-up figures to put all of Normandin’s theories to the test right off the bat in this series.

>> The Twins are moving in the wrong direction [SportsonEarth.com]

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.