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]

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

The Sixers are the perfect distraction from the Sixers

There's your Philadelphia 76ers season in a nutshell, huh? Nerlens Noel gets traded for an all-lemon pack of Starbursts, Ben Simmons' right foot is still apparently stuck in a beartrap, Joel Embiid can't get himself dismissed from the nurse's office, and Jahlil Okafor is forced back into +1 status after everyone else passed on going to the concert with Bryan Colangelo -- and the Ballers still go out and beat one of the best teams in the East in their first game back from the All-Star break. Nearly everything about the Sixers is depressing right now, except for the team themselves. They're cool. 

Kudos to Brett Brown, man. The team is playing with such fluency and energy right now that it can withstand some losses in personnel without the drop-off being particularly dramatic -- at least for the moment. Replacing Embiid and Noel with Okafor and Holmes for as long as we'll have to do it will catch up with us in time, but for now, all you can do is marvel at the pace, cohesion and (with some mildly glaring moments of exception) discipline that Brown has the guys playing at the moment. I doubt there are five coaches in the league having a more impressive season than him right now. 

But the players were pretty good in this one, too. Dario Saric had 20-11-4 in his first start in three weeks, continuing his unlikely Rookie of the Year surge with his third-straight double-double and fourth game of 20-plus in his last six games. The All-Star Break hasn't cooled Robert Covington's hot hand, as the shooter went 5-9 from deep last night and is now 17-31 on threes over his last four games, also posting a 20-10 night with his 25 points and 11 boards. (Also three assists and four steals, whatever.) Richaun Holmes dunked over some people and reminded a handful of fans why they've gotten way too excited about him at various points earlier in the year. Good times were had by all. 

Games like last night's also just remind you how marginal the difference between winning and losing is. As they've been wont to do forever, the Sixers blew their considerable lead to the Wizards late in this one, which would've undoubtedly resulted in a tragic loss in years past. But these days, the leads are a little bigger going into the Sixers' fourth-quarter tailspins, and their defense is just a little tighter on critical possessions, and that's the difference between losing on a Bradley Beal buzzer-beater and hitting just enough free throws to squeak out a mildly secure 120-112 victory. 

Anyway, after an impossibly discouraging week of Sixers happenings, it turns out some actual Sixers basketball is just what we needed. Hopefully their level of play will continue to get better as news of their off-court developments invariably keeps getting worse .

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

Best of NBA: DeRozan scores career-high 43 points in Raptors' win

TORONTO -- DeMar DeRozan scored a career-high 43 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics 107-97 on Friday night.

DeRozan shot 15 of 28 from the floor as he surpassed his 42-point effort against the Houston Rockets on March 30, 2015, helping the Raptors overcome the absence of fellow All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry sat out with a right wrist injury.

Serge Ibaka, acquired by trade from the Orlando Magic last week, scored 15 points in his debut, while fellow newcomer P.J. Tucker, picked up from the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, had a game-high 10 rebounds and nine points in his first game for his new team.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points for Boston, which also got 19 points each from Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart (see full recap).

Westbrook triple-double lifts Thunder over Lakers
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook scored 17 points in his 28th triple-double of the season, and his new teammates fit in seamlessly as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 110-93 on Friday night.

Westbrook also had 18 rebounds and 17 assists for the 65th triple-double of his career.

It was the first game for new Thunder players Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Gibson scored 12 points and McDermott added eight, even though they arrived Thursday night and weren't even available for shootaround on Friday.

Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson each set a career high with 19 points, and Steven Adams added 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder.

D'Angelo Russell scored 29 for the Lakers (see full recap).

Pacers beat Grizzlies to snap six-game skid
INDIANAPOLIS -- CJ Miles made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points, Paul George had nine points and nine rebounds after remaining with Indiana following the trade deadline, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 102-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

Monta Ellis finished with 16 points, Myles Turner scored 12, and Lavoy Allen, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young each added 10 for the Pacers.

The Pacers outscored the Grizzlies 64-42 across the middle two quarters and never relinquished their lead, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half. The Grizzlies finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor (35 for 84).

Troy Daniels had 13 points for Memphis and Marc Gasol scored 12. Indiana outrebounded Memphis 50-39 and scored 29 points off 17 Grizzlies turnovers (see full recap).