MINNEAPOLIS – The Twins offense ought to be all right this season, even if Byron Buxton never fully figures out things at the plate.
Through a dozen games this season, though, three Twins hitters were scuffling in the worst way. In fact, you could argue that the Twins had three of the 10 worst hitters in baseball after two weeks.
Buxton’s struggles were the most well-documented, of course, because of his considerable hype and breakout September at the end of last season. But the Twins had two other hitters stuck in extended slumps to start the season. Eddie Rosario entered the game hitting .154/.214/.179 and Joe Mauer was hitting just .190/.244/.190. It’s incredibly early, and both hitters have had good offensive seasons in the past, so take the slow start for what it’s worth.
Rosario’s slow start prompted the manager to have a little chat with Rosario, in which he encouraged the young outfielder.
“I think he’s been competitive,” Molitor said. “As the hits have been hard to come by, I think he’s been forcing the issue a little bit more than he was early. You know, you get a little frustrated when you think you’re doing some good things but not getting the hits to show for it.”
Molitor told Rosario that yes he’s aggressive, but not to let that kick into overdrive. “He told me I had a good start,” Rosario said through an interpreter. “I know I haven’t been hitting but [he said to] not try to do too much and let the game come to me.”
And Monday delivered some good news on that front. Rosario and Mauer both recorded a pair of hits Monday to kick the skids. Mauer failed to deliver with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, but two hits at least is a step in the right direction for the first baseman.
Before Monday, it had been mostly bad news for both hitters.
Through roughly two weeks of baseball, the Twins had three of the worst regular hitters in the league, according to the catch-all hitting stat Weighted Runs Created-Plus. That stat attempts to neutralize ballpark advantages and take into account the current run-scoring environment league-wide. It also assigns value to each hitting outcome, and spits out a single number that does a pretty good job of capturing a hitter’s value.
Buxton rated as the second worst regular hitter in the big leagues entering Monday, when he got another day to sit on the bench and watch Max Kepler play center field. Rosario was the seventh-worst hitter, per wRC+, and Mauer was 10th-worst. I knew they’d been struggling, but it was surprising to me to see all three in the bottom 10, on a team that I didn’t think had a glaring offensive problem. But the stats are the stats.
We’ll see if Monday’s 2-hit game helps either hitter jumpstart his offense. Maybe the day of rest can help Buxton do the same.
There’ve been some good signs for Rosario, and some causes for concern, but generally speaking it’s far too early to draw any definitive conclusions on him at the plate.
Mauer started hot to begin last season and then fell off considerably. He heated up against in the middle of the summer but then an injury threw his season off the tracks. This season, he’s started out ice-cold.