HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

May 14, 2007

The Twins are an NL team in AL uniforms

By Jesse Menden

Quick, what is the main difference between the American League and National League?

Okay, that’s an easy one, a designated hitter.

Here is a tougher question. What is the difference between a NL team and the Minnesota Twins?

That might be a trick question, because there really is no difference.

Through last week’s series against the White Sox, the Twins have exactly the same amount of home runs from their DH spot as every NL team, zero.

When you dissect this year’s offense, it looks very National League-ish. Through last week’s series against the White Sox, the Twins’ offense has had success in some areas. They are ranked fifth in the American League in average and hits, third in doubles, and tied for the lead in stolen bases. I tend to link those stats with National League teams. NL teams need to steal, and hit for average to score runs because they don’t have that extra hitter.

On the flip side, the Twins are 10th in runs scored, 11th in total bases and walks, 12th in slugging percentage, and dead last in home runs. Only five players have hit home runs for the Twins this season, with 14 of the 18 coming from Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter. Those are American League stats. AL teams get on base and wait for that big home run from the DH.

So what do those stats mean? The Twins are playing on an uneven field. They are playing like NL while the other AL teams they play use a powerful DH against them.

It’s like using a broom handle against somebody who has a sword.

When you think about it, the Twins are a National League team in American League uniforms.

The Twins need to get three singles in an inning to score a run. They are not walking to get on base, and nobody is driving in the guy who leads off the inning with a single.

That scenario puts a lot of pressure on one group in particular, the Piranhas. They are known for their do-anything-to-get-on-base style of baseball, which reflects NL play more than it does AL.

It worked last season, but the big bats were driving them in. That is not the case this season.

The increased load on the shoulders of the non-power hitters is part of the reason for the decreased production and the uncharacteristic base running mistakes, and other things the Twins are famous for.

Instead of players like Jason Tyner of Jason Bartlett trying to shoot a ball the other way or htting a ball into the ground and trying to beat it out, they are swinging with more power, trying to play AL-style ball.

When they do get on, they try to take extra bases to make up for the lack of production from the rest of the lineup.

Off of the top of my head, I can think of more than a few people that will disagree with what I am about to say, but they are all wrong.

So here it is, the Twins need to trade for a power hitter, without one, they are basically a National League team. I don’t care who they trade, it needs to be done if they want to go back to the playoffs. All they need is just one AL-type hitter.

However, the Twins will not be a large player in any trade talks, especially this early in the season.

But if you are not going to take advantage of having a professional hitter as your DH, why be in the American League?

Having said all of this, don’t expect the Twins to match up well against the Milwaukee Brewers when interleague play starts this weekend.

The Brew Crew is playing more like an AL team this season. They are tied for the NL lead in home runs. They have the outright lead in runs scored, total bases, and slugging percentage.

I can’t help but think, maybe it was the Twins that should have made the switch to the NL in 1997, instead of the Brewers.