by JACK KEWITSCH
How much weight should a fan put behind a rough 10-game stretch for a player in a season? Does it matter if the slump comes at the beginning or end of the year? Are 10 games too small of a sample size?
These are all questions Twins fans are facing after the first 10 games of the season with a few players. Although the team has burst out of the gate, going 8-2, there are still question marks for some of the team’s best players, especially Luis Arraez, Miguel Sano, and shiny free agent acquisition Josh Donaldson, not even to mention the abysmal start catcher Mitch Garver has had to begin the season.
Starting with Donaldson, the $92-million third baseman has failed to impress early in the season. Coming off a year which he won National League Comeback Player of the Year, slugged 37 home runs, and 94 RBI, expectations were rightfully high. Yet after the first week-plus of the season, he has hit only .182 with a single home run and two RBI. Throw in missing three straight games with calf tightness, and it creates some restless fans.
As for Sano, this is not anything too new as fans have become used to his streaky hitting. But the hope he had turned a corner with a career 2019 has yet to be proven correct. Currently hitting .130 with two solo home runs, the question is whether his patience at the plate will get any better. Sano will always be a high strikeout player and would be considered lucky to sniff a .300 season.
Then there is Luis Arraez. The young phenom second baseman burst onto the scene in 2019, hitting .334 in only 92 games while also walking 36 times to striking out only 29. Yet 2020 has been a slow start for Arraez, with his average dropping drastically to .259 as of Monday with three strikeouts and an on-base percentage of .310 in seven games.
Do these slow starts matter though?
That comes down to an individual’s opinion. While some will say those players are unlikely to come close to their expectations, others will see the glass half full. That is where I am on the matter. Imagine what it is going to be like going back to a physical place of work after months of working from home? Now multiply that stress and acclimation tenfold for baseball players.
They not only didn’t truly have a work at home opportunity, but they also have the mounting pressure to perform in a pressure cooker of a 60-game season. Throw in the ever present and quick restart to the season and it was to be expected some players were going to start the season looking sluggish.
With those excuses out of the way, who should you be worried for and who shouldn’t you be worried about?
Don’t worry about Arraez. If you have been watching games, you will have noticed that he is still the same Arraez, slapping balls around the field seemingly at ease. He is just getting unlucky, making solid contact for the ball to go straight towards a fielder’s glove. That may be due to more scouting by opposing teams or maybe just bad luck. Either way, he is still a batter who is going to force pitchers to either take their chances or pitch around him.
As for the others? Worry may be a bit of an understatement, even with a small sample size of games. It is unclear when Donaldson will be back at full health, while Sano is faced with trying to completely alter his approach at the plate mid-season. This doesn’t mean bail on the Twins and their chances at the postseason or even the playoffs. Players have encountered crazier turnarounds. It also must not be forgotten that this team is still in the driver’s seat in the American League Central and over half of the league will make it to the playoffs this October.
But these performances are still ones to keep a close eye on, as it may end up being one of the biggest “what-ifs” or biggest comebacks in recent memory. Keep the faith, Twins fans.