Before I get into how awful the Twins have been away from the Dome, I just want to say: OMG THE BULLPEN MANAGED TO NOT BLOW A ONE-RUN LEAD FOR ONCE. ON THE ROAD TOO. TRULY THE END IS NIGH. Anyway, at 25-27, the Twins are currently two games under .500 and 4.5 games out of first in the AL Central. And it’s really no mystery why our boys are struggling to stay above the .500 mark: their 6-16 road record is abysmal. While there aren’t many teams in the league with winning records away from home, few have such a record of futility as the Twinks. There are only two teams in the league with worse road records than Minnesota: Washington (6-20) and San Diego (8-19), and obviously neither one is likely to make the playoffs this year. While the Twins had lost 11 of their past 12 road games before beating Tampa on Sunday, four of those losses had been by one run and six of their last nine losses have been by two runs or less.
The Twins, like most teams in the league, have always played better at home than on the road. Most people like to blame it on the obvious home field advantage the Twins enjoy at the Dome, but the disparity between their home and road records hasn’t been as vast as people tend to think (they usually have a league-best home record and a road record somewhere around the .500 mark). In the seven seasons under manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins have posted a worse road record through the end of May only once: in 2006, when they were 8-20. The Twins had gotten off to a slow start that year and were 24-29 on June 1st, 11.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers, before riding an incredible hot streak and finishing 96-66 to capture the division title (they finished with a 42-39 road record, btw).
Pitching has obviously been part of the problem, though the pitching staff as a whole hasn’t been that much worse on the road. As a team, the Twins have a road ERA of 5.16 compared to 4.53 at home. In road games, opponents are batting .272/.345/.485 against the Twins and the pitching staff in general is posting a 1.45 WHIP, 1.70 K/BB, and 6.15 K/9, compared to .273/.322/.427 with a 1.33 WHIP, 2.50 K/BB, 6.06 K/9 inside the teflon confines. Obviously these numbers aren’t great, but they’re not bad for a team whose one and two starters have been pitching more like back-of-the-rotation starters through the first few months of the season. For the most part, the pitching has been good enough to keep the team in ballgames as long as the offense has been productive. Unfortunately, this hasn’t usually been the case.
The lack of offense has really been the heart of the Twins’ struggles away from the Dome. There’s a very good assessment of the offense to this point here, and while it’s hardly surprising that the bottom of the lineup has been ice cold, these problems have been exacerbated on the road. At home, the Twins are batting a decent-enough .278/.356/.447 with an OPS of .803. On the road, however, the Twins are a mediocre .263/.335/.406 with an OPS of .741. The best hitters in the lineup, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, have put up some very good numbers on the road, but with the likes of Nick Punto, Delmon Young, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, and Carlos Gomez at the bottom of the order it’s not surprising that the Twins have averaged only 4.2 runs per game away from the Dome (which is actually skewed from the 20-1 thumping of the Pale Hose). And that’s an improvement over the 3.6 runs per game the team was averaging with Casilla and Tolbert batting second in the lineup. While Young, Casilla, and Gomez are all young enough that they should improve, it remains to be seen how much longer the organization will be patient with their development.