The biggest question mark facing the Twins coming into the season was whether Justin Morneau would be in the lineup after missing the final three months of last season following a concussion.
Morneau got a late start in spring training, got a few days off early in the schedule, and has spent more time at designated hitter than ever before, but he’s been free of post-concussion symptoms while starting 34 of the Twins’ first 40 games.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t hit.
Morneau, who was batting .345 with a 1.055 OPS at the time of the concussion last July, has hit just .223 with one homer and a .617 OPS this season. In addition to non-existent power and a batting average 60 points below his career norms Morneau is also striking out more than usual and walking less than ever before.
This could be just an optimistic Twins fan talking, but Morneau has seemed fairly unlucky in terms of hard-hit balls hauled in by outfielders in the gaps, and his .264 batting average on balls in play is 30 points below his career mark. However, he’s also hitting fewer line drives and fewer deep fly balls, and Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy broke down Morneau’s swing mechanics and found that they’ve changed for the worse, which along with timing issues following nine months on the sidelines has led to his lack of production.
Morneau’s health was the elephant in the room all offseason, yet so far he’s been healthy, nearly everyone else on the roster has been injured, and the Twins have the worst record in baseball. It’s been that kind of season in Minnesota.
The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.
The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.
Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.
The matchups for Tuesday’s action:
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.
Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.
The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.