Understanding Byron’s Struggle with Home Runs: An In-Depth Analysis of the 2023 Season
In the first half of the 2023 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins found themselves in the midst of the top-tier pitching rotations. Their starting pitchers led the league with an impressive 517 strikeouts during the All-Star Break, boasting a collective ERA of just 3.64. However, the Twins’ early success was not solely attributed to one outstanding pitching performance but rather the result of a complete rotation effort.
Among the team’s leaders, Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray earned honors at the All-Star Game. Yet, Byron Buxton must have provided a compelling argument for his inclusion, especially after his remarkable complete game shutout against the Boston Red Sox on June 22nd. Buxton held an impressive 9.61 K/9, a .201 opponent batting average, a 2.98 ERA, and had contributed eight home runs through 93.2 innings pitched from Opening Day until midseason.
However, from late June through the start of August, Buxton’s season took a downturn. Over seven starts, he recorded an 8.63 ERA across 32.1 innings pitched. During this slump, he also gave up 17 home runs, the highest in the league during that period. Buxton’s struggles can be attributed to a serious injury that he later revealed, specifically a groin injury. The injury took a toll on his ERA, and the Twins were concerned that most of Buxton’s woes were due to his time on the disabled list or the casualties list due to injuries inflicted by other players.
If his last two starts after returning from the injured list are any indication, Buxton seems to be returning to his former self. Since coming back from the IL, Buxton has pitched 11 innings with a 1.64 ERA and only allowed two earned runs against his opponents. Most importantly, in each of these starts, he secured victories for the Twins. The Twins need Buxton to deliver more than ever before, making his recent resurgence vital to their campaign.
The two starts may not seem representative, especially since they came against the struggling Texas Rangers. However, whether Buxton can sustain his improved performance will be a defining factor in his comeback, particularly considering his groin injury. His home run/fly ball percentage in his last two starts is 18.2%, compared to 14.8% for the 2023 season. Before his injury, Buxton was having a stellar year. However, it remains to be seen if he can maintain this improvement.
Lopez and Gray are still performing at or around the high level they established earlier in the season, with Lopez holding a 3.35 ERA and Gray posting a 2.98 ERA. Their consistency in performance since the All-Star Break is notable, although the rearview mirror shows some instability.
To fill in for Buxton, the Twins included 35-year-old Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, though he faced turbulence with a 5.06 ERA in 21.1 innings pitched. This season, Bailey Ober and Kenta Maeda have shown commendable performances. However, their form has wavered in the final weeks of the season. Just last week, Minnesota sent Ober to Triple-A, where he is taking a break and struggling to start. Maeda, on the other hand, had a successful run starting in late July. In his last four appearances, he has allowed 15 runs in 18 innings, tarnishing his image.
Competing for the AL Central, it is crucial for the Twins to have Buxton back and, if need be, on the post-season roster. The three-game Wild Card series looms, and two slots have already been secured by Lopez and Gray, leaving Buxton with a chance to fill the final opening. This especially holds true if the ALWC series ends on a tech-all scenario.
Since joining the team in 2021, Byron Buxton has emerged as one of Minnesota’s most critical young talents. Before his unfortunate injury, it appeared that this year would be his breakthrough season. The rotation could once again be considered among the league’s best as the season comes to a close, and perhaps, Buxton is pitching at an elite level once more. If the Twins want to secure the AL Central in the final weeks of the campaign, Buxton must maintain the pitching excellence he showcased in the early part of the season.
In conclusion, while Buxton’s absence posed a minor setback, the Twins have the talent and depth to keep their rotation formidable. With three reliable starters on hand, it may appear to be a minor issue. However, the Twins’ pitching depth has been challenged, particularly in the recent seasons. It was in the era of Johan Santana, Nick Blackburn, and Kevin Slowey when the playoffs began. Considering that they have three reliable starting pitchers,
the Twins could use any combination to face their potential playoff opponents. This is especially true if the ALWC series ends in a tech-all scenario.