• 2013 Twins Postmortem: What Went Wrong

    Yes, I am aware that there are a couple weeks left in the season. But the Twins are dead. Dead as a door-nail. And they've been that way for months (years?). Shortly after this season comes to its pitiful end, the Twins' brass and field personnel will assemble, as they do every year, in Ft. Myers, for the organizational meetings. Among other topics, they will dissect the 2013 season, and what exactly caused this year's ineptitude.

    If Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire or Dave St. Peter needs to do some cramming on the Delta flight down south, what follows is a short(ish) list of causes for this season's horrid, embarrassing play. Make no mistake, this is not an exhaustive or detailed list. And I'm not adding very many stats this time around (it's 2013: if you need statistical support for my proposition that Darin Mastroianni wasn't spectacular offensively, check out any number of websites). Without further ado, and in no particular order of importance, here are my Cliff's Notes for the 2013 Twins Organizational Meetings.

    Ron Gardenhire: 2002

    1. Aaron Hicks was Not Ready for Primetime

    The Twins made good trades, getting (potentially) quality arms for centerfielders Ben Revere and Denard Span. By getting rid of Revere and Span, however, the Twins' thrust Hicks into the spotlight. To be sure, he put on a good show at AA in 2012, and was dominant in Spring Training in 2013. But we know now -- hindsight being 20/20, of course -- that he was not ready for the major leagues. Yes, he had flashes of brilliance offensively, and was solid defensively, but this was too much, too soon, for Hicks, evidenced by the fact that he didn't earn a September call-up, and that the Twins selected a replacement-level centerfielder, Alex Presely, when they traded Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates last month.

    2. Low Power in the Middle of the Order

    Josh Willingham, who had a career year in 2012, was injured for a significant part of 2013, and his power numbers dwindled. He'll end up at around 15 home runs, and will be lucky to get 55 RBIs (last season, on an equally bad team: 35 dingers, 110 RBIs). Justin Morneau was serviceable, but also lacked the power that Twins fans enjoyed for the better part of a decade. Joe Mauer was good before his concussion, but his "power numbers" (dingers/RBIs) weren't high, mostly because no one was on base in front of him. In short, the guys that were penciled-in as the Twins' 3-4-5 hitters didn't do the damage that was expected. Make no mistake, RBI are very much a team stat -- so perhaps it's more appropriate to say that the Twins as a whole under-delivered in giving the meat of the order opportunities to do damage.

    3. Starting Pitching was Disgusting

    Terry Ryan got what he (while spending Pohlad family money) paid for. It makes me physically ill reciting Twins' starting pitching stats from this season, so I'm not going to. But it's basically what you would expect: way too many hits, way too few strikeouts, way too few guys getting deep into games, and a batch of guys that probably wouldn't deserve more than a "cup of coffee" at the major league level being given multiple starts with the Twins this season. One thing to note: Vance Worley -- who projected to be not fantastic, but serviceable, failed this season. I didn't see that coming, and it's probably not fair to blame the front office for that (but note, at the same time, that Trevor May -- a better pitcher under team control for more years -- was the larger piece in that trade as far as the future goes).

    4. Trevor Plouffe Showed Little Improvement

    The Twins have given Plouffe, now 27, every chance. I know -- he showed great promise last season (I was at one of those games last July where he was just on fire, and it was exciting). But so far, those couple months have been, more or less, a flash in the pan. Although his average is a little higher than it was last year (.252 to .235), the OPS is lower, the defense isn't as solid as the team would like, and I'm not even sure how dedicated Plouffe is to the game (not my opinion -- based on a smattering of articles/tweets the past couple seasons from those "in the know").

    With Miguel Sano on the rise, 2013 would have been a good season for Plouffe to establish himself as the Twins' starting third baseman to beat. Now, I expect the competition will be on in March, 2013. Sure, Plouffe will be better defensively than Sano, but will Plouffe be able to compete with Sano's power, and, equally as important, Sano's desire -- desire to succeed, to improve on defense, to be an All-Star?

    5. No Help from the Top of the Order

    Aaron Hicks failed to get on base when the Twins gave him lead-off hitter duties. Here are some other guys that hit out of the 1-hole this season: Clete Thomas, Eduardo Escobar, Jamey Carroll, Alex Presley (and Brian Dozier, who really hasn't been bad in that position, but is an ideal 2-hole hitter). Not quite Denard Span-esque, huh? It's tough to give Dozier (when he's batting second, that is), Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Ryan Doumit the opportunity to do much damage with that rather pathetic crop of players occupying what is supposed to be a high on-base percentage spot in the lineup.

    6. Little Assistance from the Farm

    Long story short, when the Twins really needed talent to come up from their farm system and produce, they didn't get results. Yes, there were bright spots. In fact, I'm sure every guy called up this season performed well at some point. But in the aggregate, it was insufficient. Look at all the names that didn't give the Twins a boost this season:

    • Hicks,
    • Kyle Gibson (remember the "Free Gibson" movement?),
    • Chris Parmelee,
    • Chris Colabello (I hesitate to even put him here -- I'm a big fan, he performed so well at New Britain and in Rochester, and he's been up-and-down so much in 2013 that the Rochester-to-Minneapolis flight attendants probably know him by name -- but I've been let down),
    • and Oswaldo Arcia (who started off well, and is doing all right now, but had a horrid stretch that resulted in a demotion to AAA).

    And I'm not going to mention the rest of the pitchers (but I am glaring at Liam Hendriks, and he knows it).

    7. No Top Prospect Forced His Way Up


    Don't get me wrong. Miguel Sano had a great, great season. He exceeded expectations. But in the end, he didn't deserve a call-up -- unless you believe his call-up would have been just for the fans this season (not an unreasonable proposition, by the way).

    Sano slowed down at AA, and was inconsistent (though powerful and exiting). Trevor May was stable, in the sense that he was uninjured, but was never good enough to warrant a promotion to AAA, much less the Twins. And the best pitching prospect, Alex Meyer, was limited because of injuries, thus never even entering the equation for a mid-or-late season promotion. I need to be measured in my observations, because Sano and Meyer were very, very good, and May did improve.

    But make no mistake, none of these guys really forced Terry Ryan's hand when it came to a September call-up. Accordingly, they were unable to breathe life into the dead MLB team. But maybe that's for the best. I'm not sure I want Miguel Sano's first game to be one where Mastroianni is batting leadoff and one where the Twins are about to lose their 90th game of the season in front of an "in-the-stands" Target Field crowd of 8,000.

    The end results: The Twins stopped playing meaningful games back in May or June. Again. Payroll decreased. Again. The Twins sold off an asset (Morneau). Fans stopped coming to the ballpark like they used to (even if they had paid for tickets in advance). There is hope in sight (a very good farm system), but I am not at all convinced that the talented prospects, alone, will bring relevance to this organization.

    As I mentioned, this was a non-exhaustive list. Please, leave a comment. Add your thoughts on what else factored into the Twins' failures this season. Thanks for reading.
    This article was originally published in blog: 2013: A Postmortem started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 33 Comments
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Mutter, mutter, mutter.

      Between Colabello & Parmelee, two guys who raked in AAA, you'd think we'd get a guy who could hit in MLB. Really need one, or both, of those guys to be a big league hitter.

      It seems that in the decade up to 2010 the Twins could always bring in some AAA guy that was little known and he would surprise everyone with a great showing. Happened again and again.

      Our 'rich farm system' in 2013 had its treasures buried too deep for this year. Rochester, for the most part, was not very helpful.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      I think Arcia forced his way to the big leagues. He raked in AAA which kept giving him chances to show it in the majors. He's going to be good.

      You really didn't need hindsight to determine #1 and #3. Going with a rookie who has never been above AAA was a big risk and there was no backup plan despite several CF available cheaply (ex. Nyjer Morgan is in Japan). #3 was obvious to anyone looking at the opening day roster. So many pitchers were coming off of surgery. I didn't expect Worley to flame out but some pitcher always does and they should have anticipated that with all the medical issues of this pitching staff.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Yeah, my only quibble was number 7. Arcia was a top prospect and forced his way up. He struggled a bit, but sadly is still one of the better hitters on this team going by the numbers at least. I think he will be fine next season. He has adjusted well at every stop.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Yeah, my only quibble was number 7. Arcia was a top prospect and forced his way up. He struggled a bit, but sadly is still one of the better hitters on this team going by the numbers at least. I think he will be fine next season. He has adjusted well at every stop.
      Yea, good point. I guess I discounted him because he played like 13 games this spring for Rochester before getting the call, so his promotion feels old to me.

      For the record, I also think he will be great. He's very young!
    1. zenser's Avatar
      zenser -
      Here is an even harder question to answer. What went right for the Twins this season?
      1) Brian Dozier's emergence
      2) solid bullpen pitching
      3) Minor League success
      4) Progression of Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Pinto to name a few.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Good job on the article! I wasn't expecting much this year and wasn't disappointed. I look at it a little differently.

      2013 Actual Hicks, Pressly, Arcia, Gibson, Thielbar, Presly, Pinto

      2014 Projected Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Meyer, May

      Some played their way into our future plans and probably an equal number played themselves out of consideration. I would also add Dozier someplace. The future is much clearer than it was.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      IMO, the season was toast as soon as the rotation was set.
    1. adjacent's Avatar
      adjacent -
      Boy, Gardy has put on a lot of weight. I guess #1, #3 and, in some way, #7 were predictable. There is a lot of talent in the minors, but it was not in AAA at the beginning of the year. Arcia being the exception. I hope they don't give up on Hicks, he always was slow to adjust to changes in level, but ended up playing well in the end.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      2013 was supposed to be a season of figuring out what we've got. I hope that the front office now can be decisive in the off-season, perhaps letting the trade market confirm what they think about their players (or conversely get more in return than they expect, for the guys they want to part ways with), and not let 40-man roster congestion ever be an excuse for personnel decisions going forward.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      2013 was supposed to be a season of figuring out what we've got. I hope that the front office now can be decisive in the off-season, perhaps letting the trade market confirm what they think about their players (or conversely get more in return than they expect, for the guys they want to part ways with), and not let 40-man roster congestion ever be an excuse for personnel decisions going forward.
      I agree this winter is the time to be decisive. I think Ryan is going to pull a rabbit out of his hat. I always felt congestion on the 40-man roster was smoke and mirrors. I'd have a difficult time coming up with more than 26-27 players to keep as we stand, and even being overly protective with the Rule 5 players, I believe we have all kinds of room.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Good job on the article! I wasn't expecting much this year and wasn't disappointed. I look at it a little differently.

      2013 Actual Hicks, Pressly, Arcia, Gibson, Thielbar, Presly, Pinto

      2014 Projected Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Meyer, May

      Some played their way into our future plans and probably an equal number played themselves out of consideration. I would also add Dozier someplace. The future is much clearer than it was.
      Could you explain these lists? Is it that the players on the 2013 list look to be important parts of the team in the future?
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      2013 was supposed to be a season of figuring out what we've got. I hope that the front office now can be decisive in the off-season, perhaps letting the trade market confirm what they think about their players (or conversely get more in return than they expect, for the guys they want to part ways with), and not let 40-man roster congestion ever be an excuse for personnel decisions going forward.
      I can live with that explanation (even if I think the FO saw it differently), and I hope you're right about the offseason.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      What went wrong in 2013?

      I think they were banking on 150 rainouts.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      1A and 1B would be the dismal failure of Worley and Diamond. I was always a bit skeptical on Diamond but if those two produced near expectations we would have had a chance.

      I say a chance because the middle of the order with the exception of Mauer also failed. Willingham went from an OPS of .890 to .730. Morneau was finally healthy and was still mediocre at best. Doumit went from an OPS of .780 to .700. Plouffe and Parelee simply did not step up.

      I guess who you blame depends on perspective. Should the Twins have acquired one of the top FA position players? (Hamilton/Upton/Bourne/Swisher) For $36M/yr the Indians got statistically the worst offensive CF in baseball and a 1st baseman that ranks 18th. The other two big FA position players from last year were Hamilton and Upton. Hamilton for 5/125M produced an OPS of 733. BJ Upton 5/75M has an OPS of 572. I am very glad we don’t have any of these contracts on the books.

      I did not expect greatness from Worley / Diamond / Deduno / Correia but they should have been decent. I blame the FO for Pelfrey. We paid him to rehab at the ML level. Short of Sanchez or resigned with his old team, who should have they went and got. It’s not like anyone saw Colon or Feldman emerging. My first preference would have been Lohse. Unfortunately, that relationship was strained. Dempster would have been my next choice followed by Blanton. Dempster has been mediocre with an ERA of 4.64 and Blanton has been awful.

      Moving Span and Revere for pitching was smart. Giving Hicks a chance was not a terrible idea for a rebuilding team. Mastroianni was a decent fall-back position and of course he was hurt before the season started.

      So, I am going to take a very different tact than normally followed here on TD. I am going to blame the players that did not get it done. Short of the Pelfrey decision, I thought the FO made good decisions and the minor league system is in the best shape it has ever been. I am still concerned about scouting and development of Pitchers. Two years ago I would have been firing some scouts and offering a couple scouts from the As and Rays a big raise.
      Today, I might forgo the firings but I would still be recruiting some scouting talent.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Virtually everything went wrong. We got clarity, but not any of the kind we could have hoped for.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      I agree this winter is the time to be decisive. I think Ryan is going to pull a rabbit out of his hat. I always felt congestion on the 40-man roster was smoke and mirrors. I'd have a difficult time coming up with more than 26-27 players to keep as we stand, and even being overly protective with the Rule 5 players, I believe we have all kinds of room.
      I agree with everything stated, particularly the glut of AAAA players. But signing and retaining a glut of those types of place-holding players at AAA and AA with the promise that their continued mediocrity will give them a shot at a cup of coffee on the Twins active 25-man roster has been Ryan's demonstrated area of expertise, now, hasn't it?

      My one exception to your hypothoses is that I harbor my extreme doubts about Ryan's alleged and suddenly re-discovered "magicianship".. Sadly, you're evidently willing to admit that the FO has been lying in wait all this time and now Ryan is somehow going to do a magic trick, and in one "decisive" fell swoop, make the miserable memories of the last 3 seasons all go away. Let's check back on that notion next February.
    1. lyndon's Avatar
      lyndon -
      I don't really think anything went wrong. The players we have are just not that good (with a few exceptions). Anything that went wrong was well before the season started. Expecting my 03 Chevy Impala to win the Indy 500 is just unrealistic. In other news bring on Sano, Buxton, Rosario, Meyer,etc. Can hardly wait for 2014! Even though we'll probably still suck, it should be fun to watch.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      So, I am going to take a very different tact than normally followed here on TD. I am going to blame the players that did not get it done.
      You radical.

      I would say that a case could be made (and it will no doubt be argued more strenuously by others than I have an interest in doing) that the players played up to what they were capable of, so if the results are still poor it rests on the FO to get better players.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      Pitch to contact starting pitchers whose WHIP were unsightly and who couldn't strike anyone out. Failure to contact Hitters. . . . So many called 3rd strikes looking. Are they that bad? Hasn't Bruno preached protecting the plate with two strikes? So many disappointments in Hicks (god awful at the plate), Plouffe-who at one point I would of DFA, Parmelee and Colabello have proven to be AAAA guys even when platooned. Arcia's all or nothing approach. Really just so many disappointments, injuries and untalented players to list only 7.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I never saw any fire in the team (it's even worse now!) that suggested that they believed this would be a winning season. That must change! I repeat--there is way too much emphasis on pitch-count and walks. The hitters need to get more aggressive on the first pitch and not permit the opposing P an easy strike one. These young guys also have to dial-it-down with two strikes and focus on making solid contact rather than swinging for the fences. Twins pitchers need to use their off-speed pitches more frequently.
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