Now that the season is over, I thought I would return to write down a few of my thoughts regarding this season.
Third 90+ loss season in a row
Yes, the Twins have once again lost over 90 games, after showing the possibility of maybe winning 70 even at the beginning of September. Of course, such a likelihood was lessened after Mauer was taken out with a concussion and Morneau was traded to the Pirates (GO PIRATES-WS 2013!) Still, the Twins' pitching completely fell off the cliff and couldn't even muster enough push to get Gardy his 1000th win. There was also a bit of a mess regarding who was even healthy enough to play the outfield during a portion of the season. All in all, there was some potential for a little improvement, and it didn't happen, which should be considered a very disturbing thing.
Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
The Twins ended the season dead last in starting pitching ERA (5.26). The starting staff also finished dead last in K's, behind the next to last team, the Rockies, by over 110 K's (the Twins' starters had 477 K's). For a team that is even hoping to compete within the next two years, this needs to be rectified ASAP. The Twins were lucky enough to finish with the 14th best ERA in the majors at 3.50; the relievers somehow managed to strike out 508 batters. So while there were a few holes in the relief corps this season, they certainly did enough to keep the Twins in plenty of games.
Oh, the strikeouts. Oh, the humanity!
The Twins also ended with one of the least productive offenses this franchise has ever seen; in the AL, only the Houston Astros, the new eternally rebuilding franchise in the MLB, struck out more times than the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are also near the bottom in most other major categories, like stolen bases, batting average, OPS, runs, hits, and several others.
The Twins, like most teams, had to turn to their farm system to help supplement the production they were missing as key position players went down with injuries. It didn't always go well. Some of the better replacements were Josmil Pinto, who came up to replace Joe Mauer after he went down with his concussion, and, well, I can't think think of anyone else who played all that well.
There were also several players who were expected to step up and replace key players. Aaron Hicks won the CF job out of spring training, and really did terribly at the plate (though he managed to save a little value by playing a fair CF). Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello were expected to be solid role-players; instead they turned in very disappointing seasons. Trever Plouffe was given a full season to take hold of the 3rd base position, and instead took a step back both defensively and offensively. Darin Mastroianni was injured very early in the season, came back close to the end of the year and never really got going. Pedro Florimon, while not hitting for much average, did show a little pop and gave the Twins an above-average defender at shortstop.
While the Twins had a third consecutive 90+ loss season, there were three bright spots for the Twins season this year (there may have been others, but I am choosing to focus on these three).
- As it has been widely commented upon, Brian Dozier brought his career back to relevancy with an extremely solid final five months of the season. After searching out Tom Brunansky about a hitch in his swing, Dozier turned into a legit Top-5 second baseman, both offensively and defensively. He led the team in home runs, triples, at-bats and games played. He was second in stolen bases, doubles, hits, RBI and strikeouts. His 2013 campaign was so impressive to the Twins brass that they are even considering pushing Eddie Rosario, a converted outfielder turned second basemen, back into an outfielder to allow Dozier to stay at second.
- Everyone has heard the story of how he managed to convince the Twins to sign him by driving across a good portion of the continental US just to try out. Well, he finally managed to claw his way up the ladder into the Twins starting rotation. While his 2-5, 4.05 ERA isn't great, he started his major league career by nearly throwing two complete game shutouts. As teams began to get a bit more info on him, he became somewhat less effective, but he was able to pitch well enough that he should be given at least some consideration in being a part of next year's rotation.
- Thielbar was signed by the Twins off the St. Paul Saints' roster in 2011. After the 2012 season, the Twins added Thielbar to their 40-man roster and he was promoted to the majors in late May. In his first 17 major league appearances, Thielbar didn't give up a single run. He finished the season with a 1.76 ERA over 46 IP, allowing only 24 hits and 9 earned runs. He walked 14 batters, struck out 39 and opposing hitters hit only .154 off him. These three players were bright spots to Twins fans and everyone was cheering these players on.
Well, next the Twins need to clear out their 40-man roster of players they aren't interested in keeping to make room for prospects who need to be added to keep them from being snagged in the Rule V draft. They have already started this process, outrighting Cole de Vries, Shairon Martis, Josh Roenicke and Clete Thomas
to AAA Rochester. Several players that are likely to be added to the 40-man roster include: Logan Darnell, A.J. Achter, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Kennys Vargas and possibly Pat Dean. There should also be several spots left open for any free agents added (which will hopefully include several free agent pitchers.)
Lastly, the Twins should have nearly $20-$40 million available to spend on free agents this offseason. While there aren't any really big-name pitchers on the market this season, there are several- Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, Phil Hughes, Tim Lincecum, Scott Kazmir, and Jason Vargas- who will be available. I hope the Twins find the money and the will to sign at least one of these, as well as one or two others on a slightly lower tier.
All in all, this has been another disappointing season for the Twins. They are currently in a waiting period, waiting for their top prospects to reach the majors. They haven't done much recently to improve the lot of their fans. They need to take a good look at several of the teams in the postseason this year and see at how, with lower payrolls, they have built their teams while many of the big-market teams are home on their couches, watching these lower-market teams play for a ring. I hope the Twins are willing to crack the piggybank and improve their roster. If they aren't, 2014 will be another long year for us Twins fans.