• How Good Are the Twins?

    The circumstances and details have differed, but so far the course of this Twins season has very closely mirrored the last one. In both instances, the club looked strong coming out of spring training before being derailed by injuries and poor performance over the first two months, digging a deep early hole.

    When June came around last year, the Twins suddenly turned things around, taking advantage of weaker competition and rattling off victories (17 out of 19 at one point) to make a run at the .500 mark, which seemed like an unthinkable feat when they finished May at 19 games under. They kept playing well into July, creating some ambiguity as to their status as buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, but then the wheels came off completely in August and September.

    Staying consistent with last year's storyline, the 2012 Twins have turned things around here as weather has heated up and the schedule has softened. They've won four straight series and six of their last eight; prior to this stretch they had won only two of their last 24 series dating back to last year.

    It's been a stark turnaround, much like the one we saw around this time last summer when the Twins posted a .654 June winning percentage compared to .338 over the rest of the campaign. That sudden spell of success created a lot of hope, which came crashing down in a nightmarish final third of the season.

    In light of these parallels, fans are now wondering whether the team's current improvement is legitimate or another painful mirage. Fortunately, there are plenty of indications that a similarly dramatic drop-off is not on the horizon.

    It starts at the core. Whereas last year Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were never quite right, both are healthy and playing at an extremely high level right now. Since May 16th (when Morneau returned from the disabled list) Mauer is hitting .356 with six doubles and two of his three home runs; Morneau has 11 extra-base hits – including six homers – and is averaging an RBI per game.

    The rest of the lineup has contributed around those two. Josh Willingham has of course been fantastic. Denard Span and Ben Revere have formed a dynamic and effective table-setting force at the top of the lineup. Trevor Plouffe has eight homers in his last 18 games and is starting to look like an actual major-league third baseman.

    There are tons of positives on offense, and as long as most people stay healthy that unit should remain in good shape. Pitching is another story. There have certainly been some positives there as well, but even those carry major caveats. (When will the bad Frankie return? When will Scott Diamond's bubble burst?)

    Absolutely we should expect better from the rotation over the rest of the campaign – a 6-plus ERA was probably never sustainable – but it seems highly unlikely that this flawed group of starters can do enough to turn this three-week run of success into a three-month run, which is what the Twins would need to crawl back into contention after an abysmal start. The offense is good, but not good enough to overcome a below-average pitching staff and win at a .600-plus clip the rest of the way? Hard to see.

    Of course, most realists aren't expecting that. Most are just hoping for solid, watchable baseball as opposed to the ugly mess that we were exposed to in April and the first half of May.

    And if the Twins really do want to surpass expectations and make a statement, there's no time like the present. Their next six games are at home, their next 12 are against the National League (which they have historically dominated) and they'll follow that up with 11 straight against teams ahead of them in the AL Central.
    This article was originally published in blog: How Good Are the Twins? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      james, you base that on how the Pohlads and Ryan have acted in the past, or do you think they are changed people?
      Not sure how much change occurred and Ryan wasn't directly involved with the club during the transition to the new park, but, the Pohlads did expand the payroll once the stadium was approved and it had been stated publicly that the GM had more wiggle room with the payroll if there were proposed moves available that could help put the Twins over the top. At this point in the new park's history, isn't it soon becoming incumbent on the owners to insure that years like 2011 are an anomaly? Sadly right now, the actions of the club speak louder than the words, it appears the payroll will continue shrinking for the next few years until all the high-priced contracts are fully shed- with Willingham-like and Carrol-like deals acting as transitional Band-Aids, rather than sincere reloading efforts.
    1. dwintheiser's Avatar
      dwintheiser -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      It seems like General Managing 101. Only sell guys who are free agents at the end of the year (Capps) or guys who have value but not close to their salary (Morneau, Mauer)
      Look at it from the other GM's perspective.

      If you don't think Mauer is worth $23M a year, why trade good value prospects to get him into your organization?

      Even more to the point, why give up good value to get a player for three months who you're going to end up paying through the nose for at the end of the year, when you could just wait until the end of the year and pay through the nose and just give the other team a low first-round draft pick?

      Criticizing GMs for not making deals like 'your best prospect for my backup shortstop who I wasn't planning to re-sign in the off-season anyway' assumes that there are GMs out there who would make those deals. Short of assuming every other GM is an idiot, I'm not seeing it.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      james, you base that on how the Pohlads and Ryan have acted in the past, or do you think they are changed people?
      Based on how they've acted in the past, I think the Pohlads like making money. Fielding a competitive team next year will help them make money. Ryan has historically addressed the team's needs pretty well within the constraints of the budget and the available players on the market. I don't take it as a foregone conclusion that the payroll is going down next year. But even if it drops by another $13M, and Ryan only has $22M available to sign free agents, I can't think of any better way to spend it than on two $11M SPs. Now if they kid themselves into thinking that Diamond is an ace and they can get away with signing Joe Blanton, I'm sure they'll do that. But if they're honest about what they've got, and what they need, they'll be bidding on #2 starters next winter.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      James, I hope you are right, and I am wrong. Really, really hope it.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by James Richter View Post
      Based on how they've acted in the past, I think the Pohlads like making money. Fielding a competitive team next year will help them make money. Ryan has historically addressed the team's needs pretty well within the constraints of the budget and the available players on the market. I don't take it as a foregone conclusion that the payroll is going down next year. But even if it drops by another $13M, and Ryan only has $22M available to sign free agents, I can't think of any better way to spend it than on two $11M SPs. Now if they kid themselves into thinking that Diamond is an ace and they can get away with signing Joe Blanton, I'm sure they'll do that. But if they're honest about what they've got, and what they need, they'll be bidding on #2 starters next winter.
      Based on Twins history, they won't do it, makes too much sense, and making sense is too risky for a club still in denial at the state of the club and still a club that always does things the same way as before. Blanton it is then(whoopee), the best we could hope for is they split the difference and go for a #3SP like Bedard...and Blanton (Sigh...)
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