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  • 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. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by travistwinstalk View Post
      Why do you have to throw water on good baseball. who knows if this can continue but can't we just enjoy the good baseball instead of saying they can't do this or do that. Just bothers me that instead of enjoying good baseball we feel the need to be skeptical if it continues just doesn't make sense to me.
      It's called "analysis" Travis. That's what I do here.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Nick, we have no choice though. Do you trust them to sit on their hands and rely only on the minors?
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      Quote Originally Posted by savvyspy View Post
      Unfortunately I never have thought the Twins front office knows anything about what it takes to manage a roster properly. I'm not confident this trade deadline will be much different than the past few. They probably sit on their hands to avoid getting fleeced.
      No matter what people think of Terry Ryan you have to admit that he is reasonably skilled at taking a good major league player and trading him away for quality prospects (AJ trade, Knoblauch trade, Milton trade, ect....) I expect that if he does make a trade he will not get fleeced and the players we get will impact the team in coming years.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      I'm not real sure about the "good baseball" thing. Most nights it's been which team is worse not which team is good. Lots of bad pitching, baserunning and fielding along with poor hitting. Its just that the last couple weeks the Twins are less worse.
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      This is still a 90+ loss team just like they have been the last 2 years.
      ---2011 may have felt like it lasted twice as long as most others, but I'm pretty sure it was still only 1 season.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that every team has peaks and valleys during the season. At this point the Twins are in a peak. Still they are on a pace for 96 losses, so we have to look at the big picture and not focus on this temporal peak. They absolutely have to be sellers at this point and start getting new blood (esp. arms here because 2013 is starting to look fairly futile as well...)

      On the other hand, here are a cuople of fairly encouraging stats: At this point NOBODY other than middle infielders has an OPS+ of less than 100 and the only RP who allowed more hits than IPs is Swarzak and lots of those hits came on his starts.

      This indicates that this might be a fairly decent core to build on. But, again, this rotation needs major overhaul to the rhyme of 3 plus pitchers in addition to Hendriks and Diamond in 2013. How do you do that? By trades...
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      "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."

      ---Yep, that's the question. No reason to think this is the start of the unstoppable second-half freight train a la the 2006 team. But I expect better than the second-half train wreck of 2011.

      Hopefully we'll see some consistently competent baseball with youngster like Dozier, Diamond and Plouffe showing progress and Mauer and Morneau showing signs of returning to their former greatness.
    1. Pradesh's Avatar
      Pradesh -
      Historically, the reasoning of many posters here regarding "Should He Stay or Should He Go?" leaves a bit to be desired. Most previously asked that Lohse and Pierzynski not let the door smack them in the ass on their way out. Dickey's departure as barely noticed. Some pined for Thome to stay. Many still lament the loss of Gomez, Bartlett,and Ramos, although the latter will likely rebound.. Pavano, up until recently, had surpased expectations, as has Capps.

      Having signed Santana, Hunter, Cuddy, Kubal and Nathan would have been nice. Wouldn't all of us want to be blessed with a mid-market sized team with a payroll up there with the Yankees?

      Compared to most other teams, I'd say that the Twins' front office has done a respectful job keeping the team competative this year. And that we'll see more of that competativeness in the last half of the season.
    1. kemics's Avatar
      kemics -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I don't consider anyone to be off limits, per se, but I am admittedly a little nervous about the front office's ability to bring back sufficient talent in a trade. Dealing away a one-year guy like Capps or Doumit carries little downside, but when you're talking about getting rid of a quality player under contract for multiple years at a reasonable price, the pressure to bring back useful pieces increases dramatically. Considering their talent evaluation in recent years, can we trust the Twins to make a Span trade worthwhile?
      Agree, somewhat. I think we all knew that pitching would be a problem this season. The bats didn't come around right away and the 6+ era didn't help that. If the twins can muck their way through this season, get away from the Pavano contract, get Baker and Gibson healthy, use this season to build off of success for Diamond, Walters and Hendricks. Use the 1 year guys to get some Bullpen depth in the future. Put the twins in a position to at least be competitive so when The Sanos, and Buxtons are ready in 2014-2015 it pushes them over the top.

      I despise when teams sell off everything for a guess on a prospect that might materialize in 3 years. The twins have the offense now, they need the pitching. Get to within a few games and make a move.

      Prediction: Twins are within 3 games of first by the ASB and are NOT sellers.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by kemics View Post
      Prediction: Twins are within 3 games of first by the ASB and are NOT sellers.
      That would be awesome. I'm just not sure they have the pitching to pull it off.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by kemics View Post
      Agree, somewhat. I think we all knew that pitching would be a problem this season. The bats didn't come around right away and the 6+ era didn't help that. If the twins can muck their way through this season, get away from the Pavano contract, get Baker and Gibson healthy, use this season to build off of success for Diamond, Walters and Hendricks. Use the 1 year guys to get some Bullpen depth in the future. Put the twins in a position to at least be competitive so when The Sanos, and Buxtons are ready in 2014-2015 it pushes them over the top.

      I despise when teams sell off everything for a guess on a prospect that might materialize in 3 years. The twins have the offense now, they need the pitching. Get to within a few games and make a move.

      Prediction: Twins are within 3 games of first by the ASB and are NOT sellers.

      1) Scott Baker- Probably less than 50-50 that Baker comes back: 1)healthy, 2)as effective previously when healthy AND 3) still in a Twins uniform.
      2) Kyle Gibson- Probably comes back healthy but it usually takes at least 1.5 years of playing to begin to return to previous level of effectiveness.
      3) Scott Diamond- Compelling story about his success, but need more than 7 starts to demonstrate proven level of success.
      4) PJ Walters- Less compelling story about his success.
      5) Liam Hendricks- Non-compelling story about his success. He had an ERA of 9.00 on his first tour, AAA numbers outstanding, he'll figure it out sooner or later.
      6) The Sanos- Wish there were two. Still learning to hit a breaking ball and field a ground ball. By 2015 when he's 22, we'll see how different his numbers are from Hicks.
      7) Byron Buxton- Tabula rasa.

      8) Your prediction is possible but maybe not desirable if the Twins repeat last year's Buyer?/Seller? fiasco. It is important to note that the easier part of the schedule ends this weekend. Counting the next two series, the combined records of the Twins opposition since May 16 is 187-233, that's playing at a .445 clip. Upcoming, the records of the teams the Twins play into the ASB is 184-173, a more respectable .515 rate.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      This indicates that this might be a fairly decent core to build on. But, again, this rotation needs major overhaul to the rhyme of 3 plus pitchers in addition to Hendriks and Diamond in 2013. How do you do that? By trades...
      Shedding the salaries of Pavano, Liriano, Baker and Marquis saves the Twins $23.5M. There are an abundance of plus pitchers available on the FA market this offseason. Could 2 of those pitchers be signed for $10-12M each? Absolutely. Unfortunately, the Twins are stuck with Blackburn, but with good 2nd halves from Diamond and Hendriks 4 of the 5 rotation spots could be solid. Gibson will be working his way back in the event of Blackburn falling apart. League average lineup, decent rotation, good bullpen, crappy division - would they really be out of it next year?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The Twins largest FA signing ever is Willingham for $21MM. They shed salary this year, and are likely to see a decline in attendance. You really think they'll sign two front line starters next year?
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      1) Scott Baker- Probably less than 50-50 that Baker comes back: 1)healthy, 2)as effective previously when healthy AND 3) still in a Twins uniform.
      2) Kyle Gibson- Probably comes back healthy but it usually takes at least 1.5 years of playing to begin to return to previous level of effectiveness.
      1) My feeling is that all of those is WELL less than 50-50 based mostly on the third condition. With the uncertainty and the timing, I feel like it would be very hard for them to pick up the option. Once the option isn't picked up--and this is based on nothing but feeling--it seems unlikely/uncommon that someone will then sign with the team that did the non-picking-up of the option.

      2) I've poked a very very little bit to try to get facts rather than feelings about when guys get back to full strength (or close) after TJ surgery. I've never gotten far enough to feel like I have a good sense of it. Anyone have anything other than anecdotal evidence? There was recently some thread(s) here that even linked to some information about how common the surgery has gotten, and I think that even commented on how successful it was from a "come backs to pitch" perspective, but I don't think it got into the timing aspect. That Gibson will have 17 months from surgery to the actual season starting next year has been reason for optimism for me, but I don't know if it actually should be or if that's just hopes and dreams.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      It is important to note that the easier part of the schedule ends this weekend. Counting the next two series, the combined records of the Twins opposition since May 16 is 187-233, that's playing at a .445 clip. Upcoming, the records of the teams the Twins play into the ASB is 184-173, a more respectable .515 rate.
      Texas Rangers (last 3 games before the ASB): 35-26 (.574)
      Other teams after this weekend (17 games): 149-147 (.503). And even though the Pirates are 5 games over .500, they've got a -17 run differential. So, sure, the schedule is getting tougher, but it's still not tough.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The Twins largest FA signing ever is Willingham for $21MM. They shed salary this year, and are likely to see a decline in attendance. You really think they'll sign two front line starters next year?
      They will if they don't want to see a decline in attendance again next year.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by kemics View Post
      Prediction: Twins are within 3 games of first by the ASB and are NOT sellers.
      Thanks for the chuckle...just checked the Twins schedule...last 7 games before the ASB are Tigers (4) and Texas (3). Texas is simply the best team in MLB right now and I expect Tigers just about ready to turn it around...if Twins win 2 of those 7 I will be shocked.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by James Richter View Post
      Texas Rangers (last 3 games before the ASB): 35-26 (.574)
      Other teams after this weekend (17 games): 149-147 (.503). And even though the Pirates are 5 games over .500, they've got a -17 run differential. So, sure, the schedule is getting tougher, but it's still not tough.
      Agreed, but in this case, "tough" is a relative term for a team performing like the Twins, who have a -67 run differential. Even with their recent awakening from the early-season slumbers, they are still the worst team in the AL, playing at a .407 pace. They are 9th in the AL in OPS and are in last place in AL pitching stats in virtually every category (except in BB, where they are in first place in fewest walks allowed--- a hearty hoo-yah to pitch-to-contact!).
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      Thanks for the chuckle...just checked the Twins schedule...last 7 games before the ASB are Tigers (4) and Texas (3). Texas is simply the best team in MLB right now and I expect Tigers just about ready to turn it around...if Twins win 2 of those 7 I will be shocked.
      Sadly, that sounds about right, the Tigers are due for a run here as they just got Jackson back and their team power numbers are climbing rapidly, but I disagree- 2-5 won't be shocking, just a strong close for a team "out there battling" going into the break.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      james, you base that on how the Pohlads and Ryan have acted in the past, or do you think they are changed people?
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