• Back of the Napkin: How Far Are The 2013 Twins From Contention?

    How far are the Twins from contention? One side looks at their dismal record and wants a complete makeover. The other looks at the team's players and thinks theyíre just a couple of arms away from a pennant race. Which is it?

    Letís do some back-of-the-napkin figuring. As of right now, the Twins are 111 runs under .500. Not wins under .500, but runs under .500.

    That isnít good. The Indians are the only American League team thatís worse. The three teams who have the most runs over .500 also happen to be the division leaders. The outlier is the Orioles, who are 45 runs under .500 but still have a shot at the wild card. But for the most part, the teams that are around 40 runs over .500 have a decent chance at a playoff spot.

    So how do the Twins, in 2013, get from -110 to +40? Can they? Is that realistic?

    It ainít easy, but the Twins are both blessed and cursed by the same trait Ė theyíre starting pitching is truly dreadful. Thatís not breaking news, but just HOW awful they are is both stomach-turning and hope-inducing.

    Theyíre the worst team in the American League, and itís not particularly close. The starting rotationís ERA is currently 5.56. Next worst is almost a full half run better. The AL average is more than a run better. The median team is 1.2 runs better. And the best team, the Devil Rays, is more than two runs better per game.

    So whereís the hope? Itís in some simple math.

    The average AL starting rotation pitches about 990 innings, or about 110 full games worth of innings. If the rotation improves to just second worst in the AL, thatís worth 55 runs. A move to mediocrity brings them another 110 to 130 runs. That at least sounds close to contention.

    It turns out both sides are right. The Twins are dismal. And theyíre a few non-terrible arms from contention. So the argument shifts: how tough is it to cobble together mediocre starting pitching?

    That depends on who you talk to. The Orioles might say itís not that daunting, considering their rotation improved from dead last in 2011 to 9th this year with nothing more than a couple of cheaper free agent pickups. On the other hand, the Royals havenít been better than the 10th best team in the AL since 2003, which is also the last time they were contenders.

    Twins optimists might point to Scott Diamond, a Rule 5 pickup, as an example of how decent starting pitching can come from where one least expects it. Twins pessimists might point to the other ten players who have started atop the mound at some point this season. None have thrown even 100 innings as a starter. None are likely to. If the front office could find pitching talent, wouldnít they have found some in the 107 games started by those pitchers?

    Iím not sure I know the answer. But watching the last few weeks of the season and seeing the performances of Liam Hendriks, Sam Deduno and hopefully Esmerling Vasquez could Ė and probably should Ė play a part in the overall direction of the franchise this season.

    So maybe neither side is right, at least not yet.
    This article was originally published in blog: Back of the Napkin: How Far Are The 2013 Twins From Contention? started by John Bonnes
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      "That isn’t good. The Indians are the only American League team that’s worse. The three teams who have the most runs over .500 also happen to be the division leaders. The outlier is the Orioles, who are 45 runs under .500 but still have a shot at the wild card. But for the most part, the teams that are around 40 games over .500 have a decent chance at a playoff spot."
      40 games over is 101 wins... 40 runs over?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It is all about starting pitching and one top pitcher and one prospect/arb-eligible good pitcher would guarantee a turnaround at 15 million a year combined for 3-4 years. Aside from that they have Gibson, Diamond, and Hendriks (really the next best three), and Walters, Vasquez, DeVries, Hernandez, Bromberg, Deduno, and Devries there as potentially capable 5th starters.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      If your glass is empty because you drank what was in it, Diamond, Hendricks and Gibson are very good starters and all you need to pick up is another quality arm. From the rest of the collection there will come an adequate 5th starter. Perkins, Burton, Robertson, Fien, Duensing, Swarzak and Slama make a formidable bullpen. Arcia, Revere, Willingham, Doumit, Paramlee, Maurer, Morneau make for a formidable outfield/1b/C combo. Ploufe stays healthy and two competent slick fielding infielders make up the bottom. It make take a second glass to truly believe, but a fan has to have some hope.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      A new front office would help more!
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Did I need to add that Jeff Gray is in AAA in case things go horribly wrong?
    1. joeboo_22's Avatar
      joeboo_22 -
      I think you have to start saying who do you want in the rotation next year. Right now I say Diamond is in, Hendricks probably deserves to be, but after that there isn't a ton out there. Walters was a so-so starter but has struggled pretty bad with his rehab starts in AAA. Gibson even if 100% I don't see the Twins pitching him more then 100 innings (prolly closer to 60 innings). So I wouldn't be surprised if he is put in the pen. DeVries is similar to Deduno are guys that I just don't see being effective in the majors long term. They may be able to hold the #5 spot but I just don't see long term MLB starter stuff in them. Deduno too many walks, DeVries just doesn't have major league stuff. It can last for awhile with them but it will catch up. Other then that Bromberg could make the roster, maybe they push Hermsen who has as much upside as any starter in the organization right now. But other then that I don't see much internally.

      So you start with
      Diamond
      Hendricks
      and then you have to wonder. I'm guessing 1 of the guys you mentions makes the team as the 5th starter but that means 2 have to be found for relatively cheap price. Could be a problem.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      They cannot compete with the current pitching staff
      So they must overpay for two starting pitchers:
      1 - 26 million a year
      2 - 8 - 10 million a year

      If the Twins refuse to pay market prices to fix this team, they need to follow the mold of the Red Sox and blow it all up.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      My stating rotation, from existing options, would be Diamond, Hendriks, Gibson, Baker, and Bromberg. My preference would be to trade for a rookie arm; (say Span or Morneau for Randall Delgado or Mike Minor or a Texas arm), or sign someone in free agency (I would try to split the difference between a Marquis-type and a Greinke-type.

      A trade for MN-native Josh Johnson would also fit the bill, but that would take more than MLB-ready players.

      How about a Johnson-Baker-Diamond-Hendriks-Gibson rotation? That sounds at least average to me.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      They are very close to being watchable but they are far from contention.

      Not enough positional depth at the moment to cover for the injuries down the line that will happen.

      And the pitching staff isn't even close. We can't just pick 5 arms and call it good. Some of those 5 guys will get hurt and some will flat out fail.

      We need choices at AAA as well. This may be the worst Starting pitching in all of baseball. It's a tough thing to fix and a long way to go.

      With that said... C'mon Twins... You can do it.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I've been in the "just need to improve the rotation to at least become competitive" camp all season. I'm not smart enough to know exactly how to do that, but if fans have to listen to the front office tell us that all the improvement needed is available internally, whether Gibson, Vasquez, a re-signed Baker, or any other combination of question marks, we'll know the organization isn't even trying to improve.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      It shouldn't be hard to pull the team into mediocrity. One good FA pitcher, another scrub (Baker would be my choice), and one of Gibson/Hendriks to step up.

      To contend, it would require all that and a considerable dose of luck. Not impossible, but unlikely.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      A FA pitcher, an arbi-eligible pitcher traded for Morneau, and Baker signed for cheap would cost less than $20 million. Easily done.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      60 games under 500 over the last 2 years would cause most people to think maybe it's time to make some serious changes. But we get maybe a tweak here or there and we'll be ok. Don't trade anyone they are all great players, it's add one or two pitchers and we'll be a contender (around 500 in the Central) again.
      Getting to the end of two years of some very bad baseball and thinking this team is not far away is silly, imo. Our record is worse than the Royals the last two years, does anyone think the Royals are a player or two away from contending?
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      I still like Marcum as a free agent choice. Maybe look at Stephen Drew as a one or two year player who needs a chance to turn it around, Need some pitchers with stuff, not all of the soft tossers we have. Most of the Twins starters will get lit up by the better hitting clubs. Trade with Seattle or Tampa Bay will make sense if we can get some of their better prospects back.
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      I've been watching baseball since 1955. High priced free agents rarely are a value. Trading position players for arms is almost always a very bad bargain. Look at the Twins arms we let go: Mays, Lohse, Bonser etc. Rarely was it a mistake. The only way seems to be to get one mediocre FA pitcher with proven durability, or a good but injury plagued starter and otherwise work with what we have.
    1. nick5253's Avatar
      nick5253 -
      Here is what I would do to make a serious run:
      Trade Morneau for a prospect (unload his entire salary, so you won't likely get an MLB-ready SP back, but something of quality for the long-term, saves 14 mil)

      Sign Zack Greinke (29), 5-6 yrs, 22 mil
      Sign Anibal Sanchez (28), 4 yrs, 13 mil

      Position players remain the same except for Parmelee slides into 1B.
      Bullpen remains largely the same, adding back Duensing

      Starting Rotaion:
      1. Greinke
      2. Diamond
      3. Sanchez
      4. Hendricks
      5. Gibson, Baker (cheap, incentive laden deal), DeVries, Deduno, Walters, replacement level waiver claim, etc

      Total payroll would come in around 100 Mil and the core of the team would be signed through 2014.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by nick5253 View Post
      Here is what I would do to make a serious run:
      Trade Morneau for a prospect (unload his entire salary, so you won't likely get an MLB-ready SP back, but something of quality for the long-term, saves 14 mil)

      Sign Zack Greinke (29), 5-6 yrs, 22 mil
      Sign Anibal Sanchez (28), 4 yrs, 13 mil

      Position players remain the same except for Parmelee slides into 1B.
      Bullpen remains largely the same, adding back Duensing

      Starting Rotaion:
      1. Greinke
      2. Diamond
      3. Sanchez
      4. Hendricks
      5. Gibson, Baker (cheap, incentive laden deal), DeVries, Deduno, Walters, replacement level waiver claim, etc

      Total payroll would come in around 100 Mil and the core of the team would be signed through 2014.
      If it were only that easy to sign quailty SP's.

      Grienke will get a minimum of 10 mill per season, probably more like 12-13 per..or higher.

      I'm not sure what Sanchez will command, but it will certainly be more than 3 mil per season.

      I don't see the Twins making any sort of splash in the free agent market. If they do, It will be of the low-end, washed veteran type...like Marquis, Pavano.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by nick5253 View Post
      Here is what I would do to make a serious run:
      Trade Morneau for a prospect (unload his entire salary, so you won't likely get an MLB-ready SP back, but something of quality for the long-term, saves 14 mil)

      Sign Zack Greinke (29), 5-6 yrs, 22 mil
      Sign Anibal Sanchez (28), 4 yrs, 13 mil

      Position players remain the same except for Parmelee slides into 1B.
      Bullpen remains largely the same, adding back Duensing

      Starting Rotaion:
      1. Greinke
      2. Diamond
      3. Sanchez
      4. Hendricks
      5. Gibson, Baker (cheap, incentive laden deal), DeVries, Deduno, Walters, replacement level waiver claim, etc

      Total payroll would come in around 100 Mil and the core of the team would be signed through 2014.
      If it were only that easy to sign quailty SP's.

      Grienke will get a minimum of 10 mill per season, probably more like 12-13 per..or higher.

      I'm not sure what Sanchez will command, but it will certainly be more than 3 mil per season.

      I don't see the Twins making any sort of splash in the free agent market. If they do, It will be of the low-end, washed veteran type...like Marquis, Pavano.
      I'm pretty sure Nick's numbers are per year. I think Greinke will get in the $15-18m per year range while Jackson/Sanchez will be more in the $12-15m per year range. Then you have guys like Liriano, who will probably get somewhere in the $10m per year range.

      Of course, Greinke has spent the past 2-3 months systematically destroying his FA value. Hard to say what he'll get on the market. A lot is riding on his September and October, assuming the Angels even get to the postseason.

      In any case, there is no way the Twins sign a top shelf and a second tier FA pitcher. Even the Yankees can't accomplish that most seasons. The best they can hope for is to snag one of the second tier guys.
    1. nick5253's Avatar
      nick5253 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by cr9617 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by nick5253 View Post
      Here is what I would do to make a serious run:
      Trade Morneau for a prospect (unload his entire salary, so you won't likely get an MLB-ready SP back, but something of quality for the long-term, saves 14 mil)

      Sign Zack Greinke (29), 5-6 yrs, 22 mil
      Sign Anibal Sanchez (28), 4 yrs, 13 mil

      Position players remain the same except for Parmelee slides into 1B.
      Bullpen remains largely the same, adding back Duensing

      Starting Rotaion:
      1. Greinke
      2. Diamond
      3. Sanchez
      4. Hendricks
      5. Gibson, Baker (cheap, incentive laden deal), DeVries, Deduno, Walters, replacement level waiver claim, etc

      Total payroll would come in around 100 Mil and the core of the team would be signed through 2014.
      If it were only that easy to sign quailty SP's.

      Grienke will get a minimum of 10 mill per season, probably more like 12-13 per..or higher.

      I'm not sure what Sanchez will command, but it will certainly be more than 3 mil per season.

      I don't see the Twins making any sort of splash in the free agent market. If they do, It will be of the low-end, washed veteran type...like Marquis, Pavano.
      I'm pretty sure Nick's numbers are per year. I think Greinke will get in the $15-18m per year range while Jackson/Sanchez will be more in the $12-15m per year range. Then you have guys like Liriano, who will probably get somewhere in the $10m per year range.

      Of course, Greinke has spent the past 2-3 months systematically destroying his FA value. Hard to say what he'll get on the market. A lot is riding on his September and October, assuming the Angels even get to the postseason.

      In any case, there is no way the Twins sign a top shelf and a second tier FA pitcher. Even the Yankees can't accomplish that most seasons. The best they can hope for is to snag one of the second tier guys.
      Yes, those figures were per year. Obviously it will be hard to sign both, but I said "Here's what I would do" and you all likely don't know I'm extremely at gifted in pursuading free agent starting pitchers to come to Minnesota. The skill has not paid off for me yet, but someday....
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      It's too early for me to answer this question right now because we don't know what exactly will happen in the offseason. Even if the budget for new acquisitions is somewhat limited, I have to think this team adds at least one veteran starter to the mix b/c they simply don't have the MLB-ready manpower to fill out a staff.

      IN: Diamond, Hendriks
      POSSIBLE: Gibson, Baker
      RESERVES: Deduno, DeVries, Walters, Vasquez

      As you can see, I'm not convinced we've seen the last of Scott Baker on the Twins. Both he and the club might not have any significantly better options until he proves himself healthy. Gibson could be great, but likewise, we can't COUNT on anything from him until we see it.

      Like the poster above said, it would probably be a guy like Anibal Sanchez that we could look to sign. He'll be 29 years old next year, and his track record in FLA really was pretty good. But he feels like at least a 6-8 million/year pitcher to me on the open market, even if he's been somewhat terrible for Detroit.

      If they got somebody like Sanchez and a Marquis-type signing to fill out the rotation (with better results, hopefully), I think that's about as realistic of an improvement as you can expect, and I would feel confident we could be 70+ win team next year.

      Otherwise....yuck. When you consider that we had a healthy Mauer AND Morneau this year, AND a career year from Willingham, do you really expect all three of those things to happen again? Moreover, aside from Plouffe hopefully staying healthy and having a breakout year, there isn't any other IMMEDIATE help on the way. In 2-3 years, yes, things may start to look up, but not next year.
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