The Minnesota Twins, because that’s the team I follow daily on the radio when I can, still have my interest but they look nearly as hopeless as the Chicago Cubs. And that’s bad.
Why no optimism regarding the Twins? Well, don’t get me started again on the why-a-roofless-stadium rant. As snow flittered through the afternoon here in Fun City on Easter Sunday, it made me wonder whether the Twins have any chance in 2013. Looking at 2012 numbers, the Twins can only get better in 2013. Or can they? Let’s run through a few statistics:
As a team the Twins hit in the middle of the American League last season at .260. Their 701 runs scored were fifth-lowest, however. Their top hitter for average was Joe Mauer at .319 with 81 runs and 85 RBI. The two next-best hitters for average have both been traded. They were Ben Revere at .294 and Denard Span at .283. Ryan Doumit, a free-agent signee a year ago, was fourth at. 275. He had 18 home runs. Next was another free-agent signee of last year, infielder Jamey Carroll, at .268. He probably won’t be in the lineup for Opening Day on Monday afternoon.
Think about that for a moment. The team’s fifth-best hitter for average was at .268. Number six on the team was Justin Morneau, a first baseman whom I admire and respect, at .267 with 19 home runs. Another free-agent signee of last year was next: Josh Willingham, the left fielder, at .260 with 35 home runs, 85 runs and 110 RBI.
Mauer, Morneau, Willingham and Doumit will form the team’s batting core for the 2013 season. I don’t see them receiving much help from semi-new starters such as shortstop Pedro Florimon, second baseman Brian Dozier, third baseman Trevor Plouffe, rookie centerfielder Aaron Hicks and outfielder Darin Mastroianni. But it would feel so much better to be wrong.
As for pitching, the best things Minnesota had going in 2012 were the Cleveland Indians (the only AL team that was worse in ERA, 4.78 to 4.77), the now-injured starting pitcher Scott Diamond, the potential of starting pitcher Cole De Vries and a couple of truly solid bullpen men in Glen Perkins and Jared Burton. The Twins allowed 845 runs to be scored by opponents last season. That was worst in the American League. The only team that gave up more was Colorado, and the Rockies play in one of the most wonderful stadiums for hitters that has been ever known in baseball. How bad was Twins pitching? Tampa Bay gave up just 577 to lead the AL. In the NL three teams — Washington, Los Angeles and Cincinnati (despite playing in its own bandbox of a stadium) each allowed less than 600.
There’s nothing I’d like better than new starting pitcher Vance Worley, who came from Philadelphia, to do better than he has. Same for Mike Pelfrey, whom the New York Mets finally gave up on after Tommy John surgery. The Twins received Worley and a minor-league pitching prospect, Trevor May, for Revere. The Twins received another minor-league pitching prospect, Alex Meyer, from Washington in the Span trade. The Twins also signed Kevin Correia, who pitched the past four seasons for San Diego and Pittsburgh, where he went 46-43 over that time. Pelfrey was 22-22 in the 2010-11 seasons with the Mets and was off to a good start in 2012 with an 2.32 ERA in his first three games before his arm blew up. Worley was 17-12 in the 2011-12 seasons.
Here’s the silver lining. General manager Terry Ryan acquired three solid players in free agents Willingham, Doumit and Carroll a year ago. Willingham exceeded all expectations at the plate, except perhaps his own. Doumit held his own in a combiantion role as catcher, designated hitter, outfielder and spot first baseman. Morneau solidified again. If the same kind of good fortune can spread by GM Ryan to Worley, Pelfrey and Correia on the mound, and if De Vries and Diamond can find their health and keep avoid walks, the Twins could be a .500 team. That would be 81-81. In 2012, they finished 66-96. A 15-win improvement would be the start of something good again.
I’ll leave you with this list of wins by the Twins from the past five seasons:
2008 — 88 (2nd in division).
2009 — 87 (1st in division).
2010 — 94 (1st in division).
2011 — 63 (5th/last in division).
2012 — 66 (5th/last in division).