Minnesota Twins Offseason Review/ Season Preview: 2011

In 2010, the Minnesota Twins lost yet again to the New York Yankees in the Divisional round of the AL Playoffs. Led by the M&M boys, the Twins will be on a mission to venture deep into the playoffs.

The Minnesota Twins, without a question, have the best catcher in baseball in Minnesotan Joe Mauer. Let the haters hate on Minnesota Joe, but all the man does is produce and hit for average with the best in the game every single season. Joe Mauer is an awesome hitter, he just is not a number three hitter as his power numbers, aside from his MVP season in 2009 when he had 28, are not where they should be in the middle of an American League Lineup. Joe Mauer is one of the few catchers in history to hit for average to the extent he does (.327 AVG career). Mauer sprays hits all over the new Target Field, but he also is an on base machine as he it is almost a given for him to have an OBP over .400. Mauer is also a force behind home plate, as in 2010 he led the AL catchers with a .996 fielding percentage and was 3rd in total zone runs as a catcher. Mauer also posted a very strong 5.6 WAR in 2010.

Part of Mauer’s success is due to the man that bats clean-up behind Mauer in the Twins versatile lineup, Justin Morneau. Morneau has been plagued by injuries in the last two post seasons, but when he is healthy he is one of the best all around first baseman and players in baseball today. In 2010, he only played 81 games, but at that point was in the conversation as halfway through the year he was hitting .345 with 18 bombs and 56 RBI. This was not just a fluke start for Morneau, as on a 162 game measurement he averages a .286 AVG with 31 homers and 116 RBI. Morneau’s Situational Wins Added ranked 6th in the AL in 2010. Morneau can also “pick it” at 1B, for he led the AL in Total Zone Runs in 2o1o. Morneau will have the best year in his career (if free from injury) because he is in his prime, 29, and will have a real force in Delmon Young batting behind him.

Delmon Young emerged as an up and coming power hitter with his 2010 performance. Quietly, Delmon Young was one of the biggest parts of the Twins run to the playoffs in 2010. Young, is not given the credit he deserved in 2010 because of the superstars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in his lineup. Young hit .298 with 21 dingers and 112 driven in! Who would have known?. He has a rocket for an arm in left as he led the league with 12 putouts in 2010.  He was 6th in sac flies and 9th in WPA. Expect Delmon Young, yes Delmon Young, to hit .295 with 35 homers and 120 RBI.

The big hitters will be able to drive in Denard Span at the top of the order, who should steal his way into scoring position like he did last year with 26 swiped bags. Jason Kubel will be a key part to the Twins success as his power often goes unnoticed, as in 2010 he hit 21 homers, drove in 92 but struggled with his average as he hit .250.

The middle of the Twins lineup is gaudy, scary, powerful and all in their prime. The real question mark for the Twins will be their starting rotation.

When healthy, which is rare, Francisco Liriano is one of the mist powerful southpaws in baseball. Liriano showed flashes of greatness early on in his career. He had a bump in the road with injuries and in 2009, a 5.80 ERA. In 2010, Liriano rebounded and was the ace for the AL Central champion Twins. He was 14-10 with an ERA of 3.62 and a durable 191.2 IP with 201 K’s. If Liriano is healthy in 2011, he will have an ERA around 3.50, for he is 27 and in the prime of his career, along with other Twin stars.

The number 2 spot in the Twins rotation should be filled by veteran Carl Pavano who had a terrific season for the Twins. He was re-signed by them in the offseason. He had a surprisingly good 3.75 ERA to go along with an impressive 17-11 record. Pavano was a horse and hurled 221 innings. Pavano is not getting any younger, 35, and his lack of speed in his pitches allow for solid contact when he misses his spots, which was shown with the 24 homers he allowed in 2010. In 2011, Pavano will have a good year, for he will get crazy run support from the power filled Twin lineup. This will allow him to pitch with a lead and confidence for the 2011 season.

The number 3 slot in the rotation will be held by 29 year old Scott Baker. He had a disappointing 2010 year after a solid 2009 year. In 2010, he had a mediocre ERA just under 4.50. He also had a rather high WHIP at 1.34. He allowed 23 homers as well. Baker’s success is based upon outs from contact, but pitching to contact in the AL can turn into some power numbers for opposing hitters.

The rest of the rotation will be filled out between Nick Blackburn and the promising Brian Duensing.

The imposing frame of the talented Joe Nathan will certainly close for the Twins in 2011. Last year, he was out for the year with an elbow injury. He may not be the same pitcher he was in the sense that he might not be touching the high 90’s like he used to. If healthy, you can expect around 40 saves as a very powerful Twins team should have the lead to hand over to Nathan to keep. He has a dominant 2.75 ERA.

Offseason Grade: C

The Twins did what they needed to do, re-sign Carl Pavano. Other teams in their division signed real power threats like Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn.

Prediction:

The Twins will still win the AL Central, even though their competition has improved. The middle of the Twins lineup will just be too overwhelming for opponents. Their offense is good enough to win the AL, but pitching will be an obstacle for the Twins this year. They will go to the AL playoffs, and yet again be knocked out in the Division Series.

Information Courtesy of: ESPN Baseball Reference

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