It was uh, not a good season for the Minnesota Twins. We normally break this down into “what went right” and “what went wrong”…I’m not sure I can find anything in the “right” side of things. A year after winning 94 games and winning the AL Central title yet again, the Twins lost 99 games in 2011, finished last in the AL Central, and will actually pick second in the 2010 amateur draft. Is there anything nice on the horizon for the Twins? Hm….maybe.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Um…er….uh…this is going to be difficult. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer was the team’s best player, OPSing .805 and playing first base and right field for the team. Because he got time at first, he didn’t absolutely brutalize the team with his defense like he has in years past. Jim Thome had an .827 OPS in limited time during the season, getting into 71 games as a DH before being traded in August to the Indians. Ben Revere’s rookie year featured no offense to speak of at all, but he stole 34 bases and was an absolute monster on defense. Scott Baker had a good, albeit injury-laden, season in the rotation, with a 3.14 ERA and a 3.84 strikeout to walk ratio. The team’s best reliever was Glen Perkins, a converted starter who was dominant in relief with a 2.48 ERA for the season, and over a strikeout per inning.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hm….where do I start? Face of the franchise Joe Mauer played in just 82 games, even getting time in the outfield, and OPSed just .728. His .287 batting average was a career low. Justin Morneau, another guy who was thought to be a face of the franchise, had just 288 plate appearances and OPSed .618 while he was dealing with post-concussion syndrome. His career could really never be the same, and that’s a sad thing. Franchise center fielder Denard Span, who the Twins were dangling at midseason for Nationals closer Drew Storen for some reason, played in just 70 games with a .687 OPS. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was brought over from Japan last winter with much fanfare, got just 240 plate appearances, and OPSed a downright pathetic .527. On the mound, Carl Pavano had a 4.30 ERA and threw 60 more innings than anyone else on the staff. Brian Duensing’s first full season in the rotation resulted in a 5.23 ERA. A year after seemingly re-establishing himself as a solid pitcher, Francisco Liriano threw just 134 1/3 innings and had a 5.09 ERA. But hey, he threw a no hitter! Closer Joe Nathan had a 4.84 ERA in his return from Tommy John surgery, and his contract option was declined this weekend. The Twins had the worst run differential in baseball at -185, worse than even the 106-loss Houston Astros.
Perkins would probably be the biggest surprise on the team this year. In 2009 and 2010 with the Twins, his ERA was a shade away from 6.00. But as a full-time reliever, he was absolutely dominant. Baker has always been a solid pitcher, but his 3.14 ERA was a nice surprise after back to back years in the mid-4.00 range.
Nishioka was a total disaster coming from Japan. His bat wasn’t expected to be much, but it wasn’t expected to be awful, either. Liriano took a huge step back after his 2010. It was unsure what to expect from Nathan in his return from Tommy John, and the results were dire. Pavano, who only struck out 117 hitters last year, managed to strike out just 102 this year in nearly the same amount of innings. Mauer and Morneau’s seasons were totally lost.
Nathan is gone. Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are free agents. The overpaid, disappointing Matt Capps is a free agent. The bullpen will be in for a major overhaul, losing two of it’s best arms. The outfield will also likely get a makeover with Cuddyer and Kubel likely leaving town, and Delmon Young getting traded at midseason. The 2012 Twins are going to look a lot different from the 2011 version, that’s for sure.
The upper minors of Minnesota’s farm system isn’t too good, and there are going to be some holes to fill. I assume Perkins would take over as the closer after his great 2011. Chris Parmelee excelled at AA New Britain this year, and held his own in a late season tryout in the majors, and he could fight for a roster spot. I assume the rotation will go into 2012 largely intact, due to a weak crop of starting pitching in the minors. But honestly, the biggest thing for the 2012 Twins is a healthy combo of Morneau and Mauer. If they’re banged up again, it could really be a rough season for the Twinkies.