Sorry that it has been so long since you have seen anything from me, but how many times can I say the same things over and over. The problems this season mirrored ’11 quite a bit. Some injuries, poor pitching, and very little clutch hitting. At what point do the fans stop pointing the fingers at the players and more towards the coaches and the front office. 2 straight seasons losing more than 95 games cannot and should not be acceptable.
Gardenhire must be replaced. I know that he is coming back for the ’13 season but if we get off to a rough start than he has got to go. I love the fact that the organization is known in the league for being “Minnesota Nice” but when does it become too much? Yes he has had some decent years but the last time we advanced past the first round of the playoffs was his first year as the manager. Also, when every commentator that talks about the Twins says that the biggest problem that we have is our starting pitching, why does the guy in charge still get rehired when just about every other coach got “not renewed” or “reassigned”? When we have the 3rd worst overall ERA and the starters’ was 5.40, why is Anderson still there? Also how many injuries have we had recently at this position alone? Something is seriously wrong in development and strengthening.
Trends in baseball can be good and bad to try to follow. We have historically been more of a small ball and good pitching team compared to the rest of the AL. That is fine by me, even if that means fewer superstar players and those that we develop leave. But right now we are a team that doesn’t have huge speed, no power arms, and not the best fielding. So we go and fire our hitting, bullpen, first base, third base, and the bench coaches and keep our manager and pitching coach. Our leading K pitcher ended the season on a division rival, we were 2nd to last in quality starts and BAA (batting average against). The hitting was about middle of the entire Majors but lower end of the AL but I don’t really expect too much more than that. The amazing thing to me is that just about every team we played this season had at least 2 pitchers that they could bring in that were in the upper 90s with their fastball. I don’t think we have any and if we do we don’t use them enough. We have finesse pitchers that don’t have the control of a Maddux to put all of their pitches wherever they need to.
So all of this is in my thoughts for the offseason. Everyone knows that we need starting pitching, starting pitching, and more starting pitching. My first move is to get rid of Pavano. Over his career he has been known to be injury prone, called an inning eater, and a great leader. That is like asking your friend that is trying to set you up on a blind date, “How is she?”, with them responding, “Well she is funny, smart, and has a great personality.” All are good qualities for a pitcher but you also want someone that is going to win games. Second, Blackburn has provided years of service but if he can’t make the Opening Day roster, he should be let go at the earliest possibility. Any pitcher with that much experience that gets put down to the farm should start looking for a new career. I like the dealing of Liriano, but just not who we sent him to and who we got for him. We are so ready to deal him that we will just let him go to the Sox and take 2 prospects that have little chance to ever provide serious time in the Show? Ryan has to better in his dealings this off season. Diamond is going to be in the rotation next year and he did earn it. Everyone else, De Vries, Deduno, Duensing, Walters, and Hendriks, and even Vasquez all need to learn to get the ball lower in the zone and that Target Field isn’t as pitcher friendly as it appeared to be in the first season. Our park is quickly becoming almost as hitter friendly as the Dome was without the turf to help maximize our speed.
For the Bullpen, I think we are in good shape. Burton was a great surprise this year with his 2.18 ERA. Perk as the closer was a great idea that I think should have been the plan from the outset and we should have let Capps go. Swarzak needs to be on a short leash next year because 5+ ERA is not acceptable. Perdomo, Fien, and Waldrop had some good innings late in the season but Waldrop and Perdomo have been outrighted. I still don’t understand why we fired the coach of one of our few bright spots the last 2 years in bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek. Hopefully in spring we get a couple of guys to step up and prove their ability and take the places of some that won’t be back.
Fielding positions will be interesting depending on the deals that are made. Right now it would look the same as the season ended: CF Span, RF Revere, C Mauer, LF Willingham, 1B Morneau, DH/? Doumit, 3B Plouffe, and then who ever Gardy decides is going to play in the middle infield for that day. Problem is that everyone is talking that we might move Span, Willingham, and even Morneau to try to get some pitching. Right now I say that we wait to see who opts for FA before dealing. If and more than likely when no one decent shows up, start looking for deals with some of our players. I would only deal Willingham if you think: a) he will return to career averages in stats or b) blows you away with an offer. If you deal Ham, than move Revere to a better position for his (sorry Ben) weak arm in LF instead of RF where everyone knows that they can run on him. Span could be dealt and possibly replaced by a couple of people but I don’t think that we will get anything near what he is worth because of injury concerns from the last couple of seasons. I say hold on to Span at least until there is either an injury to a star next year or until after the AllStar break. Morneau in my eyes cannot be dealt for 2 reasons. He is not going to get much in return in the market and he is still half of the M&M boys in Minnesota. I think that he is still a very comparable 1B and could be a good DH later on. Our biggest chance for improvement lies in SS and 2B. Why can’t we develop anyone at those positions? Casilla needs to be gone. Nishi showed great respect in asking out of his contract so that we didn’t have to make the decision. Carroll is a great older player but we need youth and the possible up side in development. Florimon and Dozier need work on D and even more work at the plate. Plouffe would be an option but the poor man finally developed into a decent 3B to replace the ineffective and dealt Danny Valencia.
Possibilities for next year. I like Parmelee but he needs to find a spot and with Morneau, Mauer, and Doumit all splitting time at the spots that he is at, it is a little crowded. I still think that he could develop into a good hitter but just needs the at bats in the Majors to continue to develop. Oswaldo Arcia is very likely a name that we could be talking about next year. He played in the “Futures” game this last season and has some pop. If there is no room made for him soon I think he could be a name in a trade that would look like a huge mistake later for us. Mastrioanni could find serious time in Minnesota as a 4th OF to start the season and should find some traction if his bat can continue to improve. Aaron Hicks is another OF that could see time if certain players are dealt. Joe Benson had a down year and unless he turns it around could find his way in the bottom of a trade. Byron Buxton (2nd overall pick last year) and Migeul Sano are names for the future and by that I mean another 2-3 years. As for pitching prospects, it looks like the only one that is a future SP for the Twins is Kyle Gibson. He is still working on returning from Tommy John surgery in ’11 but he was close to getting a call up this year. He could even find a way into the rotation I think with a good spring if no one gets brought in. There are a ton of relief pitchers and some that the Twins are going to try to turn into starters but for the most they are the same as what we already have: strike throwers, decent control, back end of rotation types. I don’t see any future #1 type pitchers based on reports and stats from this year.
I am tired of always looking for next year. Yes we in a division with the Tigers who are in the Series right now, but I don’t care. Yes they have some big names in their lineup but if we can get back to what Minnesota has always done best, small ball and good pitching, than we can still take out those big names plus any others that we may see in the post season. Now with all of that said, do we make it in ’13? My answer is going to piss off fans but I say no. There are too many questions in key positions. We seem to be happy to keep a top of the order that is around a .260 AVG with no power (not even a little) and a bottom that has no average or any pop. All of our run producing comes from the middle and everyone knows it. Our SP is non-existent right now also. We are lucky most games to get 5 innings out of them before we have to go to the pen. That isn’t how you win titles. If we are going to keep the status quo that we have had for the last 2 seasons, then I say we deal everyone that we can, even including Mauer, and let the prospects start maturing. Otherwise, the GM, his staff, and the scouts need to all spend some serious time evaluating FA, possible FA, and trades. We play in a beautiful stadium but with a horrible product and if that doesn’t change soon, we could end up with bottom of the league attendance figures by the time the All Star game makes it’s way to Minneapolis. Because there is no other way to sum up this last season, Until Next Year. My fingers will be crossed for good deals and even better developments in the offseason.