Minnesota Twins: Inside the Numbers
The Minnesota Twins 79-83 finish, a 17 game difference from 2006, has left many a Twins fan wondering just what went wrong. From the outside, the club seemed to have made few changes from the squad that came storming back to take the AL Central on the final day of the season in ’06, with the main difference being an injured Francisco Liriano. That couldn’t possibly contribute a difference of 17 games, could it? The answer is no, but here are some numbers that certainly didn’t help.
You guessed it, that’s Little Nicky Punto’s batting line from this season. These numbers simply look dreadful until you look even further into them.
Punto trailed only Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bartlett (all rather useful hitters, mind you) on the Twins for number of plate appearances. Yes, you guess it, Ron Gardentool (remember than nickname, we’ll refer to it again later, and frequently) allowed LNP (Little Nicky Punto) to come to the plate an incredible 536 times. It is reprehensible to allow someone who compiles a 52 OPS+ to go to the plate that many times. Even if he played Brooks Robinson caliber defense, he’d still be well below 0 on the VORP scale. As is, Twins fans had to settle for a meager -27.1 VORP (-26.9 other sources list) and a paltry 44 runs created. In fact, simply replacing Punto with a replacement level player (0 on the VORP level of usefulness) would have gained the Twins 3 wins! You can’t make that stuff up, folks!
Now this one might be a touch tougher to figure out. This, Hardball Review faithful, represents the Twins overall line as hitters. From the outset, a casual fan (a.k.a. one that is obsessed with batting average) might see the .264 mark (good for 9th in the league) and think “gee, the Twins weren’t that bad offensively.” WRONG. To give you an idea how bad a .391 SLG is, or perhaps more importantly a team OPS of .721 is, this is the equivalent of having former Twin Luis Castillo bat for you ever single at bat for an entire year. YIKES! What’s even scarier is that there were 2 teams in the AL (in our own division, in the White Sox and Royals) that posted even more dreadful OPS+ numbers than our meager 93. This is an area we’ll need to improve if we’re going to make a run next season.
Nope, I’m not referring in anyway to Kirby Puckett here. In fact, I’m referring to the most games any single player logged at the DH slot for the Twins this past season. That player was the upstart Jason Kubel, who figures to man LF for the Twins next year (and hopefully for many years to come). Among the mediocrities that held the ‘prestigious’ role of DH for the Twins last year include Jeff Cirillo, Mike Redmond (love the guy, but please, please let’s see less of him Gardenweasel), Jason Tyner (the new cult hero in Minneapolis now that Lew Ford’s been shown the door…we can only hope Tyner is soon to follow), Rondell White, Garrett Jones, and a dash of Josh Rabe, Matthew LeCroy, and the recently waived Luis Rodriguez. Yes, that’s right, a list of DH’s that wouldn’t cut it in Rochester, and maybe not even in New Britain. Those players combined for a WHOPPING 84 games in the DH slot. It’s almost inconceivable how bad that is. If we can simply replace those players with a modest league average or near it OPS, that could prove rewarding on Punto-esque levels. Ahh yes, dare to dream!
Simple number here to wrap up the ‘negative’ portion of this entry, but it bears mentioning. This was the first year since 2003 that the Twins were the stingiest in the AL in walks allowed. They finished second to division counterpart Cleveland. On the surface this may seem a bit simple. In fact, the Twins only walked 10 more batters than the Indians (who led the ML, as well), but it marked a season where the Twins bullpen didn’t hold up as well as it had in years past (8th in bullpen ERA coming off previous years of 1st and 3rd), and where the starters their highest BAA since 2003. It wasn’t a huge decline by any means, but it provided just enough of a change, when coupled with the Twins offensive woes, to prove devastating over the long season. I don’t want to come off as a ‘doom and gloom’ type blogger. Next time, I will do the same type of entry with signs of success brewing for the Twins future. Until next time, GO TWINS!