The more articles/posts/threads I read about the Twins ’08 season, the more I feel that I feel there is a general ‘doom and gloom’ feel to this club. I just don’t understand that. All this team needs is to fill some troublesome spots with simply decent players. These spots include 3B (replacing Punto’s dreadful 562 OPS with just a decent 750 would be HUGE), 2B (which might be a simple as having Casilla play there next year), DH (solidify the revolving door with someone like Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or someone who can reasonably be expected to post a .750-.800 OPS), and finding a viable Torii Hunter replacement in CF (Milton Bradley or Jacque Jones, as far as what I’d like to see).
The Twins have a concentration of quality talent as good as anyone else. You’d be hard pressed to find a team with a better concentration of talent than Mauer, Morneau, Bartlett, Kubel, Cuddyer, Santana, Liriano, Garza, Slowey, Baker, Perkins, Guerrier, Crain, Neshek, and Nathan, but by the same token, very few teams relied on such poor secondary talent, such as Punto, LeCroy, Tyner, Ford, Rabe, Watkins, White, Heintz, McDonald, and Garrett Jones. So, with all that said, I think adding some solid secondary talent could be the key to making this team back into a contender, rather than falling further into the depths of mediocrity which seems to doom if you ask pundits.
What are some perhaps unseen positives to glean from the 2007 season? Here are a few:
I can’t for the life of me understand why this man is so universally hated by the so called people of “Twins Territory”. The guy starts out absolutely awful (.706 first half OPS), then hits like mad in the second half (.891 OPS in the second half, .947 in August and .989 in Sept/Oct) to make his season look reasonably productive with a .273/.335/.450 (105 OPS+) line. He plays relatively good defense (.847 Zone Rating is nothing to scoff at), even if he doesn’t always make it look that pretty. But no, all I hear from various fans is chants for Jason Tyner, even when his OPS when almost 100 points worse than Kubel. I guess there are just some things I’ll never understand.
Another player Twins fans had seemingly left for dead, Baker came back and pitched as though you might expect from a third starter in the big leagues. Sporting a solid 4.26 ERA (102 ERA+) and a very nice 102/39 K to BB ratio in the 143.7 innings he tossed, Baker looks to have an inside track on the second spot in the Twins rotation, granting the idea that Liriano will be unlikely to join the rotation immediately. Baker had 4 IBB, which essentially means he had a 4:1 K to BB ratio, something the Twins as an organization preach first and foremost. If he can keep that up, you can expect to see him in Twinstripes for a long, long time.
Cuddyer again quietly posted another stellar season. His .276/.356/.433 (111 OPS+) was a touch down from his 124 mark the year before, but that appears to be the result of just a handful fewer extra base hits than in 2006. Michael managed to cut his strikeouts while maintaining his walk rate, something that bodes well for his future. Michael also emerged as one of the most feared arms in the American League, leading all outfielders with 19 assists. You can believe that number will go down, but only as a result of fewer opponents trying to take that extra base. This is a guy we need to lock up, and we need to do it soon!
A quick glance at Kevin Slowey’s numbers might take you back a little bit. A 4.73 is nothing to get riled up about, and he did give up 16 homers in only 66+ innings. However, he did some very nice things for the club, too. A 47/11 K to BB ratio is always a good start, and in the Sept/Oct he posted a 3.34 ERA, a 28/2 K to BB ratio, and lowered his HR rate to about one every 10 innings. You can bet the Twins have big hopes and dreams for this guy.
This wasn’t what we all expected of Garza. Garza grunted, moaned, and toughed his way through 83 relatively pedestrian innings. He threw a lot of pitches, worked out of a lot of jams, and in some cases, had to leave early due to high pitch count. All that said, I truly believe it will make him a much better and smarter pitcher, because these are the proverbial “battles” that toughen players so that when they are veterans they know what to do in certain situations. After saying all of that, Garza still posted a 3.69 ERA (118 ERA+), and a good but not great 2.10 K to BB ratio. I think he’s going to be something really special in this league, and if we can manage to keep our guys around, we’ll be in contention in a stacked AL Central for a long, long time.
Next Time: Ideas to improve the Twins prospective 2008 roster.