Talkin’ Twins

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Crackin' Wax in Minnesota Twins, Talkin' Twins

I’m not just a Twins fan, I also play one online. With the 2013 season nearly ready to roll, I figure it’s about time to slap the “M” cap back on (because I still don’t own a “TC” cap), slip on one of the few jerseys and/or shirts I have left featuring current or HOF Twins and wax fanatical about my favorite team in my favorite sport.

That’s right. I managed to work “wax” in there without having to refer trading cards. I are smart!

Wait, I’m a faithfully devoted Twins geek. How could I possibly make a statement like that? The quick and most obvious answer is that little was done in the offseason to help the team WIN in 2013. Instead, Terry Ryan, the Twins’ front office braintrust and the wallet watchdogs of the Pohlads did all they could to stock up on pitching prospects to help the team win in 2014 and beyond. Sure, they went out and got arms for this season–guys like Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey–but these aren’t exactly electrifying arms. Let’s examine what these three particular new Twins starting pitchers have done so far in their careers and compare them to how they have performed thus far in spring training.

ST 2013
Kevin Correia

4W 12L, 5.82 ERA, 1.53 WHIP

0W 2L, 6.30 ERA, 1.80 WHIP
Mike Pelfrey

5W 15L, 6.42 ERA, 1.63 WHIP

1W 1L, 5.52 ERA, 1.70 WHIP
Vance Worley

2W 4L, 5.05 ERA, 1.62 WHIP

01 1L, 6.35 ERA, 1.76 WHIP

See, I’m not looking at these numbers and thinking “the Twins have got a real shot this year!” When the number one thing on the list of what has been killing the Twins the last two years is pitching, you would think that pitching would be addressed in a more immediate and meaningful way. Instead of getting decent pitching, not necessarily aces or even number twos, Mr. Ryan opted to putty up the holes until a more permanent and successful repair springs up from the farm. The most notable of those farm hands is Kyle Gibson who is expected to make his major league debut sometime around the All-Star break.

It’s not just the obvious mish-mash of mediocre pitching that was hired this year to replace the mediocre pitching from last year that convinces me that the 2013 season is already lost, it’s also the decision to rid the team of both Centerfielders, Denard Span and Ben Revere. These are no run-of-the-mill rovers, either. They were both productive at the plate and dangerous on the base paths. Again, the front office is banking on mediocrity to get by until the prospects are ready to take their place in Twins history.

You see, the Twins are not about 2013. They are about 2014 and beyond. Having been awarded the 2014 All-Star Game, they don’t need to worry about putting together a winning team this year to lock up season tickets for next year. They’ve got the allure of a very rare All-Star attraction in the Twin Cities to sell those tickets. The bank account can rest easy knowing that fans don’t have to be drawn in by quality product–at least not until after next year’s summer classic.

The number two thing on the list of things that have been killing the Twins the last two years is that nasty little injury bug. Currently, it has bitten six members of the Minnesota Twins. Wouldn’t ya know it? They’re all pitchers! The presumed staff Ace, Scott Diamond, is coming back from minor left elbow surgery. The hero of this year’s World Baseball Classic, Sam Deduno, pulled his groin during the WBC championship game. Rafael Perez, last seen with the Cleveland Indians, is recovering from shoulder surgery. Tim Wood, a pick-up from the Pittsburgh Pirates, is dealing with a right rotator cuff strain. Just today, starter Liam Hendriks deflected a Brian Roberts comebacker with his hand and luckily walked away with just a bruise. Lastly, Anthony Swarzak, considered one of the Twins’ two long relief and spot starter options, fractured his ribs while “horsing around.” No word on whether he was playing guitar hero or just doing knuckle pushups.

For the most part, injury is all part of the experience of professional sports. However, it’s getting close to suspect that the Twins seem to be so injury prone. From Tommy Johns to concussions to ACLs and “bilateral leg weakness,” the Twins have been subject to a host of medical and physical issues. Staying healthy in 2013 would certainly be a welcome change.

The deletion of Span and Revere left a gaping hole in Target Field. As many positions on many teams tend to be, the job of Centerfielder was up for the taking. Prospect Aaron Hicks impressed and won the spot and secured himself as the new lead-off hitter. While I am happy for him, I fear he may be hitting the majors a bit too soon. Given that the competition was essentially between just Hicks and Darin Mastroianni, the odds were with the minor leaguer. However, Hicks has never played above AA and, while he may have looked good in Spring Training, he could benefit greatly with a full season at AAA Rochester. Will his impressive pre-season carry into the 2013 season and beyond, or will the pressure of being in the bigs be too much for him? Is he the next Torii Hunter or the next Rich Becker? My hope is that he’ll start off some-what hot, cool off a bit, grow into his role by year’s end, have a breakout season in either 2014 or 2015, make an All-Star team or two and remain the Twins’ main Centerfielder for many years to come. What I fear will happen is he’ll start off some-what hot, cool off and stay cold–or succumb to a major injury. Please, don’t let this be the case!

While my general feelings about the upcoming season are quite obvious, I’ll try to get a little more specific on what I expect to see from the Twins in 2013. Firstly, if this Spring Training is any indication, I fully expect the Twins to deal with even more injuries, especially within the pitching staff. If the new starters bare any resemblance to those of last year, I fear that the Twins will be scrambling to find prospects to stop-gap the gap stoppers. It becomes a vicious cycle. The newly signed vets, who I project to be just as bad as they’ve ever been, end up getting injured which in turn forces the team to call up kids from AAA and AA all too soon just so they can stop-gap the gap stoppers. Suddenly, a team with poor pitching morphs into a team with embarrassingly bad pitching. I feel that the fielding in both the infield and outfield will actually be WORSE than last year when they committed 107 errors. Only 3 teams in the AL committed more errors in that season. I think, barring injury, Mauer, Morneau and Willingham will have seasons typical of them (outstanding in Minnesota, so-so anywhere else). I predict that the Twins will, for the third consecutive year, finish last in the AL Central Division. Sadly, I also predict that Ron Gardenhire and Pitching Coach Rick Anderson will be searching for new jobs by the end of the year.

I fully expect another ugly year of ugly baseball, but I am left with a small glimmer of hope. I truly do expect and believe that the Twins do have something good cooking up in their minor league system. If they can just keep those kids where they belong, get them some more seasoning, I really believe that 2014 will be a turnaround year and the following few years could be really special.

  1. steve says:

    We shall see!

  2. Ryan H. says:

    I was expecting one of Span or Revere to be traded during the offseason, but not both.

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