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5 Keys for Improvement in 2015

Posted by stringer bell , 13 September 2014 · 1,620 views

mauer defense rotation home record athleticism
The death march to 90 losses continues today with another doubleheader, this time against the South Side Sox. Sixteen games remain in this frustrating season which produced one, maybe two, rotation pieces and some optimism that the Twins can score enough runs to be competitive. For the record, the Twins need to win 11 of 16 games to avoid 90 losses. Actually, if they did that it would be a bit more than cosmetic, since they are playing playoff contenders in ten of the last 16 games.

My thoughts have shifted to 2015. Taking a quick glance at the numbers and having watched a lot of Twins baseball this year, I have selected five topics where the Twins need improved play and where the possibility exists that there can be improvement.

1) Joe Mauer--The hometown hero has to return to being an All-Star caliber player. I don't know what it has been, but Mauer has been a shadow of his former self. His batting average is down 50 points, and his OBP almost as much. Some (myself included) expected a bit of a power surge moving to the physically less demanding position of first base and the reverse has happened. We've seen flashes, but no sustained great performance. Mauer has had a Hall-of-Fame career to this point, but this year has been pretty close to dreadful. I think he needs to both adjust and train like he never has before. He has to turn on more pitches, hit more balls over the fence and be stronger. Some have made the point that Mauer rested all off-season, waiting for the concussion symptoms to disappear. If they are gone, he needs to be both stronger and more flexible at 32 and I believe it can be done.

2) Defense--The strib yesterday pointed out that the Twins defense was ranked 29th out of 30 in some measure. I think that is close to accurate and is almost totally on the outfield defense (and catcher!). There is currently a thread running about the defensive dilemma. I will say that both better athletes and more continuity will move the needle considerably. More reps for Arcia in right field and Santana at whatever position he lands should produce dividends. An improved pitching staff could improve run suppression better than any single defensive change. The crown jewel of the Twins' farm system is a center fielder who could graduate next year and make an immediate impact on the team defensively.

3) Rotation--The Twins' staff was supposed to be improved this year. Despite a breakthrough for Phil Hughes, it hasn't happened. Supposed reliable innings-eaters have underperformed and been injured. It would be foolish to expect Nolasco, Pelfrey, and Milone to all bounce back to be acceptable starters or better next year, but it isn't out of the realm that one or two of these guys returns to better form than they displayed this year. Trevor May and Alex Meyer will get a chance at some time next year. JO Berrios isn't far away either. Better days are ahead, hopefully supervised by a different pitching coach.

4) Home record--The Twins have won more road games than seven teams who have better records than they do. Where's the "home field advantage"? Part of this is roster construction--Target Field requires speedy outfielders and right handed power and the Twins haven't had enough of either. Part of that is attitude, I think. For some reason, the Twins don't seem to be convinced they should win every home game and haven't since 2010. Again, maybe a change in the field staff will instill this.

5) Fundamentals--Know when to take a chance on the bases. Know which base to throw to, and set up and use the cutoff man. When there's a runner on third with less than two out, don't try to hit the ball 500 feet, especially with two strikes. The Twins have fallen off dramatically in all of those facets which encompass "fundamentals" and it has cost them in the W-L ledger. Good teams make the right plays at the right time. The talent is there, but the focus sometimes has not been. Again, perhaps a new voice will be able to get through to the players how to both play hard and be fundamentally sound.

That's my five areas. I know there are more. As I wrote this, it occurred to me how nice it would be to have someone else calling the shots from the manager's seat. I guess this is my not-to-subtle call to replace the manager as well.




Nice write-up Stringer Bell. Hard to argue with any of it.

 

I believe the right handed hitters coming are supposed to include Buxton and Sano. A year or so ago we all were hoping they'd be on the team this September if not before. Doesn't always go like we want it to.

 

As far as the rotation, the Twins have to sign someone who is actually expected to be really good, rather than some pitchers we hope can put together a career year. Low risk/low reward is the way of Terry Ryan, however, and I have little faith that this will change.

 

Something you really have to give Tom Kelly - the team had the fundamentals down. We miss that. It is sometimes very costly not to have that part of the game working.

 

I'd be OK with changing out Gardy, but Anderson has got to go. This is just ridiculous. He couldn't strike anyone out when he was a pitcher and apparently cannot teach others to do it either. He's had a long run. Let's try someone else there.

 

Alas, what might the off-season bring?