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  • The Bright Side

    A thick coat of snow fell upon Target Field over the weekend, transforming the structure into a lifeless, cold and white blob. On Tuesday, temperatures in the Twin Cities rose toward 30 and the clouds dissipated.

    Bathed in sun, with green plastic seat-backs peeking through the melting snow, the ballpark started to look like… well, a ballpark. This coming weekend, temperatures in Minnesota will near the 40s while pitchers and catchers unpack their bags in Fort Myers. Spring is coming.

    Normally, this is a time of year marked by unbridled optimism from fans. It's a fresh season with a new assortment of players and an infinite range of possible outcomes. Yet, right now the mood in Twins Territory is distinctly vanilla.

    In his latest blog post on StarTribune.com, Howard Sinker broke down (and by that I mean dismantled) the 2013 Twins, spinning a grim yet realistic picture of what folks can expect in the short term from this rebuilding club.

    Sinker laid out the question marks attached to the Twins across the board. His points are all valid. There's too much reliance on untested youth, too many positions that are complete unknowns, too many lotto tickets in the rotation.

    It's a fair critique that, at least to some extent, conveys the feelings of the fan base at large. Most people can see the long-term benefit to the Twins' offseason moves and are excited for what's to come when the loaded farm system (ranked this week by ESPN's Keith Law as the second-best in baseball) begins placing graduates. But the lip-service paid to the 2013 roster – even with flexibility to make legitimate additions – after two straight 95-loss seasons has been disheartening.

    There's a tendency to translate that disappointment into pessimism, but even without major external reinforcements, the Twins are in a position where they could easily surprise.

    When you think of perennial cellar-dwellers (a designation that the Twins would certainly earn with a third straight finish at the bottom), you don't usually picture a team whose lineup is built around two former MVPs, both under the age of 32. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are by all accounts as healthy as they've been in years, and that's a big deal.

    The Twins are taking gambles at a number of positions, but most carry significant upside. Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Aaron Hicks, Brian Dozier, Liam Hendriks, Kyle Gibson, Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worely and others might not all play up to their potentials, but if a handful of them do it's enough to move the needle.

    The pitching staff is bound to improve, and the offense can be above-average. The division, outside of Detroit, isn't overly intimidating. Last year, two American League teams improved their records by 20-plus games from the previous season despite playing in divisions with multiple powerhouses. The Twins have a clearer path to relevancy than did the Orioles or Athletics.

    Realistically, I'm not looking for that same type of storybook season here. But with more good breaks than bad, the Twins can be a .500 team or better. If it's hard to remember what "more good breaks than bad" feels like after the last two years, check the previous ten for a reminder.

    Also keep in mind that one auxiliary benefit of the organization's frugal approach this offseason will be tons of flexibility to make additions in-season, meaning that if the Twins are anywhere near contention midway through the summer, high-priced starters being shopped in salary dumps could be in play.

    Do I think a solid lineup along with an – at-best – average pitching staff should be viewed as favorites to knock off the Tigers and take the division? Absolutely not. But I'd be satisfied if the Twins hung around .500 for most of the campaign, playing meaningful games into the final months and providing promising future signs in a bridge year.

    There's nothing unrealistic about that scenario, in my mind. But maybe it's just the sunshine talking.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Bright Side started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 61 Comments
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      I like how you think Nelson. .500 is a realistic possibility if the breaks fall our way. I'm a believer until all hope is gone.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Amidst all the pessimism over how badly the free agent market has been handled this offseason, it's easy to forget that with several lucky breaks, this team could easily finish over .500.

      Yes, it's a longshot. Yes, it's unlikely to happen without divine intervention. But with Mauer and Morneau on the roster (along with Willingham and Doumit), this team will be able to smack the ball around quite a bit of those guys stay healthy (far from a given) and Parmelee and/or Plouffe turn into consistent offensive threats.

      As for the pitching staff... well, yeah. That's going to require actual divine intervention to succeed.
    1. Anorthagen's Avatar
      Anorthagen -
      It's nice to read something positive about the twins for a change. Lately it has been too much negative.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      When I try to think of the upcoming season from a glass half full type of view I point out to my fellow disheartened Twins fans that Vavra has been replaced by Bruno. Hopefully this will bring out the tremendous talent in youngsters like Parmalee Plouffe and Hicks.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Why not? I don't know about 500 but i think there will be improvement. I am excited to see cf workout, to see parmalee get 500 ABs, at the hope that Mauer and Morneau get off to solid beginnings instead of struggling, to see Meyer and Arcia get call ups, and to watch the first time a sac fly happens and a runner challenges the arm of Aaron Hicks. Lets get this season started.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      I think the Twins can make the playoffs. That is what everyone hopes for, There is no reason that the Twins can't be a wild card team. It's all about getting off to a good start. With just a little confidence the younger players can really rally this team.
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      I can't disagree with anything you've said here. Yes, if a bunch of things break our way, we could win 81 games.

      However, I share the frustration that Howard and others have expressed - a little bit more help could have made a big difference i - and the fact that the team either wouldn't or couldn't get that help leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the fans who were assured that new revenues from Target Field would be put back into the product.

      I think that's where a lot of the negativity is coming from. I mean if your absolute sunniest day, highest ceiling, best-case scenario is .a 500 finish in the weakest division in baseball, how can you expect fans to get all that excited about forking over their hard earned money to watch this team? Winning organizations demand success, they do not tolerate mediocrity.

      I really hope I'm wrong about this team. Sure wouldn't be the first time. Maybe it's still too cold and I'm still bitter over the Timberwolves and the avalanche of bad breaks they've endured in what began as a season with so much promise. But right now, I'm just not feeling it.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      It does seem likely that the starting rotation could not be any worse and actually has to improve, lest some little known record of futility fall to the Twins.
      Plouffe, Parmelee, Dozier, Hendriks... someone will step up, right? Perhaps several someones.
      Let's go with that. It's spring.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      The super bowl is now over and it's time to cheer for the Twins Just think what would be if the Vikes drafted C. Kaepernick instead of Ponder.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      Well I believe Diamond can be quality starter. Good #3

      Worley could become a #2

      I'm not ready to give up on Hendricks yet.

      Gibson could rebound.

      Pelfrey/Harden/Correia could turn into a decent 5th starter.

      Saunders could run out of options, sign here, and play like a man on fire here hoping for a deal next season.

      That rotation is enough to get to .500.

      Hicks, Mauer, Willingham, Morneau, Doumit, Parmalee, Plouffe could produce some runs.

      This team could sneak into a wild card play-in game if everything falls together.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Thanks, Nick. Things may not work out as hoped this year, but you give cogent reasons to be hopeful. I plan to remain hopeful at least until the end of April, even if the Twins lose their first 20 games.
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Top Gun View Post
      I think the Twins can make the playoffs. That is what everyone hopes for, There is no reason that the Twins can't be a wild card team. It's all about getting off to a good start. With just a little confidence the younger players can really rally this team.
      If the rotation does decent, our offense can carry the rest of the team I could see us making the playoffs.

      Remember a few years ago when offense was the big question maek and the rotation was great?
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      Can someone write a post about potential salary-dump mid-season trade targets? Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay come to mind, although you've always got the no-trade nonsense.

      Gallardo, Lincecum, someone from the A's...They all sound better than Marcum or Saunders.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      I enjoyed this article. Last year, our lineup was reasonably average, our relievers were reasonably above-average, and our starting pitching staff exploded into one of the biggest, bloodiest debacles the Twins have seen in decades. I agree that the Twins didn't do as much as they could have to shore up the 2013 team, but is it relying on an unreasonable amount of luck to think that our staff this year will be better than the combination of Baker, Blackburn, Pavano, Marquis, Liriano, Swarzak, De Vries, etc., etc. from 2012? I don't think so. Hell, even having two or three of our initial starting five make it all the way through the season would be a vast upgrade.

      I also agree with the idea that we're playing with a bunch of lottery tickets (Plouffe, Parmelee, Hicks, Gibson, et al.), but these aren't Scratch and Win $100 cards. These are the mega millions kind of guys.

      But hey, what do I know? Apparently I'm nothing but a shill for the front office.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Last year, our lineup was reasonably average, our relievers were reasonably above-average
      By "reasonably" do you mean they weren't actually that good, but it sounds better that way?
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      I think this is how it goes, I think we were reasonably not bad last year and not bad this year.

      Reasonably average
      Not Bad
      Reasonably not bad
      Reasonably not good
      Not good
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I am not optimistic for even 500...because our defense is too weak...we will give up a lot of hits that could have been caught with better defense...Hicks is the key lottery pick...because he must cover a ton of ground in OF with Josh and Parmalee in the corners...I fear a lot of doubles against us...we are also counting on Dozier (more optimistic about him) and whomever in the IF.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      By "reasonably" do you mean they weren't actually that good, but it sounds better that way?
      More or less. They were a bit above-average in some respects as compared to the rest of MLB (10th in OBP, 11th in BA), but they were a bit below average in others (18th in OPS). You can weight it however you want, but regardless, you'll find that the Twins were reasonably average. They weren't blowing anyone away, but let's not pretend like they were anywhere close to the Mariners or Astros, etc. when it comes to batting suckitude.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Just to continue this line of thought, the Twins' team relievers were 17th with a 3.77 ERA, while the starters were only "better" than Colorado, coming in at 29th with a 5.40. I maintain that at least a part of the relievers' performance numbers had to do with starters regularly going 3-5 innings, as well as running some crappy relievers out there (*ahem* Jeff Gray) to mop up innings when the Twins were already behind by six runs and didn't really care anymore.

      So again, lineup: reasonably average; relievers: reasonably average; starters: ****ty.
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