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  • Minnesota Twins 2012 Season Preview

    On September 28th of last year, Carl Pavano tossed a five-hit shutout at Target Field, leading the Twins to a 1-0 victory over the Royals. It was the final game of the 2011 season, and its only significance was keeping the Twins from reaching 100 losses – a deflating milestone even if it's virtually no different from 99.

    On Friday, Pavano will again be on the mound, this time looking to kick off the 2012 Redemption Tour. Returning after the worst season in the past three decades of the franchise, these Twins have much to prove to a disgruntled fan base. In Year Three at Target Field with a payroll that hovers near nine digits, they'll receive plenty of scrutiny and little patience.

    Rightfully so.

    For the Twins to reverse course so drastically that they actually contend for a playoff spot – which may require a 30-game swing in win/loss record – might be too much to ask. But fans will be looking for clear signs of improvement across the board, be it on-field play, off-field accountability or organizational direction.

    One year after derailing completely, the Twins don't need to pull into the station. They do need to demonstrate that they're back on the right track.

    Terry Ryan, who took over as general manager in November after Bill Smith's abrupt dismissal, executed a sound offseason plan that altered the state of the roster rather dramatically. In the largest exodus of franchise mainstays since Ryan first resigned back in 2007, the team said goodbye to Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan, all of whom inked lucrative contracts elsewhere as free agents.

    In signing Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit and others over the winter, Ryan's objectives were threefold: replacing the departed players, addressing areas of weakness and creating the type of depth and flexibility absent from last year's roster.

    If I had one overarching frustration with Smith's strategy last offseason, it was the lack of proactive planning. The 2010 season was a very successful one for the Twins, but it also created a number of ongoing health concerns, and the former GM left the roster woefully unequipped for the avalanche of injuries that was to come.

    Granted, the Twins stood no chance last summer one way or the other with the endless barrage of bad breaks they endured, and the same would be true this time around. But Ryan has installed legitimate contingency plans, with a number of different moving parts and bench players actually capable of stepping up to make an impact.

    As long as the injury bug doesn't bite hard again, the lineup should be decent at worst, with the potential to be quite good if, say, Justin Morneau's late spring performance is a sign of things to come or Chris Parmelee is for real. With that said, this offense isn't going to be confused with the Yankees. If the Twins are to stay afloat in the AL Central, they're going to need quality pitching, which was in short supply last year.

    It's here that my optimism fades somewhat. If all goes well with the starters – Francisco Liriano commands his fastball, Scott Baker's elbow doesn't blow up, Carl Pavano craftily succeeds, Nick Blackburn returns to 2008/09 form and Jason Marquis throws strikes – the rotation could be an asset. But, so rarely does all go well. Whereas the lineup has suitable depth, it's not clear that the Twins will be prepared to adequately replace multiple starters if that need arises.

    And then there's the bullpen. Ryan took an incredibly passive approach to addressing this unit during the offseason, cobbling together a group of minor-league journeymen, failed starters and reclamation projects. Matt Capps, Glen Perkins and Jared Burton, who have had two good seasons between the three of them since 2008, are hardly guaranteed to be a lockdown trio at the back end, and the rungs get shakier as you make your way down the bullpen ladder.

    Ron Gardenhire will need to determine a hierarchy on the fly, since few of these pitchers have been able to establish consistent roles on a big-league staff. The approach of throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks didn't work as a bullpen solution last year but maybe the results will be better with a true talent evaluator in charge.

    I'd like to think that the Twins could sport a respectable rotation with a relief corps that consistently holds leads, but in order for that to happen they'll need a lot to go right and very little to go wrong. Maybe I'm too jaded by last year, but I can't see it.

    I see a staff that allows a ton of contact and probably ranks among the league leaders in hits allowed because the defense still isn't very good.

    I see a lineup that, while vastly improved, remains several notches behind the true AL powerhouses like New York, Boston, Texas and Detroit.

    I also see big bounce-back years for several players, including the restoration of Joe Mauer's pristine reputation. And thanks to a weak division, I see a finish around the .500 mark, which would count as a sizable step in the right direction and might keep things interesting into August and even September.
    This article was originally published in blog: Minnesota Twins 2012 Season Preview started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      The Bullpen is the most frustrating aspect of the 2012 Twins.
      The Free Agent Market was saturated with reasonably price Bullpen Arms with proven track records.The Bullpen is a question mark, because saving a few million dollars is more important. Anything good that is accomplished by this Team, can easily be destroyed by a bad Bullpen. A penny wise and pound foolish.
    1. MWLFan's Avatar
      MWLFan -
      Nick,

      I can't argue your points with much passion. Well thought out piece and agree with much of what you have here. If last year was the bottom then this year starts the progress back I hope, my worry like yours is pitching. Not only at the Major League Level but in the Minors. I am seeing a lot of bats, but not a abundance of arms that inspires me. Maybe this draft coming up can add some of that, but in the draft I think sometimes you need to catch lightning in a bottle. Enjoy the articles.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      The pen will succeed/fail with the rotation. If the starters can go 6-7 consistently, the pen, while not dominant, will be fine. If they cannot, look out below.
    1. striker_86's Avatar
      striker_86 -
      I agree, we need our starters going at least 5 innings. We cant afford those 3 inning/5 run starts all the time....
    1. baseball_insighter's Avatar
      baseball_insighter -
      The Twins organization and its beat writers are trying to give the opening of this season as much of a positive of a spin as possible. However, looking at the roster it reminds me of rosters from the early 80s or late 90s -- last place clubs. There are too many holes in the fabric and you have to ask, "Who in the A.L. are they better than?" If you're honest you have to say "nobody." (Maybe Seattle or the White Sox.) Some of the young guys are going to have to break through to avoid being cellar dwellers by late April. I hesitantly predict that this year's Twins team will finish 66-96.
    1. Neil's Avatar
      Neil -
      Well Nick, you were dead right about this time last year; it gives me hope to see you forecasting an appreciable improvement.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      In the Twins favor - 57 games against the likes of Cleveland, Kansas City and Chicago. Competitive but not juggernauts.
    1. CK's Avatar
      CK -
      I'm excited about some of the hitters "getting hot at the right time" or "having a good spring", but when I use this same thought process for the bullpen, I get sad. Oh, well. Here's to homer optimism.
    1. Montecore's Avatar
      Montecore -
      Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
      The Bullpen is the most frustrating aspect of the 2012 Twins.
      The Free Agent Market was saturated with reasonably price Bullpen Arms with proven track records.The Bullpen is a question mark, because saving a few million dollars is more important. Anything good that is accomplished by this Team, can easily be destroyed by a bad Bullpen. A penny wise and pound foolish.
      Likely this is accurate. Who knows? But, keeping Capps was just a terrible decision. Is there a worse closer in the game? I think he's worse than Ron Davis, the worst so-called closer in Twins history, i.e. a closer who can not close. Can't see them having anything but a losing season with him on-board.
    1. one_eyed_jack's Avatar
      one_eyed_jack -
      Hope springs eternal - it always does at this time of year!

      But seriously, I think we'll see a better team than last year. How much better remains to be seen. Most of the "experts" have us finishing 5th. I think we'll do better than that.

      I think this lineup will be able to put runs on the board and the rotation could be solid. But it's defense and the bullpen that worry me. If we see a lot of extra outs and blown leads, it will be one hell of a long season.

      The fate of this season will hinge largely on how well the team is able to handle the brutal early schedule. After Baltimore, it gets ugly - 28 of the next 36 are against the Angels, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Jays and Tigers.

      It softens up quite a bit after that, so if the Twins can get through that stretch in tact, they might even be able to hang in long enough to make it interesting. OTOH, if last year's team show's up, this thing could be over by Mother's Day.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Quote Originally Posted by baseball_insighter View Post
      The Twins organization and its beat writers are trying to give the opening of this season as much of a positive of a spin as possible. However, looking at the roster it reminds me of rosters from the early 80s or late 90s -- last place clubs. There are too many holes in the fabric and you have to ask, "Who in the A.L. are they better than?" If you're honest you have to say "nobody." (Maybe Seattle or the White Sox.) Some of the young guys are going to have to break through to avoid being cellar dwellers by late April. I hesitantly predict that this year's Twins team will finish 66-96.
      Agree 100%. The media is drinking the kool aid and eating up the propaganda the Twins are putting out. Bottom line: the Twins have worst pitching in MLB other than the Astros. With terrible pitching, little power, injury prone players, and no top level prospects I just don't see how this can end any better than a 75 win season. In the end, Terry Ryan will blame it on injuries or inexperience but his terrible offseason and the Mauer albatross contract are issues no one can overcome. I just hope Liriano and Pavano are decent enough that the Twins can cash in their only tradeable assets for some more worthless prospects that they scouted poorly.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Montecore View Post
      Likely this is accurate. Who knows? But, keeping Capps was just a terrible decision. Is there a worse closer in the game? .
      The other bad part about bringing him back is that he cost as much as two or three equal or better relievers who signed for much less than the deal Capps got. That's a whole new bullpen, instead of the spare parts they ended up with.

      It also shows they're a dumb organization that thinks they should pay for saves like it's fantasy baseball.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      The other bad part about bringing him back is that he cost as much as two or three equal or better relievers who signed for much less than the deal Capps got. That's a whole new bullpen, instead of the spare parts they ended up with.

      It also shows they're a dumb organization that thinks they should pay for saves like it's fantasy baseball.
      Terry Ryan is clueless. He will pay for Saves, RBI, and Wins which are probably the 3 most meaningless stat categories period. The fact that Ryan forfieted a 1st round draft pick to overpay for Capps is the DEBACLE of the offseason in all of MLB. TERRY SHOULD BE FIRED!
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by Montecore View Post
      Likely this is accurate. Who knows? But, keeping Capps was just a terrible decision. Is there a worse closer in the game? I think he's worse than Ron Davis, the worst so-called closer in Twins history, i.e. a closer who can not close. Can't see them having anything but a losing season with him on-board.
      I know 2010 was really really long ago, but...
    1. Land Of 10,000 Beasts's Avatar
      Land Of 10,000 Beasts -
      Look at the past decade of the Twins. Every year that people have doubted them, they have done well. But when the media and the fans think that they are gonna have a good year(2007 and 2011 most notably), they don't do very well. The Twins respond to the doubters with wins. I'm not saying we are a great team, but at the end of the year people will be surprised at how well they played. I agree with what you said, but don't be surprised if we end up making a run at the playoffs.

      On a side note, this blog kicks major ass. I am absolutely loving it. Keep up with the good work.
    1. DL450's Avatar
      DL450 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      Terry Ryan is clueless. He will pay for Saves, RBI, and Wins which are probably the 3 most meaningless stat categories period. The fact that Ryan forfieted a 1st round draft pick to overpay for Capps is the DEBACLE of the offseason in all of MLB. TERRY SHOULD BE FIRED!
      You forget that there is development costs associated with a 1st round draft pick, and the Twins already stockpiled some from their own poor performance and with the departure of other FAs. They would have had to go out and sign someone else to be the closer, who will have the same shaky track record of Capps, unless they are going to spend even more money, and then spend a few million more to develop a high draft pick that still probably doesn't pan out. Early in the offseason, all I saw from Twins' fans was that they should sign Broxton, who signed with KC for slightly less than what Capps signed for. Broxton's numbers are comparable/slightly worse than Capps', and he's coming off a season with some pretty significant injury concerns.

      Rip on Terry Ryan all you want- he was put into a tough position this offseason and he's done what he could. My biggest issue with him is signing Carroll... it seems that he could have done much better there. But regardless, the guy put out competitive teams while he was the GM.
    1. DL450's Avatar
      DL450 -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I know 2010 was really really long ago, but...
      It apparently was. People on here and people on ESPN all seem to assume that because MN was 99 loss bad in 2011, that they'll be awful in 2012. I guess sports memory is only one season long. *Exception- you are a CWS fan and think that the 2005 world series just happened.

      I think the Twins will be fine this year. Not great, but slightly above .500.
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