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  • What Would It Take To Come Back?

    Here at the All-Star break, the Twins find themselves 11 games out of first place, with a record 13 games below .500. The most likely scenario is that they sell off their assets within the next couple weeks and coast to a forgettable finish near the bottom of the division.

    But just what would it take for the Twins to surge back to the top of the division here in the second half? Anyone would have to admit that it's still possible, if extremely improbable. We've seen this team make up some significant deficits after the break in years past under Ron Gardenhire.



    Below, I've listed out a few things that, in my mind, would have to happen for the Twins to pull off their greatest turnaround yet. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section. (And, please, no "It's not going to happen" responses. The unlikelihood is obvious.)

    1) Come out of the break on fire.
    The trade deadline is only two weeks away, and with a double-digit deficit in the standings, the front office will have no choice but to sell. Without the likes of Francisco Liriano and others, they team will be dead in the water. If, however, the Twins can rattle off a bunch of wins in short order including dominating key series against the White Sox and Indians Terry Ryan may be compelled to keep the gang together and see what they can do.

    2) Dominate the division.

    I hinted at this above, but the Twins would really need to lay the hammer down on divisional opponents. They're 11 games behind and trailing four different clubs, so with 77 games remaining there is little margin for error. They probably can't afford to lose a single series against Chicago, Detroit or Cleveland.

    3) The White Sox must fall.
    Quietly, the Sox have turned into one of baseball's finest teams. Their 47-38 record ranks as sixth best in the majors, and they've been on a tear lately winning 11 of their last 15. If Chicago wins 90-some games, the Twins won't be catching them. Similarly, the Twins need the Tigers and Indians to remain lukewarm in the final months.

    4) Starting pitching must lead the way.
    Shockingly, the Twins got three good starts against an offensive powerhouse in Texas heading into the break. Yet, their starters still own the worst ERA in the American League. Minnesota will need to win at a .650+ clip from here on out to have a chance; they simply won't be doing that without vastly improved starting pitching.

    5) The bullpen can't slip up.
    It seems we might already be seeing some signs of the bullpen's heavy workload over the first half catching up. Given the aforementioned slim margin for error, the Twins can't really afford to let late leads slip away like they did in Texas over the weekend.
    This article was originally published in blog: What Would It Take To Come Back? started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      All the Twins need is a guy who can play corner OF for one season, after which one of the Hicks/Arcia/Benson trio should be close to getting a shot.
      Hence the beauty of having Revere/Span there. Span's team control is ongoing for quite some time and his value will still be there. Willingham's value is only going to plummet from here. I get the appeals of keeping him, but I don't think it's impossible we could find a strong suitor for him.

      For instance, Baltimore could really use some help in the corner OF spots. Ditto the Mets, Pirates, and Dodgers. I'd argue we could get a solid young pitcher from any of those teams that would be worth pulling the trigger.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Hence the beauty of having Revere/Span there. Span's team control is ongoing for quite some time and his value will still be there. Willingham's value is only going to plummet from here. I get the appeals of keeping him, but I don't think it's impossible we could find a strong suitor for him.

      For instance, Baltimore could really use some help in the corner OF spots. Ditto the Mets, Pirates, and Dodgers. I'd argue we could get a solid young pitcher from any of those teams that would be worth pulling the trigger.
      I'm not saying that it's an impossible deal, I just think it's unlikely. If a team is willing to bite on Willingham for a pitcher, you do it.

      I only feel that it's more likely to happen with Span.

      Either way, one of the two should go in trade for a starter.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      Either way, one of the two should go in trade for a starter.
      We agree there. Too much to hope Baltimore tries to go for those WC spots and ships out Matusz for him? Probably dreaming.....
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Another thing to mention is that it's not impossible that teams are eyeing up Ben Revere right now.

      If you can deal Revere, I'd do it yesterday. I have so little faith in his continued production*...

      *but in all fairness, I have very little faith in speed-based/BABIP/no walk guys in the first place
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      Another thing to mention is that it's not impossible that teams are eyeing up Ben Revere right now.

      If you can deal Revere, I'd do it yesterday. I have so little faith in his continued production*...

      *but in all fairness, I have very little faith in speed-based/BABIP/no walk guys in the first place
      I'm with you, though what I saw of him in Detroit is that he's making very solid contact on the ball. One of our OF is expendable. I agree willingham would get the most, I also think he's the most important cog if this team thinks they can compete in 2013. Morneau, whether you like it or not, isn't going anywhere, and given that Parmalee has experience in RF, he'd be a fine stop gap there for the time being until one of Benson/Hicks/Arcia is ready to man it. If Morneau shines at first, you can deal him in 2013 for help and moving Parmalee over there and then call up one of the OF guys. Span or Revere should get something as well. I'm not picky. I just want a starting pitcher that should be a 2/3 type guy.
    1. chopper0080's Avatar
      chopper0080 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Hence the beauty of having Revere/Span there. Span's team control is ongoing for quite some time and his value will still be there. Willingham's value is only going to plummet from here. I get the appeals of keeping him, but I don't think it's impossible we could find a strong suitor for him.

      For instance, Baltimore could really use some help in the corner OF spots. Ditto the Mets, Pirates, and Dodgers. I'd argue we could get a solid young pitcher from any of those teams that would be worth pulling the trigger.
      The issue I have with trading Willingham is it would create a huge hole in the 4 spot of the lineup and deprive the Twins of the RH power bat they really need in Target Field. Being able to hit home runs is so key for teams these days and Willingham is the one player, outside of the unbelieveable year from Plouffe, that provides this. In my opinion, if we did need to compete and thus keep Liriano, the only viable option would be to trade Span or Revere, and then call up Hicks. He is ready defensively and has been improving at AA. He also brings a similar skill set to the table.

      I don't see us contending as a real possibility, but who knows.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Damn--compare this season's numbers for Ben Revere and Juan Pierre (note: I don't think a Juan Pierre comparable is such a bad thing).

      Why not spend $25 million on two starters in the offseason, keep your best players, and not give in to a near-repeat of 2012 in 2013?
    1. ThejacKmp's Avatar
      ThejacKmp -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      Nick needs to be introduced to reality! The Twins have been the WORST team in the AL since September 2010 and have shown no signs of improvement. I take it this is your first year following the club?

      Since September 2010 the Twins have been the 2nd worst team in the AL. The Mariners are 112 and 167 for a .401 winning clip and the Twins are 117 and 159 for a .423 clip. You may call that nitpicking and say they're still not good but I'd call making up statistics worse. Check your facts.

      While you're at it, work on reading comprehension. Nick clearly stated that he was throwing out a fun hypothetical which succeeded in adding some levity to a disappointing season. I'm hoping your snide "I take it this is your first year following the club?" is just you being sarcastic and bitter because if you meant it that way I'd have to ask "Is this your first year on the internet?" since Nick Nelson founded this site and is one of the best Twins bloggers out there.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      You all realize Nick is absolutely NOT saying this is what IS going to happen, only what MUST happen if they expect to get back in it, right?! Obviously, it's not likely.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Nick and others took "what would it take" as what particular things must go right. My reaction was to look at the big picture. Three teams are above .500 in the division; even if we agree the Sox must fall off their current pace, it's reasonable to expect some team other than the Twins will finish above .500. Say it will take 87 wins to claim the division crown. The Twins need to go 51-26 from here on out to achieve that. A .662 clip, Nick mentioned this but didn't take the next step: it means a pace that would be a 107-win team if carried a full season.

      It's disallowed to say "can't happen". But this is what would have to happen: an historically-good 107-win team emerging from the present situation. Even with all the good things listed so far, starters going 6 innings and so forth, I am not sure I see a 100+ win team adding up from it. So, what would it take? More than we've collectively said so far, except for radioactive spiders.

      Is it disallowed to say "a miracle"?
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Nick and others took "what would it take" as what particular things must go right. My reaction was to look at the big picture. Three teams are above .500 in the division; even if we agree the Sox must fall off their current pace, it's reasonable to expect some team other than the Twins will finish above .500. Say it will take 87 wins to claim the division crown. The Twins need to go 51-26 from here on out to achieve that. A .662 clip, Nick mentioned this but didn't take the next step: it means a pace that would be a 107-win team if carried a full season.

      It's disallowed to say "can't happen". But this is what would have to happen: an historically-good 107-win team emerging from the present situation. Even with all the good things listed so far, starters going 6 innings and so forth, I am not sure I see a 100+ win team adding up from it. So, what would it take? More than we've collectively said so far, except for radioactive spiders.

      Is it disallowed to say "a miracle"?
      First off, you aren't allowed to use logic in this thread. Next, you are missing that a 107 win team actually wins that many games. If a team goes 10-0 they are on pace for a 162 wins. Now, this type of turnout just isn't going to happen, but comparing what a sample size would be on pace for isn't always the most accurate description of a team.
    1. dwintheiser's Avatar
      dwintheiser -
      Let's take this one at face value, Nick. I realize that this scenario isn't likely, but I'm not sure the scenario you have laid out is optimistic enough:

      1) Twins need to come out of the break on fire.

      Agreed, but what counts as 'on fire'? The good news is that the Twins play Oakland, Baltimore, and Kansas City coming out of the break, but the bad news is that those teams aren't the pushovers they've been over the past few years: the Orioles in particular are holding their own in a very tough-looking division. Even given that these won't be as easy of games as they might have been, sweeping all three series would still leave the team below .500 with just over a week to go until the trading deadline. Even if they then followed that up with a sweep of the White Sox, they'd *still* be below .500 with five days before the trading deadline. That would be enough to scare them off being sellers, but too little time to come up with a decent deal as buyers, meaning that the surge had better mean a real uptick in quality and not just an illusion. (Though admittedly, that's exactly what your hopeful prediction is hoping for -- keep the current club together, watch them soar. Frankly, I'd be hoping more for 'addition by subtraction' in getting guys with big-name reps but with sub-optimal performance off the club -- say Pavano.)

      2) Twins need to 'dominate' divisional rivals

      If the Twins win every three game series and split the one four-game series against a divisional rival from here on out, they'll go 26-14 in divisional games. *This does not even get them back to .500* So by 'dominate' what we mean is win every series and sweep half.

      And even that doesn't promise anything, since the Twins have already been far better against the Central (14-15) than against the East (5-12) or West (8-13); we could go 32-8 in divisional games and still end the season below .500 if we keep playing at our current pace against non-divisional opponents. So it's basically 'win every series, sweep most'.

      3) White Sox must stumble.

      The White Sox do appear, at least by Pythagorean record, to be the class of the division, so they've got to tumble for us to pass -- problem is, while they're tumbling, they're giving wins to every other team ahead of us in the division, making our task that much harder. Passing four teams is a lot harder than passing one. So what we really need to root for is that both we and the Sox dominate the division, but we dominate the Sox -- if our records are identical against similar opponents, but we beat the Sox all 12 times we play them the rest of the year, we'll finish a game ahead. And if we've both been beating our divisional opponents, we'll both finish ahead of them.

      4) Starting pitching must lead the way

      Well, when your club allows a league-leading number of runs, that seems obvious. And when you're the worst in the league in quality start percentage (we're at 35%, KC is at 36%), that's another knock on the starters.

      Interestingly enough, though, the Seattle Mariners are above league-average in runs per game and nearly average in quality start percentage, but have a record worse than ours. That's because of their offense, right? Except they and us have exactly the same run support per inning pitched (4.1). (They're a bit behind us in run support per game, largely because they've played more extra-inning games which makes our innings closer than our games.) By this argument, the starting staff could drop their ERA by a full run, and if the offense remains pokey, the record will barely budge. The starters would have to get *massively* better for them to help lead the way, or the offense would have to improve by the same lesser margin.

      5) The bullpen can't slip up.

      By 'slip up', what you really mean is 'make any mistakes, ever', because as poor as the bullpen looks by runs, it looks great by alternative measures -- the Twins' bullpen is in the top 5 in the league in percentage of inherited runners scored, save percentage, and bullpen wins. The problem is that the bullpen is pitching from behind -- the Twins' bullpen leads the league in relief pitchers entering a game while losing -- and in a good number of those games, the guys coming in aren't the top guys in our 'pen and put a losing game out of reach. So, 'enter more games with a lead' would be one good way to improve the bullpen, just to let them do what they've already done this year some more.

      So, if you want to be optimistic about the Twins and what it would take to come back, aim higher. The Twins could achieve every single one of the goals as listed and still not break .500.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Here's what has to happen:

      1) Everything that's been going well (Diamond, Liriano 2.0, Plouffe, relatively good health, etc.) keeps going well,
      2) Morneau hits .312/.382/.544 in the 2nd half, raising his 2012 stats up to his career averages,
      3) Carroll hits .312/.386/.408 in the 2nd half, raising his 2012 stats up to his career averages. He moves up to the #2 spot in the lineup because,
      4) Tampa accepts Revere in a straight-up trade for James Shields. Tomorrow. Doumit, Parmelee and Mastroianni hold down RF and bat 7th or 8th. Shields, liberated from facing the bomb squads of the AL East, wins 11 games down the stretch,
      5) Dozier goes back to Rochester to work on some things. Carroll goes back to SS, Casilla to 2B, batting 9th. Casilla doesn't hit any better than Dozier, but steals more bases and prevents about 15 unearned runs,
      6) Heartened by a 13-3 run to start the 2nd half (including a 3-game sweep of the Sox in Chicago), TR decides to go all in. He convinces the Brewers to accept a quantity package for Greinke consisting of Arcia, Hermsen, any RH reliever from Rochester, any pitcher from New Britain, and any player from Fort Myers. Greinke wins 10 down the stretch, and enjoys MN so much that he signs a 5-year extension at $18.5M/season.
      7) Peavy gets hurt and Konerko and AJ remember that they're old and should be declining. The Sox play slightly under .500 ball the rest of the way, and the Tigers and Indians finish with records befitting their run differentials.

      Yeah, that outta do it!
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Nick and others took "what would it take" as what particular things must go right. My reaction was to look at the big picture. Three teams are above .500 in the division; even if we agree the Sox must fall off their current pace, it's reasonable to expect some team other than the Twins will finish above .500. Say it will take 87 wins to claim the division crown. The Twins need to go 51-26 from here on out to achieve that. A .662 clip, Nick mentioned this but didn't take the next step: it means a pace that would be a 107-win team if carried a full season.

      It's disallowed to say "can't happen". But this is what would have to happen: an historically-good 107-win team emerging from the present situation. Even with all the good things listed so far, starters going 6 innings and so forth, I am not sure I see a 100+ win team adding up from it. So, what would it take? More than we've collectively said so far, except for radioactive spiders.

      Is it disallowed to say "a miracle"?
      Playing at a .662 clip over half a season does not indicate "an historically-good 107-win team" it indicates a team that had a very good half-season. And the Twins have done that repeatedly in the past. As you'll see in an article coming up on Friday, the Twins have had a .600+ winning percentage after the break FIVE times in Gardenhire's 10-year managerial tenure, including .645+ three times. (In 2003 they played .667 ball after the break. Was that a "historically good team" in your mind?) Those were all somewhat flawed teams thus the reason they all dug themselves into holes that required a second-half surge to overcome.

      I'm not saying this team is capable of going .650 from here on out but you're exaggerating the magnitude of the feat. We're talking about 77 games.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Lein View Post
      You all realize Nick is absolutely NOT saying this is what IS going to happen, only what MUST happen if they expect to get back in it, right?! Obviously, it's not likely.
      You'd think the image of a shooting star in the post would be indicative of my level of faith that this would to happen, but apparently not for some folks...
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      but you're exaggerating the magnitude of the feat. We're talking about 77 games.
      Fair enough. Minor miracle, then. They do happen.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      The Twins are 14-15 vs the AL Central. To me, there are two pieces of good news there:

      1) They aren't outclassed by the division. They aren't dominant either, but they aren't out of their league in these head to head games
      2) There are still a LOT of head to head games left - 43 to be exact, of 14 more than they have played.

      Personally, I don't see this team having the horses to win, but because of this goofy schedule, the opportunity is still there. They don't need to be dominant overall. They need to win division matchups.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Fair enough. Minor miracle, then. They do happen.
      Right. I took pains to emphasize in the article that none of this is remotely likely. But as John pointed out, the opportunity is still there.

      Looking back at that 2003 team, they went from 7.5 GB at the All-Star break to winning the division by four games. That's an 11.5 game swing. Granted, they had to pass two teams and not four, and they were better than this current group, but really they weren't all that different. One great starter (Santana) supported by a bunch of meh (Radke was second on that team in ERA at 4.49), a good bullpen and a capable offense with a couple stars.

      Just some food for thought that I find more pleasant than dwelling on the obvious negatives associated with this club.
    1. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Personally, I don't see this team having the horses to win, but because of this goofy schedule, the opportunity is still there. They don't need to be dominant overall. They need to win division matchups.
      Let's say the Twins win 70% of the rest of their games against Central teams; that would give them a 30-13 mark in those remaining games, which would put them at 66-62. In that case, they would have to go 21-13 (.618) against East/West teams in the 2nd half just to get to 87 wins. So, it's not going to be enough just to win division matchups. The Twins can pretty well dominate Central teams from now on, and they'll still have to be exceptionally good against teams outside the division who have been kicking their asses to this point.

      And then, if the White Sox, winners of 11 of their past 15 games, do not fall off their current pace for 89.6 wins, even that 51-26 (.662) miracle finish will not be enough. There's the other problem with pinning our slim hopes on the presumably weak intradivision schedule: the teams already at the top have to stumble while playing a similar schedule within the division, plus, unlike the Twins, they get to play the team currently at the bottom.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      People, in general, are headline/title readers and likely don't read the full articles before spouting off.
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