• 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. frightwig's Avatar
      frightwig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      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.
      Well, the 2003 team was 44-49 at the All-Star break, but had been 43-37 on June 29. So they had been having a fine season, until they just hit a horrific slide in the two weeks going into the break (which they immediately corrected with 5 straight wins to open the 2nd half). And the rotation after Santana (who has no equal on this year's team) wasn't great, but Radke, Lohse, and Rogers were league-average pitchers that season. And everyone figured even at the time that Kansas City was going to fade, and it was probably just a matter of beating the White Sox, who were just a half-game up on the Twins at that point.

      The 2004 team, which rolled to a three-peat Central championship by playing .600 ball in the 2nd half, had already posted a 47-40 record and trailed Chicago by just a half-game at the break.

      The 2006 team that came back from a 12-game deficit in mid-July actually started winning in the second week of June, and had climbed to a 47-39 record at the break. From June 8 to that point, the Twins were 22-6. Catching Chicago and/or Detroit still seemed unlikely, but we had reason to believe that the team could play very good ball the rest of the way--and maybe one of those teams would stumble, and the wild card might be in play.

      The 2008 team, which won 88 games but lost the Game 163 playoff with Chicago, was 53-42 at the break, on a 21-8 tear, and trailed the White Sox by just 1 game.

      The 2009 team, which won 86 games plus the Game 163 playoff with Detroit, was 45-44 at the break, in 3rd place, just 4 games behind the Tigers.

      The 2010 team, which crushed in the second half to finish with 94 wins, was 46-42 at the break. They had been scuffling in the few weeks leading up to that point, but showed their potential with a 40-29 mark on June 20; and, despite recent struggles, they were still in 3rd place, 3.5 games behind Chicago after the first half.

      I see that you've acknowledged a couple times that we're just talking about a pipe dream, but let's also be clear that this Twins team, which stands at 36-49 after playing slightly better than .500 ball since mid-May, doesn't really compare well to any of Minnesota's past playoff teams. Coming back from some midseason deficit has been a common feature to most of those good seasons in the Gardy era (excepting only 2002), which is why Twins fans have come to believe that we always have a shot. "This is what we do." But none of those playoff teams had so many problems at this point. None of them had got off to such a horrible start for 6 weeks, only to "turn it around" with a run of merely .510-ish ball for the next 6 weeks. None of them were worse than 3rd at the break, much less sitting in last place. None of them came back from anything like a 36-49 record. I mean, it's fun to indulge a bit in pipe dreams, what might happen if every break starts to go our way, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking, "the Twins have come back from this sort of situation before." No, they have not.
    1. Todd G's Avatar
      Todd G -
      . . . A miracle of near biblical proportions.
    1. chopper0080's Avatar
      chopper0080 -
      In reality, all it will take is good, consistent pitching and timely hitting which we haven't had all year. We do play enough division games for it to at least be a possibility.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      I was listening to Common Man today and they had flirted with giving this article a Preposterous Statement Nomination. That would have been great for publicity for the site!

      No chance it happens but still fun to think about. What the last months or so of .500 ball has shown is that pieces are in place to be good again next year. Too much broken with the rotation to fix it in season, but with $30 mil to play with and piece that can get a starter in Span, perhaps moves can be made.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by rocketpig View Post
      I disagree. I think teams are still going to be wary of Willingham based on his age, the fact that he was a FA this offseason and they didn't pick him up, and that he's a limited ability corner outfielder.

      On the other hand, the Twins have Revere behind Span. Putting Revere in CF actually strengthens him as a player, as CF makes his range more of a factor and his arm is slightly marginalized there.

      That means the team needs to find a corner OF for 2013. Thankfully, corner outfielders who can put up Revere's offensive production (though not defensive) are one of the easiest things to find in baseball. It's not even that difficult to find a guy who will hit enough to offset the defensive loss in moving Revere to CF. 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.

      Like, say, a one or two year deal to Torii Hunter. It makes sense on so many levels. Fans love him, he's probably open to returning to MN, and he's nothing more than a corner OF at this point and possibly nothing more than a backup in 2014.
      I think this is pretty much exactly what happens. Twins trade Span for a starter (Zimmermann?), sign one of the second tier guys (Colby Lewis?), sign Hunter on a one year deal, sign a bullpen arm to replace the soon to be traded Capps, maybe get another infielder, and take another bunch of fliers on arms and hope to hit on a couple. That could be a good enough team for 2013.
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