• Back of the Napkin: How Far Are The 2013 Twins From Contention?

    How far are the Twins from contention? One side looks at their dismal record and wants a complete makeover. The other looks at the team's players and thinks theyíre just a couple of arms away from a pennant race. Which is it?

    Letís do some back-of-the-napkin figuring. As of right now, the Twins are 111 runs under .500. Not wins under .500, but runs under .500.

    That isnít good. The Indians are the only American League team thatís worse. The three teams who have the most runs over .500 also happen to be the division leaders. The outlier is the Orioles, who are 45 runs under .500 but still have a shot at the wild card. But for the most part, the teams that are around 40 runs over .500 have a decent chance at a playoff spot.

    So how do the Twins, in 2013, get from -110 to +40? Can they? Is that realistic?

    It ainít easy, but the Twins are both blessed and cursed by the same trait Ė theyíre starting pitching is truly dreadful. Thatís not breaking news, but just HOW awful they are is both stomach-turning and hope-inducing.

    Theyíre the worst team in the American League, and itís not particularly close. The starting rotationís ERA is currently 5.56. Next worst is almost a full half run better. The AL average is more than a run better. The median team is 1.2 runs better. And the best team, the Devil Rays, is more than two runs better per game.

    So whereís the hope? Itís in some simple math.

    The average AL starting rotation pitches about 990 innings, or about 110 full games worth of innings. If the rotation improves to just second worst in the AL, thatís worth 55 runs. A move to mediocrity brings them another 110 to 130 runs. That at least sounds close to contention.

    It turns out both sides are right. The Twins are dismal. And theyíre a few non-terrible arms from contention. So the argument shifts: how tough is it to cobble together mediocre starting pitching?

    That depends on who you talk to. The Orioles might say itís not that daunting, considering their rotation improved from dead last in 2011 to 9th this year with nothing more than a couple of cheaper free agent pickups. On the other hand, the Royals havenít been better than the 10th best team in the AL since 2003, which is also the last time they were contenders.

    Twins optimists might point to Scott Diamond, a Rule 5 pickup, as an example of how decent starting pitching can come from where one least expects it. Twins pessimists might point to the other ten players who have started atop the mound at some point this season. None have thrown even 100 innings as a starter. None are likely to. If the front office could find pitching talent, wouldnít they have found some in the 107 games started by those pitchers?

    Iím not sure I know the answer. But watching the last few weeks of the season and seeing the performances of Liam Hendriks, Sam Deduno and hopefully Esmerling Vasquez could Ė and probably should Ė play a part in the overall direction of the franchise this season.

    So maybe neither side is right, at least not yet.
    This article was originally published in blog: Back of the Napkin: How Far Are The 2013 Twins From Contention? started by John Bonnes
    Comments 45 Comments
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      It is a crapshoot to project even as far as next year. Let's say the Twins do as well with starting pitching in the offseason as they did with position players and the bullpen this year. They would have the ingredients to be a contender. As a previous poster noted, the Twins have been bad despite a healthy Mauer and Morneau and with a career year from Willingham. The chances of all three of those guys doing the same thing are pretty small.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      They are very close to being watchable but they are far from contention.



      This may be the worst Starting pitching in all of baseball.
      Leaving room for doubt is what makes you the voice of reason on Twins Daily. That's the least glass-half-full sentiment that you've ever expressed, RB!
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      In any case, there is no way the Twins sign a top shelf and a second tier FA pitcher. Even the Yankees can't accomplish that most seasons. The best they can hope for is to snag one of the second tier guys.
      That's what they said about the Wild until not all too long ago...

      Let us dream!
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Baker will get his team option declined, and resigned for a cool 3-4 mill is my guess. I hope they make it a deal for 2-3 years, extremely incentive based. Coming off of the surgery he had, he will not be back to 100 percent until 2014 or later, why not sign him for cheap with team options in-case he comes back stronger than he was before.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Teflon View Post
      To have a chance at 81 wins in 2012, the Twins have to improve their run differential by 200 runs. (They scored 619 last year and allowed 804) I'm interested in your opinions on how many runs you think the various player changes and returns to health can account for. I'll start by saying that I think having Ben Revere in left field instead of Delmon Young accounts for 10 fewer runs allowed simply based on the number of additional fly balls that Revere will get to. I think it will be more than that but am accounting for some of the exta bases Young's arm may have limited that Revere's will not. 190 runs to go...
      111 runs is actually an improvement from last year - providing we don't double that in the last month of the season. You have to credit Willingham's arrival plus the semi return-to-form of Mauer and Morneau to have bettered the run discrepancy outlook.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      Quote Originally Posted by joeboo_22 View Post
      I think you have to start saying who do you want in the rotation next year. Right now I say Diamond is in, Hendricks probably deserves to be, but after that there isn't a ton out there. Walters was a so-so starter but has struggled pretty bad with his rehab starts in AAA. Gibson even if 100% I don't see the Twins pitching him more then 100 innings (prolly closer to 60 innings). So I wouldn't be surprised if he is put in the pen. DeVries is similar to Deduno are guys that I just don't see being effective in the majors long term. They may be able to hold the #5 spot but I just don't see long term MLB starter stuff in them. Deduno too many walks, DeVries just doesn't have major league stuff. It can last for awhile with them but it will catch up. Other then that Bromberg could make the roster, maybe they push Hermsen who has as much upside as any starter in the organization right now. But other then that I don't see much internally.

      So you start with
      Diamond
      Hendricks
      and then you have to wonder. I'm guessing 1 of the guys you mentions makes the team as the 5th starter but that means 2 have to be found for relatively cheap price. Could be a problem.
      First time I've heard anbody say that Hendricks deserves a rotation spot.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      A long, long way from contention is the only conclusion if you honestly look at this team. Not just the actual talent but the likelihhod of repeat seasons and health. This team has actually had good health, offensive spikes, and multiple pleasant surprises. Red flags.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by nick5253 View Post
      Here is what I would do to make a serious run:
      Trade Morneau for a prospect (unload his entire salary, so you won't likely get an MLB-ready SP back, but something of quality for the long-term, saves 14 mil)

      Sign Zack Greinke (29), 5-6 yrs, 22 mil
      Sign Anibal Sanchez (28), 4 yrs, 13 mil

      Position players remain the same except for Parmelee slides into 1B.
      Bullpen remains largely the same, adding back Duensing

      Starting Rotaion:
      1. Greinke
      2. Diamond
      3. Sanchez
      4. Hendricks
      5. Gibson, Baker (cheap, incentive laden deal), DeVries, Deduno, Walters, replacement level waiver claim, etc

      Total payroll would come in around 100 Mil and the core of the team would be signed through 2014.
      Exactly my take, with the exception of Sanchez. I'm not sure the Twins would be able to swing that, but if they could I'd be all for it. This would be a playoff team with these additions.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      They are very close to being watchable but they are far from contention.



      This may be the worst Starting pitching in all of baseball.
      Leaving room for doubt is what makes you the voice of reason on Twins Daily. That's the least glass-half-full sentiment that you've ever expressed, RB!
      LOL... It was hard to type... But the pitching situation is overwhelming. Storm says Diamond and Hendriks are in for next year... I say Diamond is in for next year.

      Scott Diamond is your #1 right now. That makes it hard to sleep at night.

      Now for the optimism. Teams can compete regardless of what it says on paper. Hell... Kent State University could move into the American League and win 40 games. Baseball works that way. If you are good enough to be a major league player... You are good... You have the skill to win. Something just has to happen to pull it all together from a team standpoint.

      Now for the negative on the other hand.

      Damn hard to do without pitching.
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      A lot of this relies on how Gibson responds. He's gonna be able to get a lot of good rehab between the end of the AAA season and the AFL.

      If he can get himself healthy he could really solidify the back end of this rotation, and potentially become the #2 or #3 pitcher this team really needs.

      If Gibson isn't rotation ready... the Twins have a low-end #2 and a bunch of #5 options in house right now. Next to impossible to fill 3/5ths of a rotation in one offseason.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      When was the last time the Twins signed ANY incoming free agent pitcher to a multi year contract? Maybe they have once but I cant think of a single pitcher since the 80's. They won't this year either as it's just not anywhere in their DNA to spend. It's been said by those in baseball, Kenny Williams among them, that if the Twins would have spent any money at all during the last decade they would have won multiple world series. When they had great teams the Pholads and their Billions woundn't budge an inch. Now, with their baseball model in its depression era, folly is anybody to think they are going to spend any of their capital gains on back to back terrible teams.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      As I have said on other threads, the chances of the Twins signing Greinke seem very remote. Why would Greinke want to move from a contender to a cellar dweller? And I can think of many teams who would bid high to get Greinke.
    1. The Greatest Poster Alive's Avatar
      The Greatest Poster Alive -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      As I have said on other threads, the chances of the Twins signing Greinke seem very remote. Why would Greinke want to move from a contender to a cellar dweller? And I can think of many teams who would bid high to get Greinke.
      Really why would we want Grienke if he would come here?

      It would show he has no competitive spirit, and can't handle pressure if he chose to go to a team in our situation.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      AND a career year from Willingham
      Don't look now but JWillie is drifting back down to his career norms, and is on a pace to reach there by season's end. Which still is a good acquisition, don't get me wrong.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Otherwise....yuck. When you consider that we had a healthy Mauer AND Morneau this year, AND a career year from Willingham, do you really expect all three of those things to happen again? Moreover, aside from Plouffe hopefully staying healthy and having a breakout year, there isn't any other IMMEDIATE help on the way. In 2-3 years, yes, things may start to look up, but not next year.
      Well said. You forgot about the insane month that Plouffe had that completely defied his past career, Doumit's unusually healthy season, Diamond going from AAA filler to a part of this team going forward, Fien and Burton, and Revere becoming a force. Not all of these things will fail, but people are acting like everything has gone wrong this year.

      Everything went wrong LAST year. This year, one could argue they've been relatively lucky. Certainly not unlucky. When you're the worst team in the AL and you weren't unlucky, talking "contention" the next year with no immediate AAA help seems pretty silly.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      Otherwise....yuck. When you consider that we had a healthy Mauer AND Morneau this year, AND a career year from Willingham, do you really expect all three of those things to happen again? Moreover, aside from Plouffe hopefully staying healthy and having a breakout year, there isn't any other IMMEDIATE help on the way. In 2-3 years, yes, things may start to look up, but not next year.
      Well said. You forgot about the insane month that Plouffe had that completely defied his past career, Doumit's unusually healthy season, Diamond going from AAA filler to a part of this team going forward, Fien and Burton, and Revere becoming a force. Not all of these things will fail, but people are acting like everything has gone wrong this year.

      Everything went wrong LAST year. This year, one could argue they've been relatively lucky. Certainly not unlucky. When you're the worst team in the AL and you weren't unlucky, talking "contention" the next year with no immediate AAA help seems pretty silly.
      I will continue to put the list of Valencia, Capps, Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, Marquis and the rest of the hurt or performing below expectations against the list of "unexpected" successes any day.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      The Twins are far, far, far away from contention, and the truth of the matter is that the only way to get into contention is to become worse. In 2013 the Twins need to do what they should have done THIS year. REBUILD.

      Our lineup 2013 should be:

      LF Oswaldo Arcia (Willingham traded)
      CF Ben Revere (Span traded)
      RF Aaron Hicks
      3B Trevor Plouffe
      SS Pedro Florimon
      2B Eddie Rosario
      1B Justin Mourneau (trade possible, but hard to do with his contract)
      C Joe Mauer (trade possible, but almost impossible because of PR)
      DH Chris Parmalee

      Utility Brian Dozier Doumit Joe Benson

      Rotation: Diamond, and combinations of players we have tried this year, Kyle Gibson

      This team will be terrible, but from this group will rise the players that will form a rebuilt team. Think 1982, and the 102 loss team. But from that team came the core group of players that won both the 1987 and 1991 World Series, including Hrbek, Gaetti, Brunansky, andViola.

      Other players, like Sano and Buxton, will have to be added over the next couple of years to take the places of players that do not pan out just as the 1987 team added Kirby Puckett and Greg Gagne.

      But, the issue is you can develop players at the major league level if you have the managers at the top that are willing to work with the young players and take the losses. Right now, the Twins do not have such a group.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I will continue to put the list of Valencia, Capps, Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, Marquis and the rest of the hurt or performing below expectations against the list of "unexpected" successes any day.
      Any list that says Nick Blackburn being awful was "unexpected" is trying WAY too hard. And almost all of the others have similar issues.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      60 games under 500 over the last 2 years would cause most people to think maybe it's time to make some serious changes. But we get maybe a tweak here or there and we'll be ok. Don't trade anyone they are all great players, it's add one or two pitchers and we'll be a contender (around 500 in the Central) again.
      Getting to the end of two years of some very bad baseball and thinking this team is not far away is silly, imo. Our record is worse than the Royals the last two years, does anyone think the Royals are a player or two away from contending?
      A voice of reason. Diamond is a #5 starter or long man on a contending team and that is their best guy. Without great health from the M & M boys next year this team will challenge the Stros for worst record.

      The biggest issue is TR is too clueless to realize this team is not close and he failed to cash inall the guys who could've brought back sp prospects that our scouting dept cant seem to find.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I will continue to put the list of Valencia, Capps, Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, Marquis and the rest of the hurt or performing below expectations against the list of "unexpected" successes any day.
      Any list that says Nick Blackburn being awful was "unexpected" is trying WAY too hard. And almost all of the others have similar issues.
      Well...there's the fact that he was worse than career averages AND worse than the last few years AND by fairly wide margins. So there's that. (And there's Mauer being on your "unexpected" and "lucky" list when he's pretty much right smack in the middle of what he's done in prior years.) But ignoring that is fine...I guess.
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