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Stars Aligning... How the Twins Became the 2014 AL Central Champs

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#1 alskntwnsfn

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:54 PM

It's October 1, 2014 and the Minnesota Twins have exceeded all expectations to capture the AL Central title with a record of 91-71. Let's take a look at how this happened.

Minnesota Twins - The Twins improved their hitting and starting pitching drastically in 2014. Joe Mauer improved to 320/420/530 while playing 150+ games, but the real difference came in the supporting cast. Josh Willingham smashed 30 HRs and slugged 530 in his contract year. Chris Parmelee, Oswaldo Arcia, and Chris Colabello combined for more than 140 XBHs. Brian Dozier and Josmil Pinto also turned in better than expected seasons. However, the starters might have been an even bigger surprise. Despite the fact only one Twins starter was named to the All-Star team, all five Twins starters (Nolasco, Hughes, Pelfrey, Correia, and Deduno) posted an ERA under 4.00 and made 30+ starts. Michael Tonkin, Kyle Gibson, and Caleb Thielbar set up All-Star Closer Glen Perkins forming a strong bullpen that was bolstered by Trevor May later in the year.

Detroit Tigers - the defending division champs began the 2013/2014 offseason by trading Doug Fister for a decent pitching prospect and spare parts. They shored up the bullpen by signing Joe Nathan. However, injuries on offense to Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter were huge, along with Ian Kinsler struggling with Comerica Park. A slight regression by starters Scherzer and Sanchez along with a poor showing by Smyly torpedo'd the Tigers hopes in 2014. The Tigers paced the division in April and May but finished with only 86 wins.

Cleveland Indians - the Indians lost two key starters in 2014 but it was their poor hitting that was their undoing in 2014. For the second year in a row no Indians regular posted an OPS over 840 and Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn actually regressed on their lackluster 2013. Although the Indians starters had an average ERA of 3.70 the lack of offense and some up/down relief work left them with only 78 wins in 2014.

Kansas City Royals - the Royals were the other surprise team in the AL Central in 2014, winning 87 games. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer all turned in fine seasons. James Shields and Jason Vargas were outstanding starters, as was Yordano Ventura but thin starting pitching down the stretch wasted the division's best overall bullpen.

Chicago White Sox - the White Sox were abysmal in 2014, notching just 58 victories. Even though Jose Abreu turned in a fine season, injuries to Chris Sale and a poor supporting cast on both offense and the pitching staff contributed to the White Sox leading the AL in losses in 2014.

If it's going to happen (and nobody is expecting it), that's how I see it going down. All this said, I expect the division to go DET, KC, MIN, CLE, and CHW. I actually feel pretty good about our starting pitching and I think there are enough decent arms for a good bullpen - which means we will have a chance regardless of how we hit. However, it's a much bigger stretch to project big things from the likes of Willingham, Parmelee/Colabello, Arcia and Plouffe. However, all those guys have a lot to play for (personally), so never underestimate the power of motivation. If we are going to score runs this year, at least 3 of these 4 have to post major production IMO.

Edited by alskntwnsfn, 12 March 2014 - 08:31 PM.
Edited out typos. Sue me.


#2 mike wants wins

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:59 PM

I love the thought.
Lighten up Francis....

#3 JB_Iowa

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 02:00 PM

Please pass the bottle. nothing wrong with some optimism in ST. :)

#4 spycake

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 02:17 PM

I actually feel pretty good about our starting pitching and I think there are enough decent arms for a good bullpen - which means we will have a chance regardless of how we hit.


The rotation is improved, but I don't think it's nearly THAT good (to give us a chance regardless of our offense). Every pitcher is basically a ~100 ERA+ upside, which is light years ahead of what we've seen the last two years, but doesn't necessarily rack up wins even with an average offense. (Add that only 2-3 of these guys are likely to hit that upside over a full season in 2014, and it lowers expectations even more.)

If some of those offensive wishes come true, though, we could absolutely hang around and keep things interesting, even with my more pessimistic take on the starting staff comes to fruition.

#5 MacTheKnife

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 02:27 PM

At least there are still a couple of us optimists left in Twins Territory. I wouldn't go as far as saying all of our starters will have an under 4.00 ERA, but even having one get there would be nice.

#6 DocBauer

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 04:01 PM

At least there are still a couple of us optimists left in Twins Territory. I wouldn't go as far as saying all of our starters will have an under 4.00 ERA, but even having one get there would be nice.


I think ERA's between 3.50 & 4.50 are more realistic, and not bad at all. Hughes finding himself, Deduno healthy and pitching at least close to last season, and a push by Gibson over Correia are probably in line here, and not unreasonable expectations. The pen should not only be solid, but I believe better when not overworked.

The improvement in the defense follows hand in hand with the lineup as Hicks simply must patrol CF most days. He and some combination of Presley and possibly Mastro hold down at least an acceptable LO spot and further help the defense. A solid year overall from Plouffe, Willingham as primary DH, with a little time in LF, and Arcia starting to mash as he showed the potential to do last year, and there is cause for at least some of this optimism.

#7 CRArko

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 04:09 PM

In his final act as commissioner, Bud Selig suspends the other 29 teams for PED usage. Twins win! :)

#8 Trautmann13

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 04:23 PM

Boy, this is the only way for this to happen too. Cabrera and Hunter HAVE to practically die or retire mid-season for the Twins to go over them. This is very fun and I love this post so much for it!

#9 Willihammer

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 04:38 PM

The Twins offense scored 614 runs last year, but their team wRC was 645, which suggests they may have underperformed slightly. It was a -31 run differential, the 4th worst in baseball. The Tigers, Dodgers, and Rays were the other 3 worst underperformers, if you can believe it.

The greatest overperformer was the Cardinals. They scored 783 runs and wRC said they only were worth 715 - a +68 run differential. That's only 70 wRC better than the Twins.

All that is to say, progression and timing. If Arcia, Dozier, Hicks, Pinto, et al collectively improve the offense by 70 runs or more, and they get a few clutch hits, they could score a heck of a lot more than 614 runs this season.

Also Mauer stays healthy. That's sort of important.

Hammer too.

#10 Halsey Hall

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 08:42 PM

This offense will be worse than last season. There's just to many holes in it to put up runs. But at least with the pitching I'll probably be able to watch 5 innings before turning it off instead of 3 and being down 5, 6, 7 runs this year. Once we fall 4 runs back though, that'll be it for me. 4 could be our average this season.