One Bad Baseball Team

5 Aug

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I think the time has come that even I have to just admit that this Minnesota Twins team is a bad baseball team. Always an optimist, it takes me a long time to give up on a person/player, or on a team. The Twins have been tremendous after the calendar turns to August in recent years, and that tends to keep some level of optimism. However, this is not the same type of team as those Twins teams of years past.

This team is not a good offensive team. Yes, I will agree that injuries are not only an excuse but the reality. Denard Span, Alexi Casilla, Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Jim Thome, Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  Each of these starters has spent an extended amount of time on the Disabled List this year. To not acknowledge that is completely unfair.

But at the end of the day, this team will score more than 150 less runs than they did a year ago. That is definitely significant. When healthy, Denard Span and Jason Kubel were really good. Michael Cuddyer has been tremendous since May. Alexi Casilla has been pretty solid since May. But others have definitely been disappointing. Injury has played a huge part in that. In most cases, reserves or unready minor leaguers have had to step in. For three months of the season, anywhere from three to five regulars were out of lineup. Yes, an excuse, but also the reality. I didn’t have hope for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but I figured .270/.340/.360 might be a solid rookie season. He looks like he might struggle in AA.

This team does not have good starting pitching. The Twins have five to seven starters who are good pitchers, but they don’t have guys that intimidate an opponent. Scott Baker has been incredible most of the year.  However, it is impossible to understand how Francisco Liriano has become this bad. I agreed with those who said he was a head case, but his 2011 has been ridiculously bad even considering his no-hitter against the White Sox. Carl Pavano has been nowhere near what he had been the previous season and a half with the Twins. He has had his moments, but he has not been good.  Brian Duensing has been solid as a starter despite right-handed hitters crushing him. Nick Blackburn was pretty good until his last five or six starts, when he has been absolutely crushed. Anthony Swarzak has been solid in long relief and spot starts, but you could actually make an argument that he has been the Twins second-best starter… which says a lot about how bad the pitching has been.

The team does not have a good bullpen. This is probably a huge understatement. Glen Perkins has been incredible all year (except for his  3 week stint on the DL). Joe Nathan has been very good since he came back from the DL. Matt Capps has been good at times, but his blown saves have been very frustrating. His inability to record any strikeouts finally caught up to him. Jose Mijares has been a disaster. Alex Burnett continues to show that he could be very good, but he’s not there yet. As I said, Swarzak has been good. Jim Hoey, Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait… the Twins have tried any number of pitchers and roles to try to make it work. Little has worked.

The team does not play good defense. Denard Span and  Ben Revere have both done a good job in   centerfield. Other than that, who has been good? We knew that Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel would not be good outfielders. And they haven’t been. You have to commend Cuddyer for his willingness to play anywhere, but he struggles with the glove and range. Joe Mauer has done a good job at 1B, but the intricate details of being a 1B are new to him. In general, the defense has been really bad this year.

The manager has made his share of mistakes, but because of the lineups he has had at his  disposal, he didn’t have a  lot of options. Often, he may have been too aggressive, but I understand wanting to help out by trying to make things happen.

It was a rough one for the front office. Have there been any moves that have worked for the Twins? Re-signing Capps? Trading JJ Hardy? Bringing in Nishioka? The best move that the front office did was  not signing Francisco Liriano to a  long-term contract.

It has been another horrible year for the Twins training staff. More questionable decisions, and although I realize that most injuries are pretty flukish, how did one team have so many injuries?

The Twins are now 51-60 and they are eight games out of first place with three teams to pass in their final 51 games. Considering again that this Twins team  has bad hitting, bad starting pitching, bad relief pitching and bad defense, it is hard to see this team coming back. As much as I probably thought the Twins should have sold at the trade deadline, one week ago, the Twins had a chance to be just 4 games out of first place. So, I understand not selling. But now, I would hope that the Twins would have all of their players on waivers and see wh0 does or doesn’t get claimed. Veterans and others that are unlikely to be back should be considered as trade options. I’m not saying to just give everyone away. The other team has to be fair, but trades and selling should be strongly considered.

Admitting it is often the problem…The Twins are a bad baseball team.  I think I can admit it. I think!

Any thoughts?? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.


28 Responses to “One Bad Baseball Team”

  1. JH August 5, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    It was very frustrating game. the thing I hate was our hitter’s approach. In the past this team had some patience, but now it has changed to have to hit the second pitch, when they got a strike.

    In early 2 innings, though, Haren didn’t go good count, they hit the ball seemed like not a strike. This team was not the team I’d seen.

    And Nishi doesn’t seem like a major league player on the field. So I think it is the time to give consistent opportunity to Ploffe at SS.

    • travis aune August 5, 2011 at 7:10 am #

      the plouffe ship is sailed gardy does not believe he is a good baseball player and thats just the way it is. in gardy’s mind plouffe is a utility player and not a very good one as he makes errors. He is wishing for the return of nick punto.

      • Kunza August 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

        totally disagree on plouffe. He did struggle in his short, previous attempt to be an everyday player, but to come out and say gardy doesn’t like him makes me call your bluff. I have never read that or heard that.

  2. Bill in Sarasota August 5, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    Put Plouffe at 2nd for a month and see if he can handle it.

    At worst case, he’ll get experience for next year either as a regular or utility guy.

  3. mike wants wins August 5, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    bill is correct, but that’s been obvious to everyone but Gardy for at least a month now, and he isn’t playing at all. The team did not commit to being either better, or playing for the future in July. Now they’ll pay the price next year.

  4. kris sutter August 5, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    I hate to say it but I agree with you. The last 2 nights of watching has confirmed it with me. The starting pitching has been brutal, the defense esp last night is just plain bad. I don’t think I can trust Bill Smith to find good deals even if they are sellers now

  5. gobbledy August 5, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    “… it is hard to see this team coming back.” really? how about they go 30-21 reach .500 and the tigers go 21-30 for 1 game under.
    i agree with mike they should’ve sold, but billy decided they could still find some magic without having any tricks in the bag.
    pitching is what wins. they have 3 pitchers under contract for next yr, baker, blackburn and pavano. control over a few others with only perkins a plus pitcher. so you go into the winter with baker and perkins and ??? the rest of those guys are below average, maybe duensing and swarzak have a chance but probably average is best for both. good pitching wins and until they fix that this team will not be a serious world series contender, imo.

    • mini_tb August 5, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      So if the Twins pass the Tigers, then the Indians and White Sox are automatically eliminated? It’s going to be pretty tough to catch all 3.

      • gobbledy August 5, 2011 at 9:37 am #

        right now it is far more likely that the royals catch the twins than the twins catch the tigers.

    • Patrick August 5, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      Its August and the Twins are well under .500. What makes you think they can just magically play 30-21, which is .588 ball, for the rest of the year?

      There are no reasons, at this point, to believe they can suddenly improve. That is the main point of Seth’s post. There have been reasons to believe before. Earlier in the year the starting pitching looked like it was coming together, the bullpen had a month or so of excellence and the offense could be fixed by getting healthy. None of those things are happening now and there is no reason to believe they will soon. We can’t just wave a magic wand and make this team better. Unfortunately, at this point in the season I agree with Seth. It’s time to look at what we have and just admit that it’s not very good.

      • mike wants wins August 5, 2011 at 10:39 am #

        I’m 99.99999% certain that is ggg’s opinion also. I think there might have been some sarcasm in his post.

  6. Grant August 5, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Since June 2 the Twins are 34-22. It’s not that they’re a bad team, they just dug a hole too deep to get out of. They do have some pretty shoddy defense, but they’re capable of scoring runs. They beat the Angels handily Wednesday using offense.

    I think the offseason needs some retooling, not rebuilding. This team is good and could be great. A lot of things went wrong this year that were not related to the level of talent on the roster.

    • Brad Bettin August 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      I wish I agreed.

      * We don’t have a “good team” secondbaseman. Casilla’s top end appears to be “acceptable” offense, not so defense – and he’s the best we have. You could get by with him at 2nd if the rest of the lineup was “good team”, but it isn’t.

      * We don’t have a “good team” shortstop – we don’t even have an “average team” shortstop. Maybe Nishi will be one someday, but there’s no sign of it today.

      * Valencia’s not a “good team” third baseman – .244 BA, .291 OBP? That might be ‘workable’ if he’d hit 28 HRs by now, but with 12 …. no.

      * OF defense is an issue pretty much every night. All too often, Delmon looks like it’s his 1st night out there; Kubel & Cuddyer do what they can, they just don’t have the footspeed to be “average.”

      * IF defense – If Nishi is a “gold glove” defender in Japan, then their standards are a lot lower than what we’re used to; Casilla is OK; Valencia does some good things, but he’s not “good”; and with Morneau out, 1st base is being manned by guys for whom it’s a 2nd position (at best).

      * Starting pitching is a disaster – and not one that looks to improve. Pavano’s a gamer, but he looks to be “done” – he’s closing in on a “negative” strikeouts/9 rate. Blackburn’s getting lit up – another case of a guy who doesn’t miss bats. Duensing’s inconsistent at best. Baker’s had a good year, but he’s not a #1. Frankie – – jeez, I’ve rooted so hard for him to come back from that elbow injury & he’s had his moments, but he’s a complete mess. His mechanics are horrible and they’ve STAYED horrible. Beyond all that – we don’t have a legit “playoff rotation pitcher” in the bunch. These guys don’t miss bats and you gotta miss bats in the playoffs.

      * Bullpen …. ugh. I have the feeling Nathan’s starting to restore order at the end of the game (even though he’s still down 2-3 MPH on his fastball), but the rest of the crew …. Mijares is more of an enigma than Frankie (and that’s saying something). Capps was a decent pitcher who got put in “end of game” situations, did an average job & became vastly overrated; this year we’ve seen he’s not a “playoff game high leverage” pitcher.

      We’re championship caliber at two positions – 1st (with Morneau healthy & even then, he’s not “top of the heap” championship caliber) and catcher (Mauer healthy & playing to his abiliity is “top of the heap” championship caliber).

      IMO, championship caliber requires you have 4, maybe 5 position players who’d be considered “top 5-10 at their position in MLB,” at least two of whom are “top 5”; at least three starting pitchers who are “top 15-20,” at least one of whom is “top 10” and a “situational / 8th & 9th inning” bullpen that’s considered “dependable.”

      We’re nowhere near that.

  7. jjswol August 5, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    I agree that the Twins are a bad team and I have said so for some time. I would also take exception when you say that Span and Revere have played a good center field. Span has played OK there but Revere…….. not so much. The man has played 62 games this year and he has 6 errors and a fielding percentage of .964, that is 1 percenatge point and 1 error worse than Delmon Young and nobody calls Delmon an asset in the field. Revere has speed and range but he is not a great outfielder at this stage of his career by any means. You combine his errors with the fact that his arm is so bad he could not throw out his grandmother and you have Juan Pierre reincarnated. Pierre has had a long major league career but I would not want him on my team.

  8. gobbledy August 5, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    thanks mike!

  9. USAFChief August 5, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    “Since June 2 the Twins are 34-22.” Since April 1 the Twins are 51-60.

    “This team is good and could be great. A lot of things went wrong this year that were not related to the level of talent on the roster.” A lot more things went wrong since July 2010 that are DIRECTLY related to the level of talent on the roster.

  10. Jeff August 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    The plethora of injuries have had a huge impact but it also seems like Gardy’s usually-sound fundamentals coaching has taken a vacation. Most years, the defense is solid but this year the Twins are rank 26 out of 30 in Fielding %. They have made 77 errors so far, 3rd worst in the AL (they made 78 in all of 2010 and 76 in ’09). In pitching, the Twins team ERA that ranks 26 out of 30. In hitting, they lack run scoring punch and power (their OPS ranks 25 out of 30). Yes Seth, you are correct – this is a bad baseball team. And to think that, with modest improvement and some luck, they could *still* win the AL Central. This team need to rebuild and focus on the future.

  11. mike wants wins August 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Sigh. Hicks finally makes the BA Hot sheet, but it’s under “not so hot”.

    As for the Twins, they have a CF, RF/DH/1B (Kubel or Cuddy or both will be back), 1B/DH (if Mornaeu is healthy), C/1B/DH, one starting pitcher I trust, and 1 RP I trust for next year. While those players are all very good to great, that’s not enough. They likely have 2-3 more RP I trust, and 2 more starters I could live with (Slowey and Liriano, I think I trust him for next year). Casilla could be a 2B. Plouffe/Hughes could be your utility guy. Revere/Tosoni could be your #4 OF. That leave 3B, SS, RF/LF, 2-3 starters, and some relievers. They also desperately need a backup/2nd catcher.

    So, the upper end talent is there. The problem is that the lower end talent is so bad, that it offsets the very good players. If they were even average at LF, 3B, SS, RP, this team could win this division.

  12. jimbo92107 August 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s pretty unlikely that the Tigers will completely collapse while this punch-less, lousy-fielding Twins squad suddenly goes on a tear.

    I’m looking to next year. Swarzak has definitely earned a shot at the starting rotation. Assuming Gibson and Slama are gone (TJ surgery), then I think you bring up Keven Slowey, Liam Hendricks, Kyle Waldrop and Carlos Gutierrez. Cut Mijares, trade Blackburn and Liriano, send Dumatrait and Burnett down, trade Capps, say a fond farewell to Nathan. Your 5 starters would be Baker, Swarzak, Duensing, Hendricks, Pavano. Not a great five, but it’s time to move on from the current staff. Then hope like heck that somebody in AA or AAA starts to really shine. Bromberg?

    Trade Delmon, but keep Kubel (DH/RF), Revere and Span. Cuddy will probably go elsewhere, so it’s Rene Tosoni’s turn in RF. Bring Joe Benson up to AAA and get him ready to push Revere or Tosoni.

    As for the infield, what a mess. Send Nishioka down to AA to learn how to hit pitches going more than 88 mph. Play Casilla at SS and Plouffe at 2B until somebody better comes along. For god’s sake, sign Levi Michael!

  13. Dome Dog August 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I think it’s going a little far to say this is a bad baseball team…I think it is a .500 team, give or take a few percentage points depending on health. But the point of your post remains the same Seth. This isn’t a playoff team. Where do they look for help next year? In the middle infield, can Brian Dozier make the jump sometime next year to solidify a middle infield spot? Benson in the outfield? Gibson’s injury is a potentially huge blow as there doesn’t seem to be any real upside in the other starting pitchers at the higher levels of the minors (Hendricks maybe). I’d also be curious to know who people think the Twins should have as the 2nd catcher next year. I keep hearing they need a serious upgrade (and I tend to agree), but if you look at backup catchers across baseball, they are all pretty terrible (although they probably hit better than Butera). Backup catcher would be the least of my worries in the offseason. Mike Redmond spoiled us all.

  14. Grant August 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    “A lot more things went wrong since July 2010 that are DIRECTLY related to the level of talent on the roster.”

    Like what?

    Bad performance isn’t the same as bad talent. Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Young, Liriano, Pavano, etc, etc, etc playing like crap at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean they’re not a talented group. The musical chairs of Rochester players playing like crap is a byproduct of not keeping the intended players on the field (due to injuries).

    If we could go back to April and do it all again with the future not being certain, I wouldn’t be upset with the roster construction. You still have the core from 2010, and you’re rolling the dice on a bullpen coming together. The bullpen didn’t pan out, and we had rediculous injuries. That doesn’t mean this is an untalented roster.

    What if Nathan dominates instead of struggles to begin the season? What if that means Capps is used less and doesn’t have his nasty 10 game stretch? How does that affect the rest of the bullpen? What if the lineup each open the season performing to their career averages? What if Nishioka doesn’t break his leg? What if every bit of offense provided by Nishioka and Casilla is icing on the cake because of the rest of the hitters who showed they could deliver in 2010? What if Liriano is more like 2010 Liriano than 2008 Liriano, AND Baker does what he’s done? What if Slowey doesn’t have the injury/drama or whatever?

    That’s a lot of what-ifs. But coming into the season, I would have expected more of those scenarios than what we’ve seen. This is not a sub-.500 team. They’ve just played sub-.500 ball.

    • USAFChief August 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

      “If we could go back to April and do it all again with the future not being certain, I wouldn’t be upset with the roster construction.”

      If we could go back to April, this team would still have zero quality major league middle infielders. Zero. Dumping JJ Hardy for two shiny pieces of fool’s gold was stupid, and many said so over the winter. Considering the cost to acquire Nishioka, it didn’t even save much money.

      They’d still have a bullpen built around a guy in his late 30’s 12 months removed from TJS, a guy who was release by the Pirates 18 months ago, and options declining in quality from there. They currently have one reliable reliever. One. And he came out of nowhere.

      They’d still have a rotation built around soft tossing pitch-to-contact types, with $16.5M unneccesarily tied up in Carl Pavano and Blackburn owed over $13M. Upper minors thin on starting pitching prospects, with 1, maybe 2 guys that could be ready in the next 12 months, neither of which really profile as top of the rotation probabilities.

      They’d still have a catcher who wasn’t ready to start the season, owed $184M, who increasingly looks like he’ll be unable to stay at catcher much longer. As a bonus, the team’s built in back-up/replacement (and the only real major league ready prospect in AA/AAA) had been dealt the previous July in possibly the worst move of Bill Smith’s tenure, and that’s saying quite a bit. In the meantime, one of the 10 worst hitters in the major leagues is guaranteed to play twice a week, minimum, and that’s if everything goes perfectly with Mauer.

      They’d still have a 1st baseman coming off a concussion that cost him the last half of the previous season, who also wasn’t ready to start spring training.

      The only semi-palatable 3rd base option is a 2nd year player who overperformed his minor league track record last year, and was unlikely to repeat that performance.

      They’d still have exactly ONE bench bat, who also happens to be 40, who is redundant to the team’s other primary DH, and who has a history of chronic injury making him unlikely to repeat the incredible season he had last year.

      I could go on. This team has been unlucky with injuries, there’s no doubt. But thinking that’s the only difference between a “good to great” team and what’s been on the field this season misses the obvious mistakes made by Bill Smith over the past 12 months, and the structural weaknesses of this team on April 1st.

      • Grant August 8, 2011 at 8:38 am #

        Your post is riddled with hyperbole. Nearly everyone you complain about was on the 2010 team.

      • USAFChief August 8, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

        Since you can’t dispute a single thing, I’ll take that as an admission I’m correct.

      • Grant August 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

        No, I just dismissed most of what you said as hyperbole.

      • Grant August 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

        The bullpen. Like I said, they rolled the dice and came up short. The blogosphere is always talking about how easy it is to build a bullpen from minor league starters who don’t make it as starters.

        The rotation. Built around Blackburn and Pavano? Really? The rotation was built around Liriano and Pavano, with quite a bit of depth to fill in the rest. Both have failed to pitch to expectations, but I’m guessing you were okay with both these guys in March.

        Catcher. They have the best catcher in the game. The difference between an average backup catcher and the Twins’ backup catcher would not have made a significant difference. The problem was Joe Mauer being hurt. There’s no replacement for the best catcher in baseball.

        1st base. They had Cuddyer to back up Morneau. If Morneau is himself, great. If not, Cuddyer is pretty good too. And there’s outfield depth to pick up slack there too.

        3rd base. So because he was a rookie who played well, he shouldn’t make the team because he’s going to regress? OK. Backup options are Hughes, Cuddyer, Plouffe, and Tolbert.

        Bench. Thome was insurance for Morneau (the guy you said was a risk to not play). He frees Kubel up to play the outfield, freeing up Cuddyer to play first.

        Just like a lot of players had really good years last year or in 2009, a lot of players had really terrible years this year in terms of health and production. You can bet on your team not winning the world series, and you’re going to be right most of the time. Congratulations.

  15. gobbledy August 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    it seems most twins fans feel that kubel will be so much cheaper than cuddy to sign. if you look at their career numbers they are nearly the same accross the board. they are both not great outfielders and cuddy can play 1b ok not very well at 2b. does that make up for 3 years of age? at lot of guys with same type career numbers that are free agents fell off a cliff when they hit the 33 yr age. cuddy is a much bigger chance because of his age. if it was me i’d rather spend the money on kubel because of the age.

    • scot August 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

      I agree plus Twins need Kubel’s bat at DH and he can be the 5th outfielder. Bye, Bye Cuddyer.

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