Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Whole New Team

The current Twins team has almost no relationship to last year's team. Of the 8 everyday players, only three players are back from last year. Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer will be the recognizable faces when the Twins take the field opening day. None of the other players will have played a single game in a Twins uniform before. Harris, Everett, Lamb, Young and Gomez are all new to the franchise. Kubel may add one more Twins "veteran" to the batting order as DH, unless Monroe grabs the opening day spot.

Pitching will be little different. Hernandez, the opening day starter, is new to the organization. Liriano didn't pitch at all last year and the other starters, Baker, Bonser and Slowey, combined for only 64 of the team's 162 starts. So while not as great as the turnover on the field, the pitching staff has little resemblance to last year's.

What this means in practical terms is that this is an entirely new team and last year's record is irrelevant. How good a team is an open question that you can try to answer looking player by player. But good teams are more than the sum of their parts. Players over time learn how to make use of their teammates skills to best effect.

Gomez speed brings a new dimension to the offense that the "veteran" Twins have not really seen on their team before. But that may not be true of players like Young, Monroe or Everett for whom everything is new. Young adds a second right hand bat may make some Twins less vulnerable to lefties. Moving Cuddyer between Mauer and Morneau will give him opportunities to see a lot more lefties. But while those changes may benefit those three players, we don't really know what impact they may have on Young, Lamb, Harris etc.

It will be interesting to watch how the Twins style of play adjusts to the skills of the new players. Not only on offense, but also in the field. The statement "we put it in play and let our fielders do their job" has become a cliche of the Twins pitching staff. As I expressed yesterday, its not so clear that approach makes sense when you second baseman is Brendan Harris and your third baseman is Mike Lamb. That is something we will all find out as the year progresses.

1 comment:

jim said...


I have enjoyed reading your recent posts. I don't know that I quite agree with all of your thoughts, but you have some valid points. Particularly that this is basically a whole new team. Clearly the Twins brass have picked out the guys they want to center the team around and are going from there.

Your points about the defense being worse, may be valid, but I don't think that the defense was really that great last year. Torii was clearly better than Gomez is likely to be this year but it isn't so clear that there will much of a decline anywhere else. I know the saber guys will tell you how much range Barlett had, but maybe it was just the games I happened to see on TV, he sure seemed to mess up a lot of rather routine plays. Castillo was fine 2b but I think Punto and Tolbert are virtually as good. Tolbert is my sleeper this year. I think he will get more and more playing time as the season goes on if he can hit at this level.

As far as 3b goes, Punto is a fine middle infielder, but I didn't think he was great at 3rd. His range allowed him to take plays from the ss but I didn't think he made the plays down the line as well as the top 3rd basemen.

Offense is a question for the Twins. The pieces seem to be there, especially in the middle of the lineup for a very good offensive team. They will need someone to step up at the leadoff spot and at the bottom of the lineup or Mauer will be wasted in the 2nd spot. To be very good this year Young, Gomez and Kubel will really have to be good.

The place where I think the Twins have a chance to better expectations is in the starting pitching. I believe the current trend of numbering pitchers based on their "stuff" is silly. Santana is a great pitcher because he locates his fastball and makes his change up appear to be a fastball until it is too late to adjust. Velocity and stuff are overrated qualities for starting pitchers. One of the reasons I think that the Twins starters could be better than people expect, even this year is that most of these young pitchers aren't that "young" in that they aren't really being rushed to the majors. Also most seem to know how to pitch. Also there are enough starters at AAA in the same category that if someone struggles or is injuried, there could be someone better to take his place.

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