Minnesota Twins Looking to Improve
The Minnesota Twins will open up the 2016 season Monday like every other major league team opens their season -- with hopes of a playoff berth and run to the World Series.
Minnesota came up just short in that dream last season, staying in the hunt for a wildcard spot until the final weekend.
My personal opinion is the Twins did not do enough to get better as a team and, in fact, I don't think they will achieve the success they had last year.
I do not believe their win total will drop considerably, but with virtually everyone else in the division making moves to improve their club and the Twins really not making many that will make a great impact, the results will probably follow.
Last season Minnesota was 83-79. Their home record was 46-35 and they were 37-44 away from Target Field. My prediction for the Twins this season is 75 wins.
Pitching is the name of the game in baseball, and the Twins' rotation to start this season is:
- Ervin Santana in 2015, was out first half of season and finished 7-5
- Kyle Gibson finished 11-11
- Phil Hughes was 11-9
- Tommy Milone was 9-5
- Ricky Nolasco was 5-2, only pitched 37.1 innings
Not exactly a rotation that strikes fear in your opponents. The starters did finish 58-52 with a 4.14 ERA (ranked 15th in majors).
The Twins' starting pitching greatest improvement last year was in the area of homers allowed. They gave up the sixth-fewest.
Minnesota starters averaged 5.7 innings per game. It would be nice to see that bumped up by an inning or two.
The Twins bullpen was 25-27 with a 3.95 ERA (21st in the league).
Minnesota pitching had the fewest strikeouts in the majors, third-highest opponent batting average of .269 (.277 starters, .254 bullpen), and third-most hits allowed (1,005 starters in 928 innings pitched, 501 relievers in 515 innings pitched).
All those numbers need to improve in order for Minnesota to make a significant jump in their record. I don't see that happening with the opening day rotation. No real strikeout pitchers. The Twins' pitching staff had a 3.66 ERA at home and 4.51 away.
Minnesota was 31-33 in day games and 52-46 at night while collecting a 2-5 record on turf. They had the fourth-highest daytime ERA in the majors.
The Twins had just two winning months last season. Their incredible 20-7 May (only Giants were better with 21 wins) and 15-13 in September. They were 14-14 in August, 12-13 in July, 11-17 in June, 10-12 in April and 1-3 in October.
I even looked at their record by the day of the week and it was interesting to find out Minnesota had a 42-42 record during the week and 41-37 Friday through Sunday.
Pre-All Star break, Minnesota was 49-40 and after the All Star game 34-39.
The Twins finished 75-67 against American League and 8-12 against National League opponents.
On the hitting side, Minnesota traded away their best base stealer last year in Aaron Hicks (13 stolen bases in 16 attempts). Hicks also finished with 11 homers.
Byron Buxton has not lived up to his No. 1 prospect label yet and technically will be a rookie this season because he didn't have enough at-bats last year to lose that status. Buxton played in 46 games and had 27 hits with a .209 batting average and .250 on base percentage.
Tom Kelly has even labeled him the real deal and Buxton finished last season with two stolen bases in four attempts, walked six times and struck out 44.
This spring Buxton's average was much better, .268, but he still had just three walks and struck out a team-high 20 times in 19 games.
Buxton's on-base percentage this spring was .306 and the Twins would love to see him lead off someday. He was two of three in stolen bases, but remember this was during spring training when you could be seeing the fourth or fifth catcher on the team.
Miguel Sano had impressive statistics in the 80 games he played: 75 hits, 17 doubles, 1 triple and 18 homers, and 52 RBI, 53 walks and 119 strikeouts with a .269 batting average and .385 on-base percentage, the best on team. His .530 slugging percentage was also the best on the team. Whether his move to right field effects his work at the plate remains to be seen.
Joe Mauer received a lot of grief for his career-low .265 batting average and even he admits it should have been better. I'm no apologist for Mauer but he did finish among the majors best in batting average with runners in scoring position, .352, and led the team in hits with 157 in 158 games.
Mauer's on-base percentage was second on the team and 46 of his 157 hits were extra baggers.
I was shocked to see he was in the top 10 in the majors in intentional walks (sixth), so other teams apparently respected his abilities to come through in a crucial situation.
The team batting average of .247 was the fifth-lowest in the majors and lowest in the American League.
The Twins also had the fifth-most strikeouts in the American League and were 10th in walks and homers and 14th (only Angels had fewer) in hits in the American League.
Trevor Plouffe led the majors for grounding into double plays and Joe Mauer ranked ninth in that category.
Byung Ho Park, acquired from Korea, had just one walk the entire spring and struck out 17 times. He finished the spring with a .259 average but was second on the team with 13 RBI and had three homers.
Eddie Rosario was a great find last season for the Twins after Oswaldo Arcia went to the minors and Rosario took hold of the left field job for good. He played in 122 games and had 121 hits, .267 batting average, 18 doubles, 15 triples and 13 homers with 50 RBI. Rosario was 11 of 17 in stolen bases and walked just 15 times while striking out 118.
Edwardo Escobar played himself into the everyday shortstop position primarily because he has some pop in his bat. Escobar finished playing 127 games last year and had 107 hits, 31 doubles, four triples and 12 home runs. He had 58 RBI and finished with a .262 average.
Minnesota must also improve defensively. They ranked 22nd in errors with 86, 12th in double plays turned with 150, and the stolen bases allowed percentage may have been a major league record.
Eighty-one percent of the time runners were successful stealing against Minnesota. That was last in the league by a pretty good margin.
That is not all on the catchers, of course, but while Kurt Suzuki and his staff had the fewest passed balls in the league the stolen base percentage was the highest. In case you were wondering, Minnesota's stolen base percentage was 65 percent with 20 fewer than their opponents. Their 70 stolen bases ranked 20th in the 30-team league.
The Twins averaged 3.8 runs per game while allowing 4.3 runs per contest.
The intangible Torii Hunter brought to the clubhouse last season will be gone. He kept things loose and fun, and hopefully someone will take over that important role. Hunter had an incredible first half and then dropped off just as the team did.
There are some so-called experts picking Cleveland to win the division this season. They certainly have the pitching to do it. However, I see Kansas City winning the division again. Their bullpen is lights-out good and I love their aggressiveness on the bases.
I could see Cleveland in second place followed by Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago.
Let's play ball! KDHL 920AM is your spot on the dial for Twins baseball.