- Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:39 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
2009: 87-66, 1st in AL Central. Pythagorean record of 86-77.
Key Additions: 2B Orlando Hudson, SS JJ Hardy, DH Jim Thome, RP Clay Condrey
Key Losses: CF Carlos Gomez, SS Orlando Cabrera, 3B Joe Crede, C Mike Redmond
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 81-81, 1st in AL Central. CHONE – 85-77, 1st. CAIRO – 83.2-78.8, 1st.
Pitching: 2009 – 4.39 FIP (19th in MLB), 4.42 for starters, 4.32 for relievers
2010 – Obviously, losing closer Joe Nathan for the year will hurt, although likely not as much as you would think. The rotation has some solid arms but nothing spectacular, and the Twins will have to hope Carl Pavano's resurgence holds up. A return of the old Francisco Liriano, or even something like him, would be a tremendous boost.
Hitting: 2009 – .338 wOBA (7th in MLB)
2010 – Word has it the Twins have a catcher who can hit the ball a little bit and now might be sticking around for a while. Of course, Joe Mauer has plenty of help with Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Co. If the signings of Hardy and Hudson take at-bats away from Nick Punto, all the better.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -37.3 (28th in MLB)
2010 – Hardy will help defensively, although as good as Hudson still looks at second base, the numbers don't back it up. Delmon Young has put up UZRs of -16.4 two straight seasons, although he supposedly came to camp in better shape this year.
Reasons to Watch
1. Joe Mauer: Without getting too much into whether the Twins signing Mauer to a huge eight-year contract was good for them and/or the game in the long run, the deal certainly puts a lot of pressure on Mauer. Not just pressure to perform, which likely won't bother him, but pressure to stay healthy, which he has less control over. Of course, even during his terrific 2009, he missed the first month of the season. Mauer is one of the best players in the game, and Twins fans are obviously thrilled to have him around for the long term, but it bears watching what sort of effect the contract could have.
2. JJ Hardy: There is no doubt Hardy can pick it at shortstop, as he's averaged nearly 10 UZR over the past three years. The question is with his bat, which took a dive last year and even led to him getting sent down to Triple-A for a while (although the Brewers had an ulterior motive involving Hardy's free agency clock). Yet as recently as 2008, Hardy put up a .355 wOBA, and he's probably due for a bit of a BABIP correction this year. Hardy's glove gives him value even if he hits poorly, but if his bat regains some of its effectiveness, the Twins will have gotten a steal in their offseason trade.
3. The closer situation: The Twins essentially haven't had to worry about the ninth inning the past six years as Nathan established himself as one of baseball's few consistently reliable closers. Now it will interesting to see how manager Ron Gardenhire handles a situation he hasn't had to face for a while. Of course, Minnesota could always end up trading for help. But barring that, or until it happens, will Gardenhire hand the job to one guy (such as Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain or Matt Guerrier) and hope for the best, or go with a matchup-based system? This will be worth following, especially if the Twins start having trouble at the end of games.
Paint By Numbers: It's pretty remarkable that Nick Blackurn managed a 4.03 ERA last season, considering that in 205 2/3 innings, he gave up 240 hits (second in MLB) and had a K/9 rate of 4.29 (second-lowest in MLB). Of course, Blackburn also had the seventh-best walk rate and induced a lot of ground balls. ... Of players with 300 plate appearances last season, Delmon Young had the fourth-lowest walk rate at 2.9% and swung at 59.3% of pitches he saw, which was third-highest. ... Last season, the Twins ranked 29th in wOBA at second base, with the fearsome trio of Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla contributing most to a line of .208/.299/.266.
Blog Jog: With Nathan opting for surgery, Aaaron Gleeman brings a heavy dose of rationality to the discussion of how the Twins should fill the void. ... And here is Gleeman's take on the Mauer deal. ... Over the Baggy has a nice in-depth interview with Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony. ... Nick Nelson provides a comprehensive preview of the Twins' bullpen (and check out the other positions, too).
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