The Minnesota Twins lineup featured an adept ability to get on base and to drive them in at any cost in 2008, with a paltry mix of power added in for good measure.
In other words, they played the Twins way.
With few additions and no significant offensive losses in the lineup, the approach figures to be the same in ’09.
The lineup, young and largely intact from last year, is dependent upon the success of franchise faces Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
There still, however, are many facets that go into a successful Twins lineup.
The Strength: Timely Hitting
The Twins relied on their .305 average with runners in scoring position last year, in part because the power (or lack thereof) in their lineup. Without this key component, the lineup would have been painfully stagnant.
And while to say that it's an unprecedented statistic anomaly isn't unfair, the grounds on which it began didn't happen by accident.
According to the Twins broadcast crew, the Twins practice various kinds of scenarios (runners on first and third and two outs, etc.) that better prepare them for pressure situations in games.
The statistic itself, exemplified best by Mauer and Morneau, propelled the Twins to score the fourth most runs in the majors last season and should guide a similar path this year.
The Weakness: Power Deficit
You may wonder how a team that hits as well as they do in the clutch only scores the fourth most runs in the league: 111 home runs—doubled over and then some by the rival White Sox. Last in the American League. Now you know.
Much plagued by this stat was the lineup after Justin Morneau, specifically the 5/6/7 spots, usually a spot where the power hitters are placed.
This may change, however.
Michael Cuddyer, a main source of power when healthy, returns from injuries that hindered his production in the ‘08 season.
Jason Kubel returns from the offseason with newfound expectations after he signed a two-year deal with a third-year option. He hit 20 home runs last year, second on the team behind Morneau.
What Have You Done for Me Lately: Young, Cuddyer Need To Assert Themselves
When Delmon Young was acquired from Tampa Bay last offseason, his bat was expected to make an immediate impact with emerging power and the potential to step into the No. 3 hole in the future.
Young didn't regress last season, but he did not live up to expectations.
He was seemingly content with an inside-out swing that led to a .405 SLG, just 23 points behind that of utility infielder Nick Punto, refusing to listen to any advice from anybody except his father and brother.
Entering this spring training, Young needs to prove that he can continue the lineup after Morneau, or otherwise find himself at the bottom of the order—or worse.
Cuddyer, riddled with injuries in the past two years, looks to prove that he can still fit in between Mauer and Morneau, where he prospered in 2006.
His bat, along with Young's, is essential in order to inject a slap-and-giggle lineup with extra base power.
In a lineup that stresses the game of small-ball, power after Morneau is crucial for continuing and perhaps improving upon the prolific run-scoring of last year.
The ability to hit for average and on base percentage surrounding the middle will likely be there, if not in greater presence.
The success for the starting nine will rely heavily on fringe players, such as Kubel, Young, Alexi Casilla, and Brendan Harris, to further contributions from the regulars.
Predicted Opening Day Lineup
1) Denard Span, LF
2) Alexi Casilla, 2B
3) Joe Mauer, C
4) Michael Cuddyer, RF
5) Justin Morneau, 1B
6) Jason Kubel, DH
7) Brendan Harris, 3B
8) Nick Punto, SS
9) Carlos Gomez, CF