Now that the majority of the 2012 season is over, the Minnesota Twins and their fans have a general sense of how this season will finish. Badly, but not as bad as last year.
How does this season rank in the grand scheme of recent Twins history?
Since the Minnesota Twins return to baseball glory in 2002, they have experienced everything from 96-win seasons and 63-win seasons. This article ranks the best and worst seasons of the past 10 years.
Season Record: 63-99
SP Scott Baker (21 GS, 8-6, 3.14 ERA, 123 Ks, 134.2 IP)
OF Michael Cuddyer (.284/.346/.459, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 70 R)
Possibly their worst season since the early 80s, the Minnesota Twins 2011 was a year that all Twins fans would like to forget. The Twins season was marked by injuries, under-performance and mismanagement of personnel.
Between the three of them, Mauer, Morneau and Kubel played just 250 games, each playing less than half the season. The three combined for .265/.329/.384, 19 HR, and 118 RBI. Naturally, missing three of your most productive players will affect a team's hitting. Of course, the Twins generally were ranked towards the bottom in most offensive categories.
The pitching staff was even worse off than the offense. The Twins pitching was ranked the worst in MLB in just about every category. Unlike the offense who was missing several key components, the pitching staff wasn't missing nearly as many key players.
A season to forget.
Season Record: 79-83
RP Joe Nathan (68 G, 37-for-41 SV, 1.88 ERA, 9.7 K/9)
OF Torii Hunter (.287/.334/.505, 28 HR, 107 RBI, 94 R), All Star, Gold Glove, 15th Place for MVP
Though the gap from No. 10 to No. 9 is a large one, the Twins 2007 campaign is the second-worst season in the last 10 years.
The 2007 Twins finished third in the AL Central and posted a 79-83 record, failing to reach .500 for the first time since 2000.
Much of Minnesota's 2007 mediocrity was due to the underperformance of the team's hitting and pitching from their 2006 performances to 2007. For example, Joe Mauer hit .347 through 140 games in the previous season to only hit .293 through 103 games in 2007. Similarly, Johan Santana's Cy Young winning 19-6, 2.77 ERA in 2006 was followed up with a 15-13 record and 3.33 ERA in 2007.
Mediocre performances. Mediocre year.
Season Record: 83-79
SP Johan Santana (33 GS, 16-7, 2.87 ERA, 238 Ks, 231.2 IP), All Star, 3rd place for MVP
C Joe Mauer (.294/.371/.411, 9 HR, 55 RBI, 61 R)
The 2005 Twins finished third in the AL Central and posted an 83-79 record, failing to win the AL Central for the first time in four years and finishing 16 games behind the world champion White Sox.
Similar to 2007, much of Minnesota's 2005 sub-par season is accredited to underachieving performances in hitting and pitching. Nobody was able to reach .295 BA, 25 HR, 80 RBI, or 75 R. Likewise, no one in the starting rotation, aside from Santana, was able to record at least 10 wins or maintain an ERA below the mid-threes.
Season Record: 88-75
RP Joe Nathan (68 G, 39-for-45 SV, 1.33 ERA, 9.8 K/9), 5th place for Cy Young, 18th place for MVP
1B Justin Morneau (.300/.374/.499, 23 HR, 129 RBI, 97 R), All-Star, Silver Slugger, 2nd place in voting for MVP
2008 certainly was a heartbreaking year for Twins fans. During the offseason, the Twins most notably lost Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter and two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. With their slugging center fielder and ace pitcher gone, the Twins were forced to get creative.
To help fill the new void, the Twins brought in Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez to help the likes of Mauer and Morneau on offense and the suddenly struggling outfield on defense. The Twins answer to the Santana crisis was to put together a starting pitching staff of unknowns; four unknowns in their mid-twenties and a better known 33-year-old, Livan Hernandez. All five pitchers had at least 10 wins and on average lasted about six innings per start. The bullpen held its own as Joe Nathan had another outstanding year as the Twins' closer.
The Twins spent much of the year going back and forth with the White Sox for first place of the AL Central. The last game of the regular season, the Twins were in a tie for first place. In the one game tiebreaker that ensued, the Twins lost and failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Season Record: 87-76
RP Joe Nathan (70 G, 47-for-52 SV, 2.20 ERA, 11.7 K/9), All Star, Relief Man of the Year
C Joe Mauer (.365/.444/.587, 28 HR, 96 RBI, 94 R), AL MVP
Offensively one of the best years for the Twins. The Twins had two players with 30-plus home runs and two players with 20-plus home runs. The slugging quartet of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Kubel combined for .303/.378/.540, 118 HR, 393 RBI and 345 R. The four finished second-to-none in terms of overall production, rivaling the likes of New York's ARod-Teixeira-Swisher-Matsui.
The Twins caught the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers on the last game of the season, finishing in a dead tie. This forced a one-game tiebreaker for the AL Central title. Denying the Tigers a much-wanted playoff spot, the Twins won the tiebreaker. Immediately after, the Twins flew to New York and played the Yankees the following evening in the ALDS. With a lack of sleep and questionable umping, the Yankees won the series in three games.
Saeason Record: 96-66
SP Johan Santana (34 GS, 19-7, 2.77 ERA, 245 Ks, 233.2 IP), All Star, Cy Young, 5th place for MVP
1B Justin Morneau (.321/.375/.559, 34 HR, 130 RBI, 97 R), AL MVP, Silver Slugger
The 2006 Twins season can be summarized in three words. Awards. Piranhas. Perseverance.
The Twins were showered with accolades in 2006: Cy Young, Pitching Triple Crown, AL MVP, Batting title, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and All-Star selections.
Piranhas was a nickname given to Minnesota's 1,2,8 and 9 hitters who hit for average and ran exceptionally when on base. The Piranhas: Nick Punto, Luis Castillo, Jason Bartlett and Jason Tyner combined for a scrappy .299/.356/.373, 17 3B, 6 HR, 144 RBI and 230 R. This style of play combined with the 30-plus home run seasons of Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau, Micheal Cuddyer's 100-plus RBI season, Mauer's AL-leading .347 BA and Santana's Cy Young performance boosted the Twins in the AL Central.
The Twins became the first team in MLB history to clinch on the final day of the regular season having never held complete control of first place in their division. The Twins were swept by the A's in the ALDS.
Season Record: 90-72
SP Johan Santana (18 GS, 12-3, 3.07 ERA, 169 Ks, 185.1 IP), 7th place for Cy Young
C A.J. Pierzynski (.312/.360/.559, 11 HR, 74 RBI, 63 R)
Arguably one of the least exciting seasons statistically speaking and accolades-wise on the list. With a single All-Star representative and zero end of the year awards, the Twins managed to win the AL Central for the second year in a row.
Perhaps the Twins' success was due to spreading out of offensive production. No one player substantially emerged as the hitter of the year for the Twins. Consider the following chart that summarizes the production numbers of Minnesota's top 10 most frequently played hitters:
Click here to view larger.
Spreading out the production helped the 2003 Twins hold on to first place for 60 days and enabled the them to win the AL Central quite easily. They finished the season four games ahead of Detroit. Unfortunately, they lost to the Yankees in the ALDS, 3-1.
Season Record: 92-70
SP Johan Santana (34 GS, 20-6, 2.61 ERA, 265 Ks, 228.0 IP), Cy Young, 6th place for MVP
OF Lew Ford (.299/.381/.446, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 89 R), 24th place for MVP
The 2004 Twins lineup looked quite different from their 2003 lineup. Notably losing AJ Pierzynski, Eddie Guardado, Kenny Rogers, Eric Milton, Rick Reed and Doug Mientkiewicz part-way through the season. However, the Twins picked up Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Nick Punto and Carlos Silva.
Besides Johan Santana's Cy Young winning effort and Joe Nathan's All-Star season (44 SV and 1.88 ERA), the Twins didn't win any awards. The season was largely a team effort, with most players having good seasons. Not great. Not bad. But good.
The team held first place for essentially most of the season, finished the year nine games ahead of the second-place White Sox. The Twins went on to to lose the ALDS to the Yankees. Again.
Season Record: 92-70
SP Francisco Liriano (31 GS, 14-10, 3.62 ERA, 200 Ks, 191.2 IP), AL Comeback Player of the Year, 11th Cy Young voting
C Joe Mauer (.327/.402/.469, 9 HR, 75 RBI, 88 R), All Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, 8th place MVP voting
The 2010 Minnesota Twins season marked a half-century of Twins baseball and its first year at Target Field. Despite losing Justin Morneau's hot bat mid-season, the Twins didn't lose a stride on offense all season with the help of Joe Mauer and Jim Thome. The starting rotation had the most productive year since losing Johan Santana in 2007. All five starters posted double-digit wins and respectable ERAs. The bullpen was extremely stingy, saving a total of 40 games and posting a 3.58 ERA, 6.7 SO/9 through 457 IP. A great effort despite not having Joe Nathan.
The Twins dominated the AL Central for the entire 2010 season. They held on to first place for 144 days, finishing the season six games ahead of the White Sox. Despite a stellar season, the Twins were swept by the Yankees in the ALDS, yet again.
Season Record: 94-67
RP Eddie Guardado (68 G, 45-for-51 SV, 2.93 ERA, 9.3 K/9), All-Star, 15th place MVP voting
CF Torii Hunter (.289/.334/.524, 29 HR, 94 RBI, 89 R), All Star, Gold Glove, 6th place MVP voting
The 2002 season is what started Minnesota's 2000s-domination of the AL Central. This came at the perfect time for talks of team contraction were still in the air and the Twins were on the chopping block. In response, the Twins showed the MLB and turned baseball fans into Minnesota Twins fans.
2002 was a year of "first time in a while" for the Twins. Torii Hunter, along with Jacque Jones and David Ortiz, all hit 20 or more home runs in '02. They were the first Twins team since 1993 to do that. Likewise, Eddie Guardado was the first Twins closer since 1992 to record 40 saves in a season. This was also the first time since 1991 the Twins made the playoffs. A year in which they won the World Series and the last appearance of the Homer Hankie, until 2002.
Not surprisingly, the Twins absolutely dominated the AL Central that year by holding on to first from May 2 to the end of the regular season in September (161 days). They finished the season 13.5 games ahead of the White Sox. Unlike years to come, the Twins actually won the ALDS and managed to make it to the ALCS, losing to the Angels and their Rally Monkeys.
A magical year. Minnesota's best team since 1991.