Strengths: What kept the Twins close to the .500 mark last season was starting pitching and a sound bullpen. Obviously, Santana leaving puts a dent in the starting rotation but the bullpen should remain effective.
It ranked 11th in RPIA at .4669 and sixth in walks per inning allowed at .3645. Joe Nathan is one of the top three closers in the league. If they can get to him, it's all but a done deal.
The Twins are average to slightly above average with their gloves (95 errors in 2007) and they averaged 4.86 runs per game on the road in the division.
Weaknesses: The starting rotation is certainly not awful, but there are some definite concerns. Liriano must prove he is healthy, and then he must prove he can be what he was in 2006.
Other than Hernandez, the staff is young and does not have a tremendous amount of experience. The Twins only averaged 3.75 runs per game at home against division opponents, and 4.31 runs in all division games. They were terrible against left handed pitching, even with Hunter in the lineup, that's not likely to improve much.
The offense should be better, but it is far from intimidating. They were 25th in the league last season with 718 runs scored.
Summary: The Twins have seen the departure of baseball's best pitcher in Santana, young talent in Matt Garza, and rotation workhorse in Carlos Silva.
The return of a healthy Francisco Liriano and the acquisition of veteran Livan Hernandez will help remove some of that sting, but certainly not all of it.
Minnesota also worked hard to add a little punch to the lineup by trading for Delmon Young and bringing in Mike Lamb. That's probably not enough for this team, which lacked offensive firepower even with Torii Hunter in the lineup.
A third place finish would be a best case scenario.
Prediction: Fifth Place AL Central
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Brendan Harris
3B: Mike Lamb
SS: Adam Everett
C: Joe Mauer
LF: Craig Monroe
RF: Michael Cuddyear
CF: Jason Kubel
DH: Delmon Young
Key Players & Trends
In 2007, Minnesota went 28-44 in division play.
Closer Joe Nathan made 25 (35 percent of 72 games) appearances against division rivals in ‘07; the Twins were 21-4 in those 25 games. This means that Minnesota was 7- 40 when they did not get to Nathan. That is a win percentage of 15 percent.
So, in 2007, 65 percent (percentage of division games Nathan did not appear in) of the time the Twins won in the division at a miserable 15 percent rate. To further illustrate the importance of Nathan, look to 2006 when Minnesota won the division.
They finished 41-35 and Nathan appeared 29 times going 24-5 (38 percent of 76 games) in those games. The Twins were 17-30 when he did not pitch (win percentage of 36 percent). In 2006, 62 percent of the time Minnesota won in the division at a 36 percent clip.