5 Things the Minnesota Twins Need to Regain Their AL Central Dominance
129-199. As much as I wish that was the final score to a freakish offensive basketball showcase, it’s not. It is sadly the Minnesota Twins record over the past two seasons, the total wins and losses ever since being knocked out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round against the New York Yankees in 2010.
The Twins have six American League Central titles: 2002-2004, 2006 and 2009-2010. They can pretty much claim half a title in 2008 when they lost their first of a pair of Game 163s. The Twins haven’t quite seen that level of success in a while.
All signs point towards 2014 being the year the Twins are working for right now, but some fans are holding out hope for a positive 2013. Either way there are a certain number of things the Twins need to have happen to regain the AL Central crown.
Consistent Starting Pitching
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The Twins have never really had a flame-throwing, completely dominating pitching staff but they have had consistent good pitching out of the rotation.
Just looking back to 2010 the rotation was at least solid with the likes of a successful Carl Pavano, what looked to be a rejuvenated Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker. If the Twins have had success they’ve had good starting pitching. Look back further and you see the likes of Brad Radke and Johan Santana.
If the Twins want to have a shot at the division crown they need to get comprehensible starting pitching. No one needs to be a Cy Young contender, but just five hurlers that don’t let the ball out of the park.
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Much like the starters the Twins have had a good bullpen during their success, much more dominant than their starting counterparts. To eat at the division champions table Minnesota needs to get back to the days when the game was handed over to the bullpen in the seventh inning that no more runs crossed the plate.
The main cog of the bullpen’s success is the closer and the Twins have always had one of the best in the league during championship seasons. Either from ‘Every day’ Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan or what now looks like a fluke successful combo of Jon Rauch and Matt Capps.
To get the ball rolling new Twins closer Glen Perkins needs to also become a dominant closer and set the table for the rest of his bullpen mates.
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Defense wins ballgames. That statement is usually reserved for basketball and football, but it applies to baseball too. If you look at the Twins errors the past two seasons they have ranked 28 and 21 in the league in 2011 and 2012. The Twins had success in 2009 and 2010, those years the Twins ranked second and fifth in errors. Defense wins ballgames.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Twins’ amount of errors go hand in hand. When this run of AL Central titles started the infield was great defensively. Luis Rivas and Christian Guzman turning double plays up the middle, Corey Koskie had a glove over at third and Doug Mientkiewicz was a Gold Glove winner at first. Throw in one of the best defensive centerfielders Torii Hunter that defensive was unstoppable.
The Twins don’t need Gold Glovers running around Target Field necessarily, but 119 and 107 errors over the past two seasons is unacceptable. Cutting down on errors would gain the Twins a couple important wins over the course of a season.
Injury Free Season
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The Minnesota Twins new home, Target Field, and the home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, Target Center, are next door neighbors. They even share the Sanford Health Plaza, which is totally ironic because neither team can stay healthy.
After seasons of injuries to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and last year’s whole starting rotation the Twins need an injury free season to be successful. Obviously injuries will happen, but if the Twins stand a chance in 2013 they need to be as healthy as possible.
Sure Mauer will have to sit out a game here, Morneau there and Josh Willingham every now and then but it can’t be on a regular basis. Less DL stints means more wins.
Near MVP Season
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Every year the Twins have won the AL Central they have had someone be in the MVP conversation or actually win the award:
2002 – Torii Hunter finished sixth in MVP voting
2003 – Shannon Stewart finished fourth
2004 – Johan Santana finished sixth
2006 – Justin Morneau won MVP, Joe Mauer finished sixth and Johan Santana finished seventh
2009 – Joe Mauer won MVP
2010 – Joe Mauer finished eighth, Delmon Young finished tenth
The Twins don’t need to have the winner of the MVP necessarily, but history shows that in successful seasons someone is usually in the vicinity for Minnesota.