Minnesota Twins: New Year's Resolutions For 2011
The 2010 Minnesota Twins, while having a great season with a 94-68 record, won their 6th American League Central Title since 2002.
The post-season struggles of the Twins have been well documented. The Twins will need to have another stellar season to stave off the reloaded Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
The Twins should have the following list of New Year's Resolutions in order to get back to the playoffs, and wreak some havoc should they make it there.
Justin Morneau: Resolve to Stay Healthy For September and October
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Justin Morneau was perhaps the best hitter in the American League during the first half of the 2010 season.
The Twins' 2006 AL MVP first baseman was hitting .345 with 18 home runs, and 56 runs batted in. He only played in 81 games, exactly half of the season. If you extrapolate those numbers for an entire season, you get .345, 36 HR, and 112 RBI.
Morneau missed the remaining three months of the season, including the playoffs after suffering a concussion on July 7th in Toronto.
It was a repeat of 2009, when Morneau missed the playoffs, and the stretch run to the division title after a bad back held him out after September 12th, 2009.
The Twins will be relying on Morneau in 2011, and will need him if they make the playoffs and want to make a run at a World Series.
Jason Kubel: Resolve To Show Up in October and Return to 2009 Form
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Jason Kubel had a career season in 2009 hitting .300 with 28 home runs, 103 runs batted in, and a .908 OPS.
Every stat line went down for Kubel in 2010. His average dipped 51 points to a meager .249. He hit only 21 home runs, seven less then 2009. And his runs batted in slipped 11 to only 92. Some might point to Jim Thome taking away at-bats from Kubel, but Kubel actually had four extra at-bats in 2010.
The post season numbers of Kubel were even more troubling. Despite his slip in production during the regular season, at least there was some production. In Kubel's eight post season games (all losses), he has hit safely in two of 29 at-bats for a .069 batting average. Add that to the zero home runs, zero runs batted in, and 13 strikeouts, and you start to see an explanation for the some of the Twins' postseason struggles.
Kubel is a crucial part of the 2011 Twins, especially if Jim Thome decides to sign elsewhere this offseason. Kubel needs to get the monkey off his back and start producing when the leaves start turning colors.
Carl Pavano: Resolve to Keep The Mustache...and Re-Sign With Twins For Two Years
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Carl Pavano has found a home in Minnesota.
Ever since being acquired from the Cleveland Indians in August of 2009, Pavano has been an anchor for the Twins, and a big reason for their back-to-back AL Central Championships.
After four disappointing seasons in New York after his last foray into Free Agency, it's time for Pavano to just stay where he is appreciated.
The hold up for him signing on the dotted line is Pavano's insistence on a guaranteed third year. The Twins have offered him a two year deal. For a 35 year old pitcher, Pavano should try and get every year he can, but if that means spending his remaining productive years in a place like Washington, Pavano may be sacrificing pitching in any meaningful, playoff games.
Pavano is going to take his time, but should resolve to come back to the Twins, even if it's not the best monetary deal.
Oh... and he needs to keep the stache'. Too many women would cry if it were to vanish.
Delmon Young: Resolve To Keep The Weight Down
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Delmon Young had a breakout season in 2010, and being the biggest right handed power threat in the Twins Organization, Young will be counted on to have a repeat performance in 2011.
After an underwhelming 2009 season, there were many who questioned Young's work ethic. He had clearly gained weight, and seemed sluggish at the plate and in the field.
A new Delmon Young appeared during spring training last season. He looked the most fit he had been in his entire career. Adding to that, a more patient approach at the plate, and the results were a career year for Young.
This was all good, except as the season trucked along, Young appeared to slow down. To the eye, it looked like he may have relaxed a little on the conditioning, and his bat really cooled off during September.
Young, like many of us, needs to continue to fight the Battle of the Bulge to maintain his great production all season.
Joe Mauer: Resolve to Stay Within Yourself
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Joe Mauer signed an eight year, $183 million dollar extension last season, which kicks in starting next season.
Mauer doesn't all of a sudden need to become a power hitter, or win games all by himself. If he does try to do more on the field in order to validate his huge contract, that could spell doom for the Twins.
Joe Mauer's value to the Minnesota Twins isn't tied to his home run numbers. Mauer just needs to do what he does—hit for average, provide great defense and call good games for the pitching staff.
Joe Nathan: Resolve to Be Joe Nathan
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During the 2004-2009 seasons, there were two closing pitchers in MLB that separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Those two closers were Mariano Rivera from the New York Yankees, and Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins.
Nathan, who has saved 246 games, was expected to be the anchor of the Twins' bullpen once again in 2010. That's when disaster struck for Nathan. During a spring training game in March of 2010, Nathan tore an elbow ligament in his right arm, and underwent Tommy John surgery to repair it. He has been rehabilitating ever since.
Nathan has been encouraged by his progress, and expects to be able to pitch in spring training this season.
It's yet to be seen whether Nathan will be at full strength. The Twins need to look no further then their own starting rotation to realize how long an injury like Nathan's can take to rehab. Francisco Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery in 2006 and wasn't the same pitcher until 2010.
The surgery has shown recent success for pitchers like Nathan however. Last season, Billy Wagner came back from the surgery in 2009, and had a very successful campaign for the Atlanta Braves. Wagner had 37 saves with a 1.43 ERA for the playoff bound Braves last season.
So Joe Nathan has a very simple resolution. Just be Joe Nathan of 2004-2009.