When Brad Childress was first hired as head coach of the Vikings several years ago, he famously promised fans that he would implement a "kick-ass offense." Of course, in his early years at the helm, few would have described the Vikings' plodding offensive unit with that terminology, but by last year -- with the right pieces in place -- the Vikes had become a point-scoring juggernaut and were able to come within a game of the Super Bowl.
The Twins have similarly added some key pieces during their most recent offseason, and the early results in their 2010 campaign have been similarly -- well -- kick-ass. It might not be appropriate to compare J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson to Brett Favre and Percy Harvin, but the Twins had an immensely talented core in place already and by shoring up some holes in the lineup (and on the bench, with the addition of Jim Thome), they have seemingly taken their offensive game to the next level.
Last season, the Twins ranked fourth in the American League in runs scored and ninth in home runs. Those are respectable placements, but given that they boasted the league MVP and two other hitters who gained some measure of consideration or the award (Justin Morneau probably would have garnered votes as well if not for his injury), one might have expected the '09 Twins to have been a truly elite offensive club. What held them back was the number of plate appearances that went to substandard hitters like Alexi Casilla, Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto, Joe Crede and Matt Tolbert. Each one of those players accumulated at least 200 plate appearances last year, and not one managed an OPS much over .700. The addition of players like Hardy, Hudson and Thome prevents the Twins from being forced into heaping playing time on overmatched reserves and helps supplement a lineup core that has clearly established itself as one of the most formidable in baseball.
Punto remains a fixture in the Twins lineup, but if his struggles continue, Brendan Harris and Danny Valencia await as viable options to replace him at third. Meanwhile, the rest of this offense looks very strong. Hudson and Denard Span have both gotten off to slow starts, but given their histories there's little reason to expect that to continue. The middle-of-the-lineup hitters have been predictably excellent and Delmon Young is off to a very promising start. Already, we're seeing that this lineup is deep enough to sustain slumps from a few key players and teamwide struggles with runners in scoring position, as they've managed to average 4.62 runs per game despite the lack of production from the top of the order and a .239 team average with runners in scoring position. That's what power up and down the lineup and a core packed with elite hitters can do for you. Once Span and Hudson get it going and the Twins start better taking advantage of scoring opportunities in general -- look out.
Watching this offense provides a new and exciting sensation for Twins fans. This is a lineup that legitimately strikes fear into opposing pitchers and doesn't really let up or relent. It's probably not realistic to expect this group to score 30 a game, as the Vikings did last season, but it would hardly be surprising to see this kick-ass Twins offense put up a touchdown or two from time to time. And it would be somewhat surprising if they weren't among the league leaders in scoring throughout the summer. This lineup is legit.
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