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Thursday (If Morneau was healthy for the playoffs) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Twins fans Updated: September 23, 2010 - 9:20 AM

Let's start out by stating the obvious -- pointing out some facts that might have been more traditionally used in the middle or the end of a post like this:

Justin Morneau is an elite baseball player. He is a former MVP who was having another MVP-caliber year when he went on the disabled list with a concussion. The hypothetical question of "what if he woke up tomorrow feeling great, had a string of great days, and was good to go health-wise for the postseason?" creates some hypothetical dilemmas that we will spell out in a bit, but they are nonetheless good problems to have.

When Morneau was healthy and the Twins were struggling to score runs during a rough first half, they put Michael Cuddyer at third base for a stretch in order to maximize the number of high-end hitters they had in the lineup. That was, of course, before Danny Valencia locked down the position for this year, and hopefully for years to come.

Other times, a more standard lineup had Cuddyer in right, Delmon Young in left, Jason Kubel at DH and Jim Thome off the bench. If Thome played, one of the other three usually sat (except when Cuddyer, again the ultimate utility guy this year, played a little 2B when Orlando Hudson was down). Most often, it was Thome sitting. We can all agree Thome benefits from rest, and he gives the Twins a great weapon off the bench. But again, his contributions to the lineup in the second half have been phenomenally important to the Twins' success.

As it stands now, of course, Cuddyer plays first base, Kubel plays right, Delmon plays left and Thome DHs when the Twins have their best offensive lineup out there. Who would be the odd man out if Morneau got healthy?

Thome, because he is such a valuable pinch hitter and does benefit from rest? Kubel, who is 6 for his last 37 and hasn't seemed to get truly scalding hot all season? Cuddyer, who has been admirable in his willingness to play all over the place but hasn't come close to matching last year's power numbers? Morneau, because you don't know exactly where his swing is going to be at critical times after missing so many games? Young, who batted .218 on August and is hitting .243 in September after that scorching  mid-year stretch that has defined his season statistically?

Our best guess is it would be some combination based on matchups. Then again, when you get to the playoffs and one lineup works, a manager can tend to stick with that lineup.

Again, this is all hypothetical. There is no update on Morneau's condition. Just playing the what-if game on a rainy Thursday morning. Your thoughts in the comments.


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