Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
I’m going to keep this short because there’s just not that much new ground to cover. You can create a comeback fantasy for the 2011 Twins and, yes, sometimes fantasies do come true, but the cold, hard truth is that the Twins have been underperforming compared to many of their 2010 showings.
Sometimes we seem to forget that, so let's take a quick position-by-position look:
Catcher -- Do we need to go there any more? Let's not, because we'll get all bogged down.
First base – Justin Morneau had an MVP first half of 2010 (.345/.437/.618). Michael Cuddyer (.298/.370/.477) has been very, very good. But the numbers just aren’t the same.
Middle infield – The Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy combo was clearly better in 2010 than Yoshi, Lexi, Plouffie, Hughsie, Matty and Whomeverelsie has filled in at those positions. The fact that we're celebrating Alexi Casilla's modest offensive numbers and good defense as if he's Robinson Cano is all you need to know.
Third base – Danny Valencia 2010 (.311/.351/.448) outperformed the current model (..242/.290/.389) on offense and defense (6 errors in 223 chances last season; 13 in 244 this season). I'll spare you the drop in ultimate zone rating, but if you want to look, here it is.
Left field – Delmon Young. See Valencia. OPS+ in 2010: 122 OPS+ in 2011: 78 Other stats similarly sad.
Center field – Denard Span didn’t play as well in 2010 and he did in ’09 or this season before his concussion. But his 2010 numbers are still better than Ben Revere’s on offense. On defense, Revere brings more range and a lesser arm. Advantage Span. I'm glad he's back from Rochester. Revere will make a fine fourth outfielder for now.
Right field – The Cuddyer/Jason Kubel twosome of 2011 has been better than it was in 2010. Score one for two good guys.
DH – Jim Thome (.283/.412/.627) was fearsome last year. Not as much (and not as available) this year (.252/363/.470).
Bullpen – Save for Glen Perkins, a marked step down. Rotation – Pavano, Liriano and Duensing are all worse than last year. Blackburn has been inconsistent two years running. Scott Baker has stepped up. There's really no room to give Kevin Slowey another shot?
So -- Baker, Perkins, Span and the right fielders have all been better in 2011 than 2010. The rest of the team has pretty much plummeted. Yes, some of the decline has been injury-related, but much can be traced to performance declines and bad personnel choices by the front office.
Also, keep in mind than the 2010 collection, while good enough to get to the postseason, wasn’t built to last through it. So being as good as last season, and even leading the division in 2011, would beg the question of what's being done to make things better? You know, the next-level discussion.
Some guys need to step back up, some guys need to be gone. The front office has to decide that good enough to contend isn’t the same as being good as necessary.
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