When everyone is healthy and properly rested, the Twins' typical lineup looks something like this: 1. Denard Span (CF); 2. Ben Revere (RF); 3. Joe Mauer (C/DH); 4. Josh Willingham (LF); 5. Justin Morneau (1B); 6. Trevor Plouffe (3B); 7. Ryan Doumit (C/DH); 8. Brian Dozier (SS); 9. Jamey Carroll (2B)
Interestingly, all nine of those players are under contract or team control in 2013, and most are for 2014 as well. So the question is, assuming the Twins don't make a trade involving one of these hitters, is the lineup good enough to compete with in 2013 if the pitching is dramatically upgraded? Let's dip our toes into the numbers:
Prior to Monday, the Twins had scored 4.26 per game for the season, putting them in the middle of the pack in the major leagues. However, when the Twins started 10-26 through May 15, they scored only 120 runs (3.33 per game). In going 30-29 heading into Monday since then, they averaged 4.83 per game. That latter pace over a full season would easily put the Twins in the top 10 in MLB.
Can we simply dismiss those first 36 games? No, but there are compelling reasons to focus more on what's happened recently. Revere didn't get a permanent recall from Rochester until mid-May, which is around the same time Plouffe started hitting and took over third base from Danny Valencia. Dozier made his debut May 7. Mauer, who was hitting .270 with one home run and 15 RBI through May 15, entered Monday at .372 with 30 RBI since then.
Of course, relying solely on the past 59 games unrealistically projects Plouffe's scorching June over an entire season, gives Mauer numbers better than his career averages, and assumes Doumit will always hit .317 with a .491 slugging percentage (which he has done since May 15).
General Manager Terry Ryan doesn't seem completely sold, saying recently, "I don't want to berate my own organization here, but I have to be honest: We're not scoring runs [consistently]."
But for more than a third of this season at least, the Twins have been scoring -- at least on average -- at about the same rate they did during their six division-winning seasons since 2002.
If that keeps up over the final 60-plus games -- which is still an "if" -- Ryan could spend almost all of his offseason efforts and resources fixing the starting rotation.