It was quite a year for the Minnesota Twins. Despite leaving Spring Training with a fully healthy squad, the Twins were anything but that in 2011. Three members of the 2011 squad played more than 100 games, and one of those guys, Ben Revere, was not even on the opening day roster. Only two of those players, Michael Cuddyer and Danny Valencia, were on the field long enough to collect more than 500 ABs. Cuddyer checked in with 584 ABs, and Valencia had 24 more for a total of 608. For reference, last year the Twins had 8 players play at least 100 games, and 6 of them had more than 500 ABs. Only Michael Cuddyer has qualified each of the past two seasons. On the pitching staff things were not a lot better as only Carl Pavano pitched more than 165 innings, and Alex Burnett and Matt Capps joined Glen Perkins as relievers with more than 60 appearances. While 60 appearances is a fairly arbitrary cut off for relief appearances both Capps and Burnett have an ERA worse than league average and they appeared more than any other relievers, combining for 135 appearances. In 2010, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain lead the team in appearances out of the bullpen and both had an ERA at least 30% better than league average.
With so many players in and out of the Twins lineup in 2011, 37 different (and generally ineffective) players when all was said and done, it was hard for the Twins to establish any cohesion, or positive momentum, and at 63-99, their record indicates the same. But not everything was bad, and there were several standouts on this team. Below you’ll find my candidates for Top Starting Pitcher, Top Relief Pitcher, Top Position Player, and Team MVP.
2011 Minnesota Twins Top Starting Pitcher: Scott Baker
While Carl Pavano proved to be the consistent innings eater that Twins fans expected him to be, he failed to live up to his 2010 numbers and it seemed like he never really got going, finishing the year with an ERA of 4.3, more than a full run higher than Baker’s 3.14. Despite only pitching 134.2 innings, Baker led the Twins pitchers in WAR (3.8), and Strike Outs (123). He led all starting pitchers in Hits per 9 innings, and Strike Outs per 9 innings. He also led the team in Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched, which is fairly impressive for a starting pitcher who averaged more than 6 innings per start. If healthy all season, Scott Baker surely would have led the team in victories. Baker was the only Twins pitcher to have a W/L record ABOVE .500.
2011 Minnesota Twins Top Relief Pitcher: Glen Perkins
No other relief pitcher had an ERA better than league average and Perkins lead all Twins pitchers with an ERA of 2.48, 62% better than league average. He averaged 9.5 Strike Outs per 9 Innings to lead all Minnesota Twins and his Strike Out to Walk ratio was the best among relievers. Despite pitching just 61.2 innings in 2011, Perkins was 2nd among pitchers with 2.0 WAR, tied with Carl Pavano and behind Bakers 3.8. Matt Capps, .8 WAR, was a distance 2nd among Relief Pitchers. Perkins was the go-to guy for Ron Gardenhire for much of the season, probably being overworked for the first half of the season as one of the Twins’ only trustworthy options out of the bullpen.
2011 Minnesota Twins Top Position Player: Ben Revere
If he had played more than 70 games, this one would have been a laugher for Denard Span. Denard Span managed to accumulate 1.5 Defensive Wins Above Replacement and his Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average was more than twice as good as the next guy. Denard Span might be a more seasoned player, and he might take better routes to balls in the otufield, there is no denying the excitement of watching Ben Revere play centerfield. The kid isn’t just fast, he’s super man fast. He was called up to fill in after a rash of injuries in the Twins’ outfield, but what he provided was not just a warm body from Rochester, but a spark and a jolt of electricity that propelled the Twins to within striking distance of the divison leaders midway through the season. While he has, at different times during the season, struggled to find consistency in the batters’ box, he came a long way in 2011 and ended the year on a hot streak, pushing his offensive numbers up to .267 BA, .310 OBP, and .309 SLG. In 2012 Revere will need to impress with the wood as well as the leather if he wants to compete for playing time in the Twins’ outfield.
2011 Minnesota Twins MVP: Michael Cuddyer
There really are no other options for Twins MVP. Cuddyer was everything to the Minnesota Twins in 2011. Cuddyer represented the Twins in the All-Star Game earlier this summer in Arizona, and was often asked to play positions other than Right Field. Cuddyer was even called upon to make an appearance as a relief pitcher, pitching a full inning and not giving up a run. For a team that had more than their share of injuries, Cuddyer’s willingness to play anywhere at any time helped the Twins limp through the 2011 season. Despite playing all over the field Cuddyer managed to maintain a consistent presence at the plate, leading the time in Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, Walks, Slugging Percentage, On Base plus Slugging (OPS), and Total Bases. He also performed well when on the base paths, ranking 3rd on the team in Stolen Bases!
For a team that lost 99 games, the Twins still had a couple of guys that stack up well against the rest of the league.
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