My 2012 New Years resolutions include climbing a mountain, going on a week long solo camping trip and reading 52 books, but I’m sure none of you are here to know what I’ll be doing in 2012, you’re here for the Twins.
The Twins have recently picked up both Josh Willingham and Jason Marquis but also lost Minnesota’s Bash Brothers, as both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel left for greener pastures. Cuddyer, who will be wearing number 3 for the Rockies, in honor of the late Twins great Harmon Killebrew (and who changed his twitter name to @MCuddy3), will most assuredly prosper in his new home with the thin air in Denver. Kubel will get a chance to be an everyday player out in the field and not simply be relegated to the DH roll with his move to the NL.
What do the Twins need to do in 2012 to be successful? What is it going to take to get back to the post-season and beyond? Follow me after the jump and find out what I hope to see from the ball club this year
1. Scott Baker pitches 200+ innings.
Although Baker has only once in his career gotten to 200 innings (2009 when he pitched EXACTLY 200), a healthy Scott Baker will be essential to a competitive 2012 ball club. 2009 was also the only time Baker had more than 30 starts. 2011 was a career year for Baker, and aside from the injury suffered, he posted 3.83 SO/BB and posted the lowest WHIP (1.173) since his rookie season. If Baker can stay healthy and find his 2011 form again in 2012, it’s not hard to imagine him posting 15+ W’s.
2. Ryan Doumit reaches 500 plate appearances.
Doumit posted 236 PA in 2011 and has only twice in his career posted 400+ PA in a season, but he should see an increase in those numbers this year with the Twins. With both Cuddyer and Kubel leaving via free agency, Doumit will get regular AB’s at DH, and should see some time at C/RF/1B when other guys need some rest. Doumit has a history of being injury prone, managing only 77 games last season, but hopefully spending time as the regular DH vice behind the plate will allow him to stay healthy throughout the season.
3. Francisco Liriano returns to his even numbered year form.
Frankie is 15-25 (5.47 ERA) in odd years, but a whopping 32-17 (3.22 ERA) in even years. Liriano averages over 10 victories a year in even seasons, and we’ll need at least that many from the big lefty if Target Field is to be home to the 2012 AL Central Division winners. Liriano struggled last year, posting a career high in BB/9 (5.0) and a career low in K/9 (7.5). Liriano has never posted an ERA+ below 108 in an even numbered year and that trend will need to continue for the Twins to be successful in 2012.
4. Jamey Carroll posts an OBP of .350+
Carroll, over his 10 year career, has posted a career .356 OBP, and the Twins will need him to maintain that pace in 2012. Carroll, who has spent more than twice as much time at 2B (507 games) than at SS (207 games), will need to adjust to the everyday SS duties this year in Minnesota. Carroll who has played 100 or more games in 8 of his 10 big league seasons will need to continue to stay healthy and stay on the base paths for the M&M boys to knock him home.
5. Draft an ace with the #2 pick in the Draft.
The Twins have a history of drafting college arms who throw strikes and pitch to contact. With the #2 overall pick in the draft just about ALL of the good players will still be around. Drafting a guy who throws hard with good stuff will go far to help the future of the organization. The new hard slotting system agreed upon in the new collective bargaining agreement should help the Twins. They won’t need to worry about anyone of the big upside arms deciding to go back to school and waiting for more money next year, because the money is going to be essentially the same. Unless there is a once in a generation talent available, I don’t forsee many teams going way over slot, and there is no such player in this year’s draft. As Nate mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Twins would do well to draft Standford star, Mark Appel. The big righty has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 and a slider that should develop into a great out pitch. Drawing comparisons to Standford’s other potential top of the draft guy, Appel is considered the Andrew Luck of the 2012 MLB Draft.
6. Target Field drops beer prices and adds Grain Belt Nordeast to brews available in the stadium.
Last year I took my inaugural trip to the new ballpark, and it was almost TOO nice. Compared with all of my memories from the Dome days, Target Field was a shiny new toy, so new that you almost don’t want to use it. Unfortunately, I soon learned, that the Twins inflated payroll and new shiny stadium was being paid for solely on beer revenue. Domestic drafts were going for $7.25 and for a premium beer the price jumped to $7.75. Bottles, when you could find them around, were a little more reasonable at $6.50, but even at that price you could still feel the pain coming from your wallet. Because I no longer live in Minnesota, I begrudgingly paid out 7+ for each of my beers, knowing that my trip to Target Field would offer one of my only chances to enjoy Grain Belt beers. In 2012 I’d like to see the Nordeast added to the menu as well, a perfect addition to the more than 30 beers all ready available around Target Field. Target Field is filled with momentos to remember moments and players from the Twins past, and the addition of Nordeast to the beer menu will be a great tribute to the Northern and Eastern European immigrants who settled the Twin Cities.
7. All members of the Twins 2012 everyday lineup will play 22+ spring training games.
When the Twins report to Ft Myers this season, all of the Twins big names need to show up healthy and ready to play. With 35 games on the spring training schedule (including split squad games) the Twins will have ample opportunity to get their regulars plenty of experience this spring down in Florida. Last season the Twins struggled to stay healthy in the spring. Joe Mauer developed dreaded bi-lateral leg weakness (and I still have no idea exactly what that means), and Michael Cuddyer had a pesky wart removed, just to mention a couple of the issues that popped up last season. In addition to needing the reps at game speed, spring training gives the players an opportunity to build and promote the mysterious characteristic, “team chemistry,” that seems to be essential to any successful team. This will be especially important this season with so many new faces in the club house and regular club house leaders Cuddyer and Joe Nathan departed for greener pastures. Hopefully Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the coaching staff can also go over the basics of running down a base runner, something the Twins struggled to do last season, especially early on.
8. Joe Mauer bounces back from an injury riddled 2011 season and hits .330+ w/ more than 110 games behind the dish.
Last season was set-back after set-back from Minnesota’s all-star catcher. He managed to play in only 82 games (only 52 at C) and posted a BA more than 40 points lower than 2010 and his lowest BA, OPS+ and SLG% of his 8 year career. For the Twins to be successful in 2012 it will have to start with a heathy Mauer behind the plate.
9. Justin Morneau and Denard Span show no lingering signs from their concussion problems
Like Mauer, Morneau also posted career low numbers last season and managed to play in only 69 games. Between lingering concussion symptoms and a neck problem that required surgery, Morneau had trouble staying in the lineup. Even when he was able to take the field, Morneau lacked the All-star range he is known for a 1B and all of the power was ZAPPED from his bat, slugging .333 with only 4 home runs. Denard Span has on his way to posting a much improved 2011 season when he went down with concussion symptoms. While he was able to return to the field, he never regained the magic he displayed prior to the injury and played in only 70 games after having played 145+ the last two seasons. Concussions are serious business in sports these days, and hopefully the Twins training staff can get both of these marque players back in action this year.
10. Win in the playoffs.
The Twins have not won a playoff game since game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. This is a long-shot, but I didn’t think “winning the division” was nearly bold enough for a New Years resolution. Since winning the first game of the 2004 ALDS the Twins are a combined 0-12 in the playoffs, with 9 of those losses coming at the hands of the New York Yankees. The Twins will need to find a way to get W’s in the post season. Under Ron Gardenhire, the Twins are a combined 6-21 in the playoffs. Gardenhire has only once coached the team to a post-season series victory, and that was in his first year as Coach in what many long-time Twins fans will tell you was a result of the Roster that Tom Kelly had put together more than a job well done by Gardy. No matter how you look at it, the Twins have only 6 post season victories in the last 21 years, it’s bad. The re-tooled Twins will need to find a way to change their stripes and get back to winning ways in 2012.
Do you have any predictions for the 2012 season? With more than 48 days until pitchers and catchers report and 2012 finally begins, you’ve got plenty of time to make some prognostications for the future of the hometown heroes. Share your thoughts with us here on the Pond by leaving a comment below.