The Twins are not going to make the playoffs this year.
I hope I’m not crushing your hopes by stating that; unless you’re the most optimistic baseball fan ever, that fact has probably been obvious for about three months now. The 2012 Twins, like the 2011 Twins, are playing a lost season that will end right after Game 162.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of reasons to keep watching. In fact, the Twins have a lot to play for this August and September. These could be two of the most crucial months in determining the future of the team, and they could also be very fun to watch.
Here’s what we should be paying attention to over the next seven weeks:
Josh Willingham‘s Home Runs
After hitting number 28 on Sunday, Willingham finds himself just seven home runs away from breaking the 35 barrier, something no Twins has done since Harmon Killebrew in 1970. Several Twins have hit 34 in a season, but 35 seems to be an of elusive, unattainable figure. Willingham is on pace to reach 42 homers, and even 40 would be a nice, round figure. But Puckett’s Pond will be plenty happy if he just makes it to 35.
Scott Diamond‘s Pitching
He’s either the poor man’s Mark Buehrle or the second-coming of Allan Anderson, a dependable, groundball inducing lefty who can be successful for years or a flash in the pan who has a good year then is forgotten. We won’t know which one he really is for several years, but that won’t stop us from analyzing his last 10 starts of 2012 for clues. Diamond is now sixth in the American League with a 2.93 ERA, and he has a chance to be Minnesota’s first 15 game winner since Carl Pavano way back in 2010.
Speaking of Pavano, he will probably find a new home this month. The trade deadline is ancient history, but that didn’t stop the Twins from dealing Danny Valencia for an intriguing (if a little long in the tooth) prospect. Expect Pavano and Matt Capps to follow. Due to the restrictions on trading players after the deadline, Minnesota probably won’t get a huge return, but they could land a couple sleeper prospects. For comparison, when Pavano came to the Twins in a similar deadline deal back in 2009, the Indians received once-promising pitcher Yohan Pino in return.
A Revere/Mauer Batting Race
Joe Mauer had a rough week at the plate last week, but his batting average still ranks in the top five in the AL. And leader Mike Trout is finally showing signs of slipping from his loft perch at the top. Meanwhile, Ben Revere is hitting like nobody’s business (up to .331 as of the end of Monday night’s game), and as soon as he accumulates enough plate appearances to qualify, which should happen this week or early next week, he’ll be high on the leaderboard as well. We could witness a spirited competition for the title.
Chris Parmelee was a pleasant surprise last September, and this year the Twins may have some even more exciting prospects available to join the Big League squad for the season’s final month. Oswaldo Arcia is hitting even better at AA New Britain than he did at Class A Fort Myers earlier in the year, and he definitely deserves to sip the proverbial cup of coffee this fall. His teammate Aaron Hicks, a former first round draft pick, is also putting together a fine season for New Britain. Arcia and Hicks could give Twins fans a nice preview of Minnesota’s 2014 starting outfield.
The Quest for 75 Wins
Most of all, we should keep watching and cheering for the Twins, because we want them to win. Minnesota probably will not be one of the very worst teams in MLB, and the 2013 draft class is fairly weak at the top, so there’s not much point in hoping for a high draft pick. Instead, it would be far better if the Twins could put up a respectable showing down the stretch to prove that this is not a doormat team. That way free agents won’t scoff at signing up to play at Target Field this offseason. 75 wins would be a nice, attainable target. It requires the Twins to play just over .500 ball the rest of the way.