Any prediction that the Twins would have a nearly .500 record after 30 games was likely a prediction made with one’s heart. While there is nothing wrong with using your heart to make predictions, it can lead to heartbreak. However, that is exactly where the Twins are right now. With a long home stand ahead, it is entirely possible that the Twins will be at or above .500 after a quarter of the season. That doesn’t mean the Twins will certainly finish at .500 or better, but it certainly makes it more likely.
My expectations haven’t changed, but my overall outlook has definitely improved. I feel that the Twins will be a contending team as soon as next season. There are players who will improve and there are more young players on the way. I would still expect a 90-loss 2013, but that is actually an improvement over my original expectations. Perhaps this is overly pessimistic, but I do think this roster is better equipped for regression than improvement.
Of the reasons I feel this way, the rotation is paramount. Overall, the rotation has been poor. Kevin Correia has been fantastic, but there are a multitude of reasons to believe that he won’t be this good for the rest of the season. Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey can only get better, but how much better can they be? Will Liam Hendriks return? Is Kyle Gibson going to contribute? Will the fans revolt and actually drive to Rochester and pick up Sam Deduno ? For me, there are too many questions that need answers to expect anything but a volatile rotation.
In addition, the offense hasn’t really been all that good. Only Josh Willingham can stake claim to an above average offensive season right now, and there are quite a few players who are performing well below replacement. A weak offense combined with a rocky rotation is not a great formula. The bullpen is the strength of this team, but without leads to protect, a great bullpen means next to nothing.
Even if the Twins finish this season with 90 losses, I would still claim overall success. The Farm System is vastly improved and there are enough pieces on the roster to potentially supplement the system even more. While many would find it to be a crime to trade away players like Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau, especially during a surprisingly strong season, I would argue that sticking with the master plan is more important than trying to coax out an 83rd win.
What if this team is just better than we all thought? What if this is a team built on a solid offense, reliable starting pitching and an excellent bullpen? Isn’t that the combination the Orioles rode to the playoffs last season? There are certainly a few reasons to believe that the team is better than we thought.
The offense hasn’t really been all that good to this point. I realize I already made that point, but look at some of the players who have performed worse than anticipated. Joe Mauer hasn’t been Joe Mauer, save for a short stretch a couple weeks back. Trevor Plouffe hasn’t flexed his 2012 summer power. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia stand to improve as they gain experience. I still hold out hope for Justin Morneau. Add it all up, and the offense could go from below average to at least average, perhaps even better.
The rotation could improve as well. Kevin Correia might not be this good, but he could still be solid. Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey can only improve. Scott Diamond looked great last night. In addition, Kyle Gibson is getting closer to making his debut, Sam Deduno is getting healthy and Liam Hendriks is still lurking. A rotation with Correia, Diamond, Gibson and some reliable combination of the other names I listed can be pretty good. They would certainly be better than the rotation has been so far.
in the end, a .500 record in 2013 is certainly possible and the 2014 turnaround season that I predicted may be happening right now. The team I have been watching this season doesn’t really look like a bad team. The Twins have good players and they have some players who aren’t meeting expectations. While some may fail to meet expectations all season, others will bounce back. Who on the team is playing over their head? Correia? That might be it. Why can’t this team fight for a respectable record and stamp out 2013 as the season when things started turning around again?
Everything has changed; absolutely nothing’s changed. The Twins are still a rebuilding franchise with a lot of upside and a very bright future. The morale of the fan base has likely increased and expectations have likely increased simultaneously. It is nearly impossible to have success without expectations. It doesn’t take long for fans to forget that expectations were low back in March. However, that is the nature of the beast. When you exceed expectations, you also feel the new pressure of that improved outlook. When you think of it, it is certainly better than the alternative: poor performance, low expectations and general malaise. I’ll take heightened expectations any day.
On the lighter side, I photoshopped Gary Wayne‘s face onto a bunch of famous album covers. It’s delightful. You can find it here. Have your expectations changed due to the Twins’ surprising start? Please respond in the comments below.