How the 2013 Minnesota Twins become the 2012 Baltimore Orioles
By Brad Swanson
Hand-pounds are a good sign. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
There have been a lot of words written and spoken, looking for the 2013 version of the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. The reality is that it is unlikely that any team replicates the level of unexpected success that the Orioles enjoyed last season. However, when only one game has been played, any team can try to stake their claim as the next unlikely success story. The Twins are a team and as a result, they can stake that very claim.
If the 2013 Twins are to become the second coming of the 2012 Orioles, many things have to go right. Before we can even investigate the likelihood of the Twins becoming the next Orioles, we have to better understand how the Orioles achieved success in the first place. Once we know the formula, we might be able to plug the Twins in to see if it all computes.
The narrative stated that the Orioles got off to a hot start, had great luck in close games and then held on to the bitter end. This narrative is not completely accurate. They did have great results in close games, likely due to some luck, but also due to a great and successful bullpen. They did get off to a relatively hot start, but it didn’t last. They were ten games behind the Yankees by mid-July and seemed to be out of the hunt.
However, the Orioles were a legitimately good team in August and September. They were no longer lucky, they were just good. Their run differential backs that up. In August and September they were +62 and not surprisingly, they were 37-18 in those months. The reality is that they were a lucky, but good team early on. They posted a good enough record to be within striking distance and then rode a hot offense and an improved pitching staff down the stretch.
The 2012 Orioles did not have an above average pitching staff or lineup. They did hit a lot of home runs, which certainly made them more explosive, and contributed to their average offense. The pitching staff improved in the second half, which definitely played a huge part in their success. Their defense was pretty average, and maybe a bit below average. They really only had two good defensive players, in Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy. This sounds like a whole lot of average, but without any real deficiencies either, it all kind of worked out.
If we look at the Orioles in detail, it seems that these are the criteria that the Twins will need to match, in order to match the Orioles’ success:
- An average offense, with good home run power
- An average pitching staff, that improves in the second half
- An average defense
- A decent start, with a strong finish
- An excellent bullpen
High and even kind of high-fives are another good sign. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Can the Twins provide an average offense? I think they can. Joe Mauer is elite. Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit can all provide good offense. Each has good power, and could provide the team with 20 plus home runs. Trevor Plouffe has big power potential as well. Brian Dozier and Chris Parmelee could provide good on-base skills and thus fewer outs. Aaron Hicks is a wildcard, but certainly has the talent to produce. If it all comes together, the offense could be better than average. Even if just a few things click, the potential for average offense is quite reasonable.
Can the Twins provide average defense? Yes. Pedro Florimon, Joe Mauer and Aaron Hicks are good defensive players. Brian Dozier should be better than last season, and his issues with range will be less evident at second. The corners aren’t quite as good, but the up the middle positions are in good shape. It should average out and end with the Twins having an average defensive team.
Can the Twins have an average rotation? This is where I think things fall apart a bit. I have high hopes for Scott Diamond and Vance Worley. Beyond those two, I think Twins’ starters will be below average, until Kyle Gibson joins the rotation. However, if Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey can stay healthy, keeping lesser options from having to start games, they will provide enough value to even out their slightly below average skills. I might be too kind with Correia, but I’d like to see him pitch one game in a Twins’ uniform before I completely write him off.
Can the Twins’ bullpen excel? The bullpen has strengths, but I’m not sure it is as dominant as Baltimore’s bullpen last season. Glen Perkins is very good and Jared Burton is high quality. After those two, it gets murkier. However, if two relievers can stand out beyond Burton and Perkins, the bullpen could be very good. Brian Duensing and Casey Fien seem like the best candidates.
Can the Twins get off to a decent start? Why not? Can’t just about any team couple good play with good fortune and end with a relatively good record at the end of May? I think their offense could really click, and if it does, they could win more games than we think. If they can ride their good offense through the All-Star Break, they can reach the point where a hot second half propels them into the playoffs.
Can the Twins finish strong? By midseason, Kyle Gibson could be in the rotation, thus making it stronger. By midseason, Oswaldo Arcia could be in the outfield, boosting the offense. By midseason, the team could have made a trade. Who really knows what to expect in August and September? It doesn’t seem likely that the Twins can play .650 ball in the second half, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
This may be an overly simplistic way of looking at things, but it gives us a reference point. If the Twins are to be the surprise team of 2013, they will need to get a lot of breaks and create a lot of breaks. If the Twins can provide average production in all areas, sprinkle in some good fortune and improve as the season progresses, fans in Minnesota could enjoy a surprise season. Crazier things have happened and wow, would it be fun to watch it all unfold.
At this time in 1989, the Twins were about to embark on a surprisingly poor season. If you want to relive that season, in 1989 Donruss form, please click here.
More importantly, do you think the Twins can become the 2013 version of the Orioles? Let us know in the comments below.