The 2011 MLB season is 75% finished, but it is time for the 2011 Twins obiturary. The season is over and the only two things that I care about as a Twins fan are Jim Thome's 600th home run and the 2012 season. As the 2007 season was to the 2006 season (a big disappointment) the 2011 season has been to the 2010 season. Every move that worked the previous years have hurt the team. The signings, trade and injuries have all worked agains the Twins this year.
Consider this: The Twins top 3 players (Mauer, Morneau and Nathan) will make $48,000,000 and produce a combined -0.2 wins over a replacement player. That means the Twins would have been better off (and much cheaperg) playing an average AAA player over those three players.
It doesn't look much better when you look at other highly paid Twins with the notable exception of Michael Cuddyer. Other busts for the Twins have been Carl Pavano ($8M for 0.8 WAR), Matt Capps ($7M for 0.3 WAR, while Wilson Ramos is at $415K for 1.5 WAR) and Delmon Young ($5M for 0.2 WAR). There is a lot of dead weight on the Twins roster, which helps explain the Twins 52-67 record despite the $100M+ payroll.
Another reason the Twins have underperformed is that they have two regulars that have to be in the running for worst players in the majors. Drew Butera's line is .170/.211/.261 with an OPS+ of 31 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.57. Tsuyoshi Nishioka's line is .226/.269/.253 with an OPS+ of 47. How those two players have combined for 376 at bats without being sent to the minors is beyond my comprehension?
Overall the batting stats aren't pretty (3rd last in runs per game, 2nd last in OBP%, 2nd last in SLG%, last in walks, 2nd last in home runs) and the only reason they aren't worse is because of the Seattle Mariners. Pitching isn't much better with the 3rd worst ERA+, worst strikeouts, 2nd worst in runs given up per game and 3rd worst in WHIP. Is there any surprise that the Twins have a -111 run differential, which is only better than the Orioles and Astros.
What is terrible about the Twins has been how boring things have gotten at Target Field. The new car smells is off the new ballpark and there needs to be a winning team there or otherwise the fair weather Twins fans will make Target Field feel like the Metrodome on a random Tuesday night game. The place has still been packed this year, but that is primarily because people (like me) bought season tickets last October. We will see how many people renew their tickets for next year.
Their is hope along the horizon. One thing is that this year has been a Murphy's Law type of season and one could expect a regression back to the mean next year. The key will be a healthy and productive Mauer and Morneau, but also contributions from whatever outfielders they keep between Young, Kubel and Cuddyer. If you combine those players with a healthy Span and improved Valencia then the offense will be much better next year. It will be tough without Thome (assuming he leaves) and the odds are against the Twins keeping Cuddyer (their best offensive player), but the team was the 5th best offense in 2010 and it is hard to believe that things have changed that much in a year.
The pitching situation is a little more difficult. I first thought that the pitchers were young and should improve, but a quick look shows a 26 year old Liriano, 28 year old Baker, 28 year old Blackburn, 27 year old Duensing and 26 year old Slowly. Those ages don't suggest that the Twins have to worry about their starting pitchers retiring, but it also doesn't suggest that their best days are necessarily ahead of them. The best hope for the Twins is Kyle Gibson and the return to even year Liriano (average ERA+ in even years 143+ compared to odd years of 78).
There is one other Twins related news I like to follow and that is Brian Dozier. I've written about him last May and am happy to report that things have only gotten better since them. I follow his stats on baseballreference and his .306/.379/.406 minor league line is pretty impressive. He started at high A Fort Myers, but was promoted to AA New Britain. He has done well in New Britain and was recently named by Gardy as someone who could help the Twins out next year. My hope is that he starts next year in Rochester before being promoted after 2-3 months to help the Twins win the division next year.
As for the 2011 Twins, there really isn't much more to report. I will hopefully be in attendance for Thome's 600th home run, but other than that the 2012 season can't come soon enough.