Saying Goodbye to the 2009 Twins

It is time to write a post-mortem on the 2009 Minnesota Twins.  Despite hanging close to the playoffs most of the season, this year, like the last two years, will end with the Twins on the outside looking in.  If they survive today’s game, it is still unlikely that they will survive the weekend.  A number of questions could be asked at this point:  First is the question of theodicy (Why does God let bad things happen to His chosen team?)  Second is what can be done to improve this team for next year.  I want to bracket the first and focus on the second here.

The Twins regulars were (OPS+ in parenthesis):

Joe Mauer (178)                              Justin Morneau (135)

Alexi Casilla (46)                            Nick Punto (72)

Joe Crede (88)                                 Delmon Young (86)

Carlos Gomez (69)                         Michael Cuddyer (128)

Jason Kubel (138)

Off the bench, the Twins used

Denard Span (121) – Outfielder

Brendan Harris (83) – Backup Infielder

Orlando Cabrera (88) – Shortstop

Brian Buscher (86) – Third Baseman

and others.

Given that 100 is the OPS+ of an average player, the Twins problems are easy to see.  They played the entire year with below average second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, and at least one outfielder.  To win with this sort of hitting, you must have truly exceptional pitching.  The basic rotation was (ERA+ in parenthesis, 100 is average)

Scott Baker (93)                              Glen Perkins (70)

Francisco Liriano (71)                 Nick Blackburn (102)

Kevin Slowey (85)                        Anthony Swarzak (66)

Brian Duensing (113)

Only Blackburn and Duensing gave above average innings.  You combine substandard starting pitching with a lineup that is half below average, you cannot expect to make the playoffs.  Is there any hope that the current players will improve?  Yes.  Gomez, Swarzak, and Young are only 23, Casilla is 24, Liriano and Slowey are 25.  All are young enough that improvement is still possible.  The same is not true for Punto, Crede, Cabrera, Harris, or Buscher.  All have peaked and will only deteriorate from here on.  To improve next year, none of these players should be anything more than occasional fill-ins.  If they are replaced with nothing better than league average players, the Twins should see at least some improvement.  That strikes me as the first goal for the Twins:  Do not regularly field teams of whom half of the players are below average.

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6 Comments on “Saying Goodbye to the 2009 Twins”

  1. […] The Sports PhD Bringing analytical rigor to discussions of sports « Saying Goodbye to the 2009 Twins […]

  2. verdun Says:

    A slight reprieve for Crede. He lost half the season to injury. Don’t know he’s the answer to Twins 3rd Base problem, but if he’s healthy a full year he might be worth keeping.

    • sportsphd Says:

      My problem with Crede is that injuries should be expected. Looking here, he played 47 games in 2007, 97 in 2008, and now 90 in 2009. He used to be a solid player before he started getting hurt every year, but by now I think time has passed him by.

      • verdun Says:

        Crede seems to be at that stage of his career where he continually breaks down. That happens to a lot of players. Some never get healthy enough again to be productive players. Others, Mike Lowell comes instantly to mind, manage to get in a few more good years mixed in with long periods on the disabled list. Don’t know which is Crede. My guess is he’s the latter, but he might provide some production as a man off the bench.

  3. tracking back Saying Goodbye to the 2009 Twins… tracking back Saying Goodbye to the 2009 Twins…

  4. verdun Says:

    Would help if I could type. “Latter” should read “Former”

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