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Stuck Between Stations: a Minnesota Twins Preview

If baseball players were Street Fighter characters, Joe Mauer would be Vega.
If baseball players were Street Fighter characters, Joe Mauer would be Vega.

A brief look at an opponent we play this week (and throughout the season).

Offense: Denard Span-CF, Brian Dozier-SS, Joe Mauer-C/1B, Josh Willingham-LF, Justin Morneau-1B/DH, Ryan Doumit-C/DH, Trevor Plouffe-RF, Alexi Casilla-2B, Jamey Carroll-3B. Bench: Drew Butera-C, Ben Revere-OF.

MIN R/G: 3.78. CHW R/G: 4.14. AL Average: 4.36.

Part of me wants to feel bad for the Twins and this new horribleness that they've become. But I'm not that kind of person, so I don't. Denard Span has been a bright spot on a team in rather dire need of them. While it looks like he may never quite reach the lofty heights of his 2008 and 2009 seasons ever again, we shouldn't expect him to be quite as mediocre as he looked over the last two while batting. Denard is likely to be the type of hitter whose OBP and SLG are going to be incredibly similar numbers, which is half good (high OBP) and half bad (uninspiring power). Span is a good center fielder though and despite some questionable decisions on the basepaths so far this season, a good baserunner and thief. Brian Dozier just looks like the kind of player the Twins seem to have mass produced over the past decade. An average-sized white infielder with decent to good speed but little power? Boy howdy, sign them up! A combination of factors involving a few poor personnel decisions has resulted in Dozier becoming the team's starting shortstop. Baseball America had him listed as the farm system's best defensive infielder before the season, so he's got that going for him. Dozier isn't likely to be much of a threat offensively, at least not this year.

Like I said on the White Sox Off Day podcast last night, it's my opinion that Joe Mauer's big power spike in 2009 may have been the worst thing to happen to him in the non-injury division. Those 28 homeruns out of nowhere completely changed expectations for what Mauer could do and raised the bar to an unattainable new level that he has no chance of ever even approaching again. Joe has been seeing more time at first base this season, in an attempt to keep both him and Justin Morneau healthy and off the disabled list. Mauer is still a high-OBP type of player, but he's more likely to slug near .425 than anything higher. Early in his career he was very difficult to steal on, but that trend has reversed a bit and he's only caught three thieves out of eighteen attempts. Josh Willingham has been the team MVP so far and is doing his best to make Minnesotans completely forget Michael Cuddyer was once a thing. Despite playing in Oakland last season, Willingham was able to hit 29 homeruns and manage a .350 wOBA. Leaving the desolate wastelands by the Bay seems to have agreed with the Alabama native,as his plate discipline returned and his power numbers have spiked dramatically. Obviously he won't be able to sustain an ISO of .300 all season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he finally broke the 30 homerun barrier that has held him down for far too long. The Twins need him to hit this well, not only because the rest of the offense is bad, but because Willingham is an awful defender.

Justin Morneau seems to be mostly if not completely over his concussion issues, which is something everyone who likes baseball should be happy about. He did injure his wrist earlier this season, but wrist injuries are much less frightening than having a brain that constantly feels like it's shaking, so I feel considerably less terrible about that. He's still not drawing walks like he used to and his strikeout rate is a bit elevated, but his power seems to have returned so one would expect everything to fall into line eventually. He won't be spending nearly as much time at first base than in the past, which will hamper his value. Morneau still has one year left on his contract, but don't expect to see him in the Twin Cities after that unless he re-signs on the cheap. Ryan Doumit and his terrifying demon/shark eyes is the third man/unholy Hell beast in Ron Gardenhire's game of musical 1B/C/DH (it's not a very exciting game, as there are enough chairs for all contestants). Doumit is almost hitting exactly his career triple slash line, which I find amusing and appreciate. It's nice to see someone living up to the exact type of season they're supposed to have. Every clock Ryan Doumit owns is synchronized and every bowl of breakfast cereal has exactly the same number of Froot Loops in it. He has decent power for a catcher, but underwhelming power for someone playing first or DHing. He's bad behind the plate, but has a decent arm for throwing out runners.

Trevor Plouffe is bad at baseball. His wOBA in AAA was below average until his fourth time through and it's only gotten worse since reaching the majors. He's not very good defensively either, so it's not like he'd make a very good fourth or fifth outfielder. He has alright power and could hit fifteen homeruns or so this season, but he's not much more than a replacement player and isn't likely to develop into anything more than that. This is getting more and more depressing the further along this article/post/column (I never know what to call these things) goes.. Alexi Casilla is working on seeing how long a player can have a triple slash line with every number beginning with .2 and not be demoted or relegated to the bench. So far the answer to his depressing experiment is 33 games. His BABIP isn't horribly off his career line, but his ability to draw walks and his already limited power have completely abandoned him thus far in 2012. He's still playing good defense and is a capable thief, but he really needs to get his OPS back over .600 if he wants to stop murdering the team. If you combined Ryan Doumit's eyes with Jamey Carroll's face/terrifying smile, I'm pretty sure you'd get the rough beast William Butler Yeats described slouching towards Bethlehem. Carroll was doing fine at short, but Danny Valencia was an abomination at third so Jamey was moved over to his right. Carroll has good plate discipline and is strong defensively wherever Gardy may decide to place him, but that's about all he has going for him. He has about as much power as I do out there.

Pitching: Carl Pavano-RHP, Jason Marquis-RHP, Scott Diamond-LHP, P.J. Walters-RHP, Matt Capps-CL.

MIN RA/G: 5.49. CHW: RA/G: 3.93. AL Average: 4.28.

Yeah, the Twins offense is bad, but a pitching staff giving up a half run more per game than the next worst team in the league (the Boston Red Sox, of all teams) is the true reason Minnesota has the worst record of all. The Twins strange strategy of not drafting, signing, or trading for pitchers that can actually strike hitters out has finally resulted in egg all over the collective faces of the franchise. Carl Pavano is the ace of this pitching staff. Let that sink in. Ready? Okay. Yes, since joining the Twins he's never posted a K/BB lower than 2.55. But he's also never posted a K/9 above 4.76. Even for a groundballer, that number is horrifically low. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense to be flawless and the offense to try and dig them out of the holes Pavano is putting them in. Carl throws a sinker in the upper-80s about half of the time, also mixing in a four-seamer of the same speed, a changeup, and a slider.

Jason Marquis is another guy you may be shocked still has a career. Don't feel bad, I'm in the same boat (it's a catamaran). His season has started almost as terribly as possible. He's given up a homerun every 3.77 innings he's pitched, he's walked two more hitters than he's struck out, and everything is currently falling for a hit (.352 BABIP). But at least he's good for 4.85 innings a start! Marquis is using a sinker in the upper-80s for 60% of his pitches. Maybe that's not working so well. He also has a slider and a changeup. Scott Diamond is off to a very good start that doesn't seem destined to last much longer. Yeah, he'll be able to keep his K/9 up around 6, but nothing from his past suggests he'll be able to keep his BB/9 below 2.5, much less at 0.93. Diamond keeps the ball down, which is always a smart strategy, but especially when your corner outfielders are bad. Scotty has a four-seamer in the upper-80s/low-90s range, a slider, and a changeup.

P.J. Walters is living proof that some people actually still go by the name P.J. I don't know that I've ever met one, but hey, according to the internet P.J. Walters is an actual human and capable of pitching baseballs at a high level. Walters is currently sporting a 100% LOB%, which is as impressive as it is fluky. Walters doesn't have good enough command of his pitches to be anything more than an okay back of the rotation kind of guy. Pitch f/x is not showing any data for him so far this year, despite his 12.1 innings, so I'm using last year's numbers for this next part. Peej has a four-seamer in the upper-80s (like everyone else in this boring rotation), a sinker, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. Matt Capps serves as a constant reminder to Twins fans that trading for someone with "closer experience" is often a stupid thing to do. For the low, low price of Wilson Ramos' burgeoning career the Twins obtained a thoroughly bland and uninspiring closer. Hooray! Capps doesn't get strikeouts and allows far too many homeruns. He may be the worst closer we've seen so far this year (I can think of no worse off the top of my head. Maybe Kevin Gregg?). Matt throws a sinker in the low-90s, a four-seamer around there, a changeup, a slider, and a cutter.

Outlook: This is the worst Twins team in recent memory, maybe even dating back to the days when contraction almost wiped them out. That being said, they are still the Twins and will find a way to be annoying. Season series record of 12-6. No talent, no mercy.