Pick up the Slack: Twins season preview
The good news is that it can’t get any worse.
A season after losing 99 games, the Minnesota Twins look to bounce back to at least being a respectable team in 2012.
The common thought that is for that to be a reality, there needs to be a return to form from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
In the case of Mauer that appears to be true, but less so for Morneau.
Morneau missed half of 2010 when the Twins went 94-68, and Minnesota erased a seven-game September deficit in 2009 without him in the lineup.
Anything Morneau is able to bring would be a bonus, but not necessarily a necessity. More important will simply be getting better production out of positions that struggled last year.
But the biggest key will be the pitching staff, specifically the starting rotation.
The bullpen was shaky at best a year ago, but that was magnified due to a lack of innings from the starters.
The deeper the starters can get into games, the less stress that will be placed on middle relievers and the higher percentage of innings that can go to capable arms in Glen Perkins and Matt Capps.
Outlook: The Twins need Detroit to break down a bit and regress to the mean after a number of players had standout seasons a year ago.
The addition of Prince Fielder makes the Tigers’ lineup very fearsome, but since the player he will be replacing, Victor Martinez, had an on-base percentage of .380, slugged .470 and drove in 103 runs a year ago, his presence probably won’t mean as much as it’s being out to made.
Closer Jose Valverde is unlikely to go 49-for-49 in save opportunities and Justin Verlander is probably going to be more like the 18-9 version of himself from 2010 than the 24-5 Cy Young winner he was last year.
But is Minnesota going to be able to make up a 31-win differential? Not unless it has near perfect health, a great record in close games and the Tigers self-destruct.