Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Five Reasons Not to Sleep on the Twins

Over the past few days, I have read and heard a great deal of chatter regarding the Twins woes against the Yankees over the past few years. Many, it seems, view last season in particular as proof-positive that the Yankees may as well begin planning their travel arrangements for the American League Championship Series. The past can be a fine predictor of the future in some circumstances, but it is fairly limited - particularly on the team level, where both the Twins and Yankees look very different from their 2010 versions.
  1. Francisco Liriano is back, providing the Twins with the ace-presence that they've been sorely lacking over the past few seasons. The American League Comeback Player of the Year finished in the top-five in FIP, xFIP, K/BB, GB/FB, and WAR, besting Sabathia in each (with whom I'd argue he matches-up quite well).
  2. Justin Morneau wasn't around last year, either - but this time around the Twins have Jim Thome picking up the slack. Thome batted .283/.412/.627 with 25 HR for the Twins this season, giving the Twins the tremendous middle of the order presence that they lacked in 2009.
  3. Delmon Young (finally) broke out, batting .298/.333/.493 with 21 HR, and improving as the season wore on. He also mashes lefties, batting .314/.368/.564 against them, serving well to break-up either Mauer and Thome or Thome and Kubel.
  4. In 2009, the bottom of the Twins line-up was some combination of Casilla, Punto, and Harris - this year, it's Hudson, Hardy, and Valencia. What once was a veritable black hole is now among the more solid bottom-thirds in the American League.
  5. The Twins bullpen is among the very best in the game, and has only improved with the additions of Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes. Yes, that Fuentes - but instead of closing and giving up massive platoon splits, he's served as a light's out lefty specialist ... and may be the best in the game at that role.
In the end, I'm not arguing that the Twins should be the favorite. I'm not even arguing that this series will end up being close, as I do think (perhaps too optimistically) that the Yankees will snap into overdrive with the beginning of the playoffs. However, I'm also quite certain that this Twins team is incredibly solid in all facets of the game, and it'd be far from an upset if they advanced to the ALCS.

blog comments powered by Disqus