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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Twins 2008 Preview

She would listen to my chatter
as if every word I spoke mattered.
She'd hold me close and whisper in my ear.

 

In years past I've always been very eager to write my yearly Twins preview but this year is a bit different.  Throughout this offseason I haven't exactly sat down and thought about the 2008 season.  I've refused because it's kinda like getting the corrected test back that you just have a feeling you completely bombed.  You can almost feel the red marks bleeding through the paper.  2008 Twins baseball reeks of that fine red marker and after the last 7 years of above .500 baseball it might be humbling heading back to the mid nineties of Twins baseball.

First of all I should talk about this last offseason.  Twins lost Lew Ford, Jason Tyner, Luis Rodriguez, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Carlos Silva, Torri Hunter, and Johan Santana in some way over the off season.  A lot of those guys I'm either indifferent to losing or happy that they're gone.  Silva benefited from one hell of a pitchers market, Garza was traded, and Santana pretty much wanted out of here in the worst way and demanded to be traded in five minutes or he'd screw the Twins over--at least the way I see it. 

So let's take a look at the 2008 Twins starting pitchers

Livan Hernandez
Hernandez is the pitcher the Twins signed just before spring training and it already seems a bit of swallowing pride knowing that someone who hasn't been on the Twins for more than two months will be the official ace of the club.  He does have experience and he was a decent pickup--actually it was a little surprising that the Twins signed him with the market for pitchers skyrocketing.  He's never played in the American League so his stats should be a bit worse than usual.  He can eat up innings as well as anyone but he just seems a lot like a Carlos Silva and Carlos Silva has always been a 2-3 pitcher.  What's a bit sad is that it seems perfectly fine for him to be the opening day starter when analyzing the rest of the rotation.

10-17, 5.40 ERA

Scott Baker
The 2nd half of last year  was a bit impressive with Baker.  Last year we nearly saw him record a complete game against the Brewers and were oh excruciatingly close to seeing him pitch a no-hitter against the Royals.  The other games were mostly quality starts including some really good outings against Detroit and Cleveland.  I would love to think that he continues that nice pace of having an ERA in the 4 range but unfortunately his history is so sketchy that I don't want put my heart into it.  I will say that that IF he pitches like he did last year there is a chance that he could win 15 games in this bitch of a division.  Unfortunately he might start the season on the disabled list.

13-8, 4.70 ERA

Boof Bonser
Boof will win about 25 games and change the face of baseball. 

25-2 0.78 ERA

hmmm I wish.  Boof is another pitcher that seems to have the pitches (including a bit of a nasty curve ball) but when playing that chess match with the batter, the batter guessed right a lot last year.  I honestly think he could come out to be a decent 2-3 pitcher after enough experience.  The guy has only pitched 270 innings in his career and kept an ERA around 5 which is pretty impressive being in the AL central. 

12-12 5.00 ERA

Kevin Slowey
Or Brad Radke II as some people call him.  Slowey did walk two batters in a row at one point last year and that was truly shocking.  He did seem to feel more into place after his injury last year.  As with Boof, I think Slowey just needs some more experience and then he might be that token 'control pitcher' that the twins simply cannot do without. 

9-14 5.10

Kevin Blackburn...

pfff I have no damn clue.  I don't think I've ever seen this guy pitch so I'm not going to make a comment.

 

Bullpen

Juan Rincon
Jesse Crain
Brian Bass
Matt Guerrier
Pat Neshek
Dennys Reyes
Joe Nathan

I guess my first inclination is to take away Nathan, Neshek and Liriano and say that the bullpen might not be as good as years past.  Rincon gives me a big gulp every time he steps on the mount and I have my doubts if Reyes can stop left handed hitters like he did two years ago.  Crain is coming off of an injury that could very well end his career and Matt Guerrier just doesn't do anything for me.  Liriano will be interesting with him coming off of Tommy John surgery.  He wont be that guy from 2006 yet but this year is pretty much just him getting used to throwing a slider and getting to know his repair left arm.  The fact that some of these sportswriters are pimping him up just seems lazy and misleading.  2009 will be the year when Liriano is completely healthy. 

Lineup

Last year the lineup had a difficult time scoring runs.  Basically whenever Mauer and Morneau sucked, the whole lineup sucked with them.  The loss of Torii Hunter kinda hurts but Delmon Young will more than make up for Hunter...I still can't believe a team paid the guy $18 Million.  Basically the loss of Ford, Tyner, Rodriguez, and Punto (hopefully) being on the bench should be addition by subtraction enough to help this team score some runs.

Carlos Gomez CF
He's no Hunter but I do think there could be a chance that he'll be better than Hunter when Hunter was 22.  Gomez has already been compared to the fastest runners in baseball and has stolen over ten bases in spring training.  I even heard this guy ran out a two-hopper to the short stop!  He's considered a 4-5 tool player and could certainly be a superstar in the future but right now he doesn't have the baseball smarts to hold that title.  At the very least I believe this guy will be fun to watch, more enjoyable than Hunter and that is even if this guy bats .230. 

.250, 10HR, 38 RBI's

Joe Mauer
Now that Victor Martinez has stolen the AL catcher spotlight Mauer might have relax enough to maintain his defense and regain that offensive swing he had in 2006.  I do think he'll hit over .300 this year and the presence of Gomez on first might be enough to stifle a pitcher enough to give Mauer something to hit.  This year might be the year we possibly see more power from Mauer with him only hitting around ten homers a year.  He could hit 15-20 if he has a good year.

.325 13HR, 75 RBI's

Michael Cuddyer
I'm really liking this lineup so far (that is if Gardenhire goes with this lineup).  I think Cuddyer is at the mercy of the lineup at this point.  If Mauer hits well and Morneau hits well then there's no reason why Cuddyer should struggle.  His power in 2007 did fall a little bit but I do believe that has a lot to do with M&M (and I really hate that nickname) having substandard years than what was predicted for them.

.270 21HR, 98 RBI's

Justin Morneau
I'm a little worried about Morneau in that he struggled a bit in his last couple months of 2007.  Perhaps that was seeing Cleveland and Detroit run away with the division and him not caring but he should've hit better than he did.  His on base percentage went down 30 points.  Morneau might be a bit of a question mark but if he simply hits 30 home runs then it will be hard to call this season a slump.

.285 27HR, 110RBI's

Delmon Young
This is the guy that I can't wait to watch.  When the Twins acquired him in that trade with Matt Garza it seemed as if the whole organization just blew a load in their pants.  They even compared him to one of my favorite players in Vladimir Guerrero!  If this is the case then I really have GOT to see him.  I would almost like to see him bat between Mauer and Morneau just to see what kind of pitches he gets.  If Gomez can simply get on base then this 1-5 part of the lineup could be one of the best in baseball. 

.315 24HR, 105RBI's

Jason Kubel
I have a feeling (or a blatent wish) that this DH position is more of a platoon deal with Craig Monroe but Gardenhire doesn't necessarily do stuff like that.  Kubel has always had the hype around him being as good of a hitter as Mauer but has never lived up to it.  He only has about 700 at-bats which is about the amount that Torii Hunter had when he started hitting fairly well so perhaps this year he finds it.  He's in a good position in the line up to see some pitches.

.280 15HR 80 RBI's

Brendan Harris
I really don't know what to expect from this guy.  I actually thought Gardenhire would put his manservant, Nick Punto slotted for the second base position.  Harris did have a decent year in Tampa last year but he kinda sucks at 2nd base.  I dunno, the jury is still out

Mike Lamb
I was a bit happy that the Twins picked him up because A)he's an everyday third basement for...the...love...of...god and B) he's actually a decent third basement at that.  The guy should be miles better than Nick Punto (god, how did we survive a year of Punto at third?)

Adam Everett
Bill Smith actually has some hard evidence to suggest that Everett is a better shortstop than Derek Jeter and Everett is widely regarded as the best defensive shortstop in the game in sabremetric world.  They say that his fielding is so good that the fact that he sucks at hitting just doesn't even matter, he's just that good in the field.

 

I think ultimately this team should finish 4th just because of all the pitching questions.  I think this year is just a primer for the 2009 season and beyond because it's fairly apparent that they want to open the new stadium with a bang.  I do think it will be interesting to monitor the levels of Gomez, Young, and Liriano--those three players could really be bright spots this year in just seeing their potential.

As for the AL Central this year, I think it will go as follows

Detroit
Cleveland
Chicago
Twins
Royals

Go Twins....I guess

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