Minnesota Twins: a decade of difference

Minnesota Twins, Paul Molitor

Minnesota Twins

One decade ago, the Minnesota Twins were at the top of their game. Now, they’re seen at the bottom, struggling to fight back.

From 2002-2004, the Twins were a three-time A.L. Central Division winning team, posting season records of 94-67, 90-72, and 92-70. In the past three seasons, from 2011-2013, they have been landing at the bottom of the division, posting season records of 63-99, 66-96, and 66-96.

How has a team gone from one of the best in the league to one of the worst in the time span of a decade? This article will compare pitching and hitting percentages in the two sets of years as well as a prospective outlook to the coming 2014 season.

From 2002-2004, pitching ERA was averaging around 4.12, 4.41, and 4.04.When it comes to batting, the Twins were bringing in 731, 755, and 735 RBIs a season, with slugging percentages showing at .437, .431, and .431.

From 2011-2013, those numbers have dramatically changed. Pitching ERAs are averaging at 4.60, 4.77, and 4.56. RBIs are down to 572, 667, and 590 a season. And slugging percentages have taken a toll as well, showing averages of .360, .390, and .380.

In 2002, the year the Twins had the most wins, Rick Reed had the best pitching record, going 15-7 with 3.78 ERA. Torii Hunter was the best batter for the team, posting a slugging percentage of .524 and 94 RBI.

In 2011, the year the Twins had the most losses, three pitchers pulled in a season-high nine wins, but with 14, 10, and 13 losses: Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, and Carl Pavano. They’re ERAs were at 5.23, 5.09, and 4.30. Michael Cuddyer was one of the few players who played a high level for the majority of the season, and had a slugging percentage of .459, with 70 RBI.

A couple things could be reasons for the disheartening decline. Over the years, like any other team, the Twins have had to battle injuries that keep players from regular play. Players have been traded, sometimes posting better numbers once they have left, like David Ortiz. More importantly, there has simply been a lack of consistent productivity on the game field, where players have not been performing at the height of what they are expected to play at.

So, in order to sidestep what has been taking place in the past few years, the Twins have made some moves in order to correct those problems and possibly have a better outcome for the 2014 season. According to Maureen Mullen of MLB.com, Paul Molitor has been hired to the Twins coaching staff, and will oversee the team’s base-running, bunting, infield instruction and position, as well as assist in in-game strategy. As a seven-time All-Star and multiple award winner, Molitor had a batting average of .306, hit 234 home runs, stole 504 bases and racked up 1,307 RBI. With his infield expertise and experience under the belt, there should be no doubt that some improvement will be seen in current Twins players for the upcoming season.

The Twins have also been looking at Byron Buxton, who according to MLB.com, Baseball America, ESPN, Baseball Prospectuc and Fangraphs.com is the No. 1 prospect for the 2014 baseball season, and is coming off a year of playing in the Minors. In 125 games that Buxton played in Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Fort Meyers, MLB reporter Rhett Bollinger said he hit a combined .334/.424/.520 average, 19 doubles, 18 triples and 12 home runs. Buxton also has 109 runs, 77 RBI and 55 stolen bases under his belt as well. With much potential, the major leagues will be a testing zone to see how much he can bring to the plate. If Buxton could post the same numbers, and if the Twins pick him up, the team could see even more improvement in their slugging percentage and overall statistics.

Now, would it mean that the Twins will automatically bounce back and possibly win the division this coming season? Probably not. With anything, it will take time to rebuild to how the Twins were performing in the 2002-2004 seasons. But, by bringing in key people like Molitor and possibly Buxton, there could be some notable improvement in the statistics and in the A.L. Central Division standings.