Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's the Twins' biggest problem?

The folks over at the Star Tribune had an interesting poll that I passed over yesterday. The poll asks readers, "What's the Twins' biggest problem?"and then it gives fans seven choices. There are quite a wide variety of selections to choose from and each one of the choices has been given some votes by the readers. As of this morning, there had been well over 5,000 people that had taken the poll and two answers stood out above the rest.

Mistakes by the front office
With 31% of the vote, Twins fans have put a lot of blame on Twins GM Bill Smith and the other members of his staff. The toughest thing for fans could be the fact that JJ Hardy is in town and having a decent series against his former team. His replacement at SS, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, has been out of the line-up and underperforming all season. The Twins also let many of their best relief options leave the team as free agents. The club tried to fill those roles with players from within the organization (see "Lousy relief pitching" below).

Bad starting pitching
It has been tough to watch some of the recent outings by the starting staff of the Twins. Pitchers are struggling to go late into games. The team has relied on the bullpen more often than it should have to over the course of a season. Fans have taken notice of the above listed facts and this came in second in the poll with 24% of the vote. Scott Baker has been the best starter for the Twins and he has made multiple trips to the disabled list. Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, and Brian Duensing are all in the MLB top 12 for hits allowed and runs allowed this season.

Poor years for Mauer and Morneau
The M&M Boys have frustrated fans enough to finish third in this very unscientific poll. It is going to be hard for any team to succeed when the two best offense players on the squad miss a significant amount of playing time. Even since they have been back in the line-up, they have not been themselves from the offensive side of the ball. Fingers are crossed in the Twins organization that both of these players can show some life in the last few weeks of the year. Both players will be back in the line-up next year and the Twins need production from their former MVPs.

Weak offense
The fourth place finisher in the poll is tied to some of the other problems that have already been discussed. The poor years by Mauer and Morneau are going to be at the heart of the Twins offensive woes. Trips to the disabled list have caused almost every player on the Twins roster to miss some time. Delmon Young regressed enough from last season that the Twins got him out of town. The Twins also relied on an unproven middle infield prospect from Japan that has not worked out in favor of the team.

Lousy relief pitching
The Twins core of relief pitchers has cost the team multiple wins this season but fans seem to put more of the blame on the starters. The Twins have been forced to use three different closers for saves this year. There have been multiple players that have been back and forth between Rochester and Minnesota as the team tries to figure out who is the best options in the bullpen. The Twins knew at the onset of the season that there would be a lot of unproven help in the bullpen. That was a risk the team was willing to take and it backfired on the organization.

Terrible defense
The Twins have prided themselves on having solid defense behind their pitchers. This stems from the fact that the team's pitching philosophy has been to pitch to contact. If the defense can't make the plays, the pitcher doesn't want to pitch to contact. The younger players the Twins have relied on this season have provided some headaches with their mental slips on the field. The positive side of the coin is that each of these players is learning from their mistakes. That could be a great help to the 2012 version of the Twins.

Wrong decisions by Ron Gardenhire
Fans seem to be on the side of their manager in this poll. Gardenhire has been having a tough time doing any managing in a year when there have been few options on the bench. Following a season in which he won the Manager of the Year Award, Gardy has tried to bring some respectability to a team that is struggling to find wins. As a former coach, I can assume that Gardenhire has worked a lot harder with this younger group of unproven players than last year when everything seemed to click for the team. That is part of the ups-and-downs of coaching.

What do you think is the Twins' biggest problem?

Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

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Andrew said...

I took this poll yesterday and struggled to choose only one. In fact, as of right now, I can't recall what I picked. I think first in blame would be the front office for essentially the reasons you outlined; second would have to be "general team health," i.e., M & M and disabled list issues; thereafter, pitching and defense. This was a poll where there's really no wrong answer!

The Scruffy Rube said...

Agreed--every answer works in this little exercise. The Twins biggest problem is that they had all of these problems simultaneously. I'd put the biggest onus on the starting pitching--but that's probably because they're the most recent problem. If anything it's not having ready replacements for the injured and the ineffective, hopefully a year of seasoning fixes that problem too.