3 Keys for Success
- Improve the defense
We’ve already discussed it. The Twins—once known for being one of the best defensive teams in baseball under Ron Gardenhire—struggled mightily to field the ball a season ago. Two of the Twins’ most prominent pitchers a season ago proved that based on their FIP rates.
The common fielding statistics don’t tell the story as convincingly—they were eighth in errors, 97, and fielding percentage, .984, according to baseball-reference.com.
What those statistics are incapable of capturing is the range or run saving abilities of certain fielders. Only catcher Kurt Suzuki (even), third baseman Trevor Plouffe (+2) and first baseman Joe Mauer (+3) were even or above in this category, among regulars.
This should be something the Twins emphasize in Spring Training. They really need to get back to Twins baseball. It would help the pitching staff insurmountably, and by extension, help cut into the large range between last season’s expected 75 wins and actual 70.
- Can Paul Molitor manage?
No statistics need be harmed in the making of this subpoint. Paul Molitor is a Hall of Fame player. He is a Minnesota Twins legend. But can he manage a Major League Baseball team? It’s a simple question.
Of course a manager has to get his start somewhere. But they generally come through the ranks as a coach or manager in the minor leagues, or at least as an assistant coach in the bigs.
But the reality is that Molitor is about as inexperienced managing as man could be as he enters his first season leading the Twins. He did spend three years on Tom Kelly’s bench as the bench coach. But that was forever ago. He then was the hitting coach in Seattle for a season in 2004.
But that’s about it. Last season he was a roving instructor for the Twins, but that is altogether different from managing the major league team. We’ll see how it turns out. Molitor is obviously a “baseball man”, and his work in Minnesota will endear him to fans. But that doesn’t mean that starting out as a first-time manager at age 58, he is prepared to win in Minnesota.
- Keep Hitting the Ball
Seventh in scoring is great, especially for a team playing in Target Field. Even more is it impressive given the relative no-name status of the Twins’ starting nine. Joe Mauer is of course a fabulous hitter, but lacks premium pop.
Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana are potential superstars in the making, in part because they get on base well, as does the majority of the Twins’ lineup. But there is still pop missing. Second baseman Brian Dozier led the team in 2014 with 23 bombs.
The Twins hope a full season with Santana will allow them to take advantage of his on-base skills, and speed—we didn’t mention that he stole 20 bases a season ago. And Torii Hunter still appears to be a run producer even at his advanced age.
It almost seems automatic that this team will continue to score. But many of the hitters had career years in 2014, and none of those were the type you’d write home to mom about.
So we’ll see.
Next: How much can Twins improve in 2015?