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by user Timothy Moreland
This pitching staff will not be as good as last years staff because they are reliant on pitchers who don't strike batters out. Last year they got great production from these starters, but this type of pitcher does not fair well over the years. However, I will start with the one guy guaranteed to be on the staff that strikes out a ton of batters, Johan Santana. Santana is the most dominant pitcher in the majors. He dominates the strike zone (9.2 K/9), doesn't allow many HRs (.85 HR/9), like all Twins starters, doesn't allow free passes (1.7 BB/9), balls in play turn into hits infrequently (7.0 H/9) and he is a groundball pitcher (40% GB). If you look at all the important performance stats, Santana is without a weakness. Brad Radke, on the other hand, has a couple weaknesses. To counter his strength of control(1.0 BB/9), Radke struggles with the HR ball and only struckout 5.2 per 9. However, I think Radke has a better chance than any of the following pitchers with improving upon his ERA (4.04). Last year, Carlos Silva was great(3.44 ERA), but it wasn't all positive. He only had a K rate of 3.4 and allowed 10.2 H/9. I think Silva is more of a low-4.00s pitcher than a mid-3.00s; however, he only walked 0.4 per nine (WOW!!). Kyle Lohse, who has a career ERA of 4.72, succeeded with a 4.18 ERA last year. Although Lohse is only 27, one would expect that ERA to jump back up because of his 1.43 WHIP last year. He allows too many baserunners and showed no real improvements last year to convince me his ERA will stay that low. The #5 spot is split between Scott Baker (24 years old) and Francisco Liriano (22), with the favorite being Liriano. In Baker, the Twins have another low strikeout guy (5.4 K/9). Although, his groundall rate (35%) bodes well. Liriano is more along the lines of Santana than the rest of the staff. He could be the second best pitcher on this staff as early as this year, if given the chance. Last year, he dominated AAA (1.78 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) and looked impressive in the majors, although his ERA (5.70) did not tell the true story. His K rate was an extremely impressive 12.5 but he struggled with the HR ball (1.5/9). But not to worry, Liriano has not struggled in the past with the HR ball so it was probably a case of a small sample size. In Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon, the Twins bullpen has one of the best closer and setup-man duos. Matt Guerrier could be valuable but I don't see anything else in their 'pen. No, I have no faith in Crain until he learns to strike a guy or two out (2.8 K/9). In the minors, Crain had K rates in the 9's and 10's. What happened??? As a positive, the Twins have a highly healthy staff with little risk of any significant injuries.
<stats> Player=Johan Santana Type=Pitching Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Brad Radke Type=Pitching Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Carlos Silva Type=Pitching Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Kyle Lohse Type=Pitching Years=2004, 2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Scott Baker Type=Pitching Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Francisco Liriano Type=Pitching Years=2004,2005 </stats>
At leadoff, Luis Castillo starts the lineup off solidly; although, last year's problems with his hamstring, quad, knee and hip are nothing to be excited about. The turf may further the leg issues. Last year, his OBP was .391, which is terrific for a leadoff guy and that helps to offset a complete lack of power in both HRs (4) and 2Bs (12). Unfortunately, it appears as though Castillo is done as any kind of stolen base threat. Historically, his defense has been strong and was especially so last year. No good reason exists for having Shannon Stewart at the #2 spot in the order. He had a .323 OBP last year and does not bring any power to the plate. A run-in with the wall damaged Stewart's shoulder and I have a feeling it will be hard for him to recover. Lew Ford, demoted to the bench, would be a better bat in LF than Stewart. Fortunately, the Twins follow up their biggest hole with their best hitter, Joe Mauer. This 23-year-old catcher can hit and field, making him one of the top ten most valuable players to have on your team for the next 5 or so years. His HRs will pass into the double-digit territory and his OBP will stay strong around .370. Justin Morneau will either be the second best hitter in this lineup or the worst, along with Tony Batista. Last year's freak injuries for Morneau destroyed his chances of showing off his bat, but this year he will put it all together. At the plate, Morneau has the potential to become a star without a doubt. If he reaches the neighborhood of 575 PA's, then expect 30 HRs and a .340ish OBP. Before the broken ankle, Torii Hunter was racking up SBs and should continue where he left off. Last year, Hunter was having his best offensive season, outside of 2002, in his career. For a CF, Hunter remains an above average hitter and his defense is a positive, although a little overrated. Rondell White will split a lot of time with bench players but he can contribute when called upon. Last year was impressive for a part-time player (.313/.347/.489). Unfortunately, the more he plays, the more likely he will get hurt again. Mike Cuddyer is a mediocore hitter and, at 27 years old, will never be anything more. Even still, he is better than Batista. Last year, Batista accomplished a .292 OBP in Japan. Imagine how he is going to fair this year when he rejoins the U.S. and faces superior competition. I'll venture to guess, no better than his career .298 OBP. On the plus side, Batista is a great fielder but not great enough to justify having his bat on a MLB team. The Twins finish off their batting order with a no-hit/all-field shortstop. At best, Bartlett will hit a little above average for a SS, but his fielding adds some significant value. There aren't any standouts on the bench but a lot of these starters possess positional flexibility, which may help to preserve the health of this team.
Projected Batting Order
<stats> Player=Luis Castillo Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Shannon Stewart Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Joe Mauer Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Justin Morneau Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
CF Torii Hunter
<stats> Player=Torii Hunter Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Rondell White Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Mike Cuddyer Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
3B Tony Batista
<stats> Player=Tony Batista Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
<stats> Player=Jason Bartlett Type=Batting Years=2004,2005 </stats>
Projection: 83-79 3rd in the AL Central...This division is ridiculously close. I can see the Twins finishing fourth about as easily as I can see them finishing first, or second, or third for that matter. The obvious holes in the lineup and my pessimism toward the starters places the Twins just behind the White Sox.
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Wed 03/15/06, 3:09 pm EST