2007 Minnesota Twins (A Look Forward)

The Minnesota Twins off season has been fairly inactive compared to many teams throughout Major League Baseball. That isn’t to say that there hasn’t been changes, though the Twins likely don’t need to many tweaks before ’07. Minnesota has always been known for their ability to fully utilize their farm system for growth from within but don’t let that get you to thinking this is a rebuilding year for them; It is not. And it is very apparent that the Twins don’t think so as well, as evidenced by picking up the $12M option on Torii Hunter for ’07, though there is likely a longer term relationship in store for him.

Probably the largest change for the Twins is the loss of a major member of their 2006 starting rotation: Brad Radke. Radke epitomizes the Twins franchise players having started and ended his 12 year career with the team posting a 4.22 lifetime ERA. We’ll get back to the impact this will have on the Tigers in a moment.

Other notable moves:

  • Twins sign one year contract worth $2.5M with Rondell White, someone Tiger fans should be familiar with. Though he makes a point to say he is looking for an everyday role and will show up for spring training ten pounds lighter. Good luck.
  • Twins sign a one year contract worth $1.5M with Jeff Cirillo (formerly of the Brewers) who likely will be used as a utility infielder and DH.
  • Willie Eyre and the Twins part ways while they re-sign Luis Rodriguez. Last year was Eyre’s first year in the bigs and it wasn’t a bad year posting a 5.31 ERA in 42 appearances and 59.3 innings from the bullpen. He has since been signed to a Minor League contract with the Texas Rangers and will be fighting for a spot in spring training.
  • Twins select shortstop Alejandro Machado in the Rule 5 draft. Alejandro has seen a total of 5 ABs in the big leagues all in 2005 for Boston, though he batted .300 for Pawtucket in ’05 but went down a bit in ’06 hitting .260.

One issue that is still hurting is the loss of Francisco Liriano to Tommy John surgery for the ’07 season. Even then, it might be rather difficult to get back to the level of play that he exhibited during the 2006 season.

That sums up the Twins off season moves thus far. Now we’ll take a look at what this means for the Detroit Tigers in ’07.

Starting Rotation

The Twins started the ’06 season with the following starting lineup:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Brad Radke
  3. Carlos Silva
  4. Kyle Lohse
  5. Scott Baker

This was not a successful lineup and the Twins quickly changed the lineup in mid-May calling up Boof Bonser from Rochester and moving Francisco Liriano from the bullpen into the starting rotation. From here the rotation was not stable and once Liriano left the rotation due to injury the Twins called up Matt Garza from Rochester. Garza is one of Minnesota’s highly touted prospects and had only pitched 34 innings of AAA ball and started the year in High-A before being called into the Twins rotation. Lohse was traded mid season to the Reds for a minor league player.

The Twins currently list their rotation as:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. Boof Bonser
  3. Carlos Silva
  4. Matt Garza
  5. Glen Perkins

The only new face here is Glen Perkins who spent most of last year in AA New Britain with a 3.91 ERA and only pitched a statistically insignificant 5.2 innings with the Twins. Perkins never faced the Tigers so we cannot look at his stats there but the Tigers have seen the rest of the lineup so lets see how they fared. We’ll also take a look at other pitchers we are likely to see.

Player Date IP H R ER ERA HR BB SO
Johan Santana May 7 7.0 4 2 2 2.57 1 1 11
  May 17 8.0 4 2 2 2.40 1 1 12
  Jul 30 5.1 9 3 3 3.13 0 4 2
  Aug 9 7.0 4 3 3 3.32 1 2 10
  Sept 10 6.1 2 0 0 2.71 0 2 11
Boof Bonser Sept 9 7.0 5 1 1 1.28 0 2 5
Carlos Silva Apr 29 2.2 9 9 9 36.82 3 0 3
  May 18 1.0 1 0 0 25.31 0 2 0
Matt Garza Sept 08 4.1 5 4 4 8.78 0 4 6
Scott Baker May 06 6.0 7 4 4 6.00 2 0 5
  Sept 07 5.0 9 5 5 7.36 2 0 2

As you can see, Johan Santana was the most consistent starter for the Twins and that might continue into next season. Many of the starters are very new, though as we know that can sometimes turn out very well for a team. Many pitchers tendency to give up the long ball to the Tigers was an issue, this was certainly the case for Scott Baker, Silva and to some extent Santana though his ability to strike out the Tigers in amazing numbers certainly helped his cause.

We are likely to see some struggles and adjustments through the start of the ’07 season as I doubt much of their starting rotation will be fully set or comfortable after spring training. The Twins ability to solidify this lineup and have it provide quality starts will be a major part of their potential success next year. I have reasonable confidence that they will be able to do so as they have incredible depth in their bullpen and farm system to select from.

Bullpen

The Twins have a very promising bullpen, one that held very well in ’06 and will continue to do so into ’07. A many number of these bullpen member wreaked havoc on the Tigers lineup last year. We won’t take a look at each member and zero in on a few that are likely to stand in the Tigers way next year.

The core of the Twins bullpen consists of, along w/ their ERA vs the Tigers and overall ERA:

Player ERA vs Tigers ERA Player ERA vs Tigers ERA
Jessie Crain 6.84 3.57 Juan Rincon 2.14 2.95
Matt Guerrier 1.59 3.36 Joe Nathan 4.50 1.58
Dennys Reyes 0.00 0.89 Pat Neshek 1.70 2.19

Each of these pitchers performed admirably against the Tigers in ’06 and are a young bunch for the most part. Joe Nathan was their closer and had a great year overall. Don’t let his ERA vs the Tigers fool you, the Tigers had a difficult time figuring him out and the majority of the runs came in one bad outing.

Reyes was good last year as well though the Tigers only faced him for 2.7 innings over 5 outings so long term projections against Detroit would be difficult right now. Neshek was a pleasant addition for the Twins as well, the hard throwing, side-armed, right-hander was added to the bullpen in early July and gave the Tigers right-handed hitters a tough time.

Going into ’07 the Twins have their bullpen very much intact and you can bet on their continued success against the Tigers and MLB.

Hitting

Not too much extra can be said about the Twins offense; they are powerful. They also did not disappoint Twins fans last year against the Tigers. Taking a look at the top 6 Twins players with greater than 15 ABs against the Tigers this past year shows impressive numbers:

Player AB H R HR BB OBP SLG AVG Season AVG
M Redmon 18 8 3 0 1 .500 .566 .444 .341
J Mauer 58 22 8 1 7 .439 .500 .379 .347
L Castillo 75 25 10 1 7 .393 .427 .333 .296
T Hunter 59 29 9 1 5 .391 .458 .339 .278
J Morneau 59 17 8 2 10 .391 .441 .288 .321
J Tyner 26 9 4 0 2 .367 .423 .346 .312

Really though most of these stats were accumulated later in the season and there were certainly a few Tiger pitchers who looked forward to facing the Twins battery. All Tiger pitchers who faced the Twins in ten or more innings ended the year with an ERA below 3.38 with the exception of Jeremy Bonderman. I’m sure we all remember Bonderman’s issues with the Twins late in the game. Justin Verlander ended the year with 0.82 ERA over 22 IP against the Twins coming away with a record of 3-0.

Conclusion

Despite being very strong in the bullpen as well as offense, starting pitching will be what holds back the Twins in ’07. Without getting those crucial quality starts the bullpen won’t really be a factor, though there will certainly be times when the Twins can just out slug their opponent.

Overall it will be a successful year for the Twins though this will not be their year against the Tigers. With starting pitching and most of the bullpen still together for Detroit, it will just be too much for the Twins to handle.

The Tigers have 18 games scheduled against Minnesota in ’07, six of which are scheduled at the end of September which could end up proving to be very crucial games. Detroit does have the luxury of having the last series played at home.

Below is the schedule of games:

Date Time Park Date Time Park Date Time Park
Apr 27 7:05pm Comerica Park Jun 29 7:05pm Comerica Park Sept 14 8:10pm Metrodome
Apr 28 1:05pm Comerica Park June 30 7:05pm Comerica Park Sept 15 7:10pm Metrodome
Apr 29 1:05pm Comerica Park Jul 1 1:05pm Comerica Park Sept 16 2:10pm Metrodome
May 11 8:10pm Metrodome Jul 17 8:10pm Metrodome Sept 24 7:10pm Comerica Park
May 12 7:10pm Metrodome Jul 18 8:10pm Metrodome Sept 25 7:10pm Comerica Park
May 13 2:10pm Metrodome Jul 19 1:10pm Metrodome Sept 26 7:10pm Comerica Park

Tigers win season series 11-7

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