-2010 W/L: 94/68 (-7)
-RS/RA: 781/671 (-36/-94)
-Starter ERA: 4.17 (-0.67)
-Bullpen ERA: 3.49 (-0.38)
-2010 Attendance: 3,223,640 (+807,403)
-Offense WAR: 25.2 (+1.2)
-Defense WAR: -3.2 (+0.6)
-Pitchers WAR: 22.7 (+)
What went right? A major rebound from Francisco Liriano and a terrific campaign from Carl Pavano gave the Twins the best 1-2 punch in the AL Central in 2010 with 4.6 WAR apiece. The Twins bullpen depth, and some smart trades, allowed them to lose Joe Nathan without missing a beat. The Twins offense was among the best in the league, despite a slight but significant regression-to-the-mean by Joe Mauer. Particularly noteworthy were Jim Thome’s 178 OPS+ and 3.5 WAR at age 39 and the very definite arrival of Delmon Young. So how is it that the offense was better, but scored fewer runs than last year? In the ‘year of the pitcher’ all these things are relative.
What went wrong? Aside from the aforementioned regression by Joe Mauer, very little. With the opening of their new ballpark, the Twins spent more than they ever had, and drew more fans as well. Morneau missed the end of the season and the playoffs, and despite all their talent and expectations the Twins were quickly eliminated from the playoffs once again.
Looking Forward: though Twins fans have come to expect to win the Central, particularly now that they may have finally shed that small-market label, the team on the whole might be due for a regression. This is not meant to imply that the Twins will fall from contention, only that it probably won’t take 94 wins to take the division next year. Liriano may be able to keep this up; if anything it was a surprise that he hadn’t pitched like this all along. Pavano, on the other hand, probably won’t no matter where he winds up next year. Swingman Duensing pitched over his head, and will probably never hit 3.7 WAR again. Joe Nathan will be back at some point, but will he be the same Joe Nathan? Most of the Twins bullpen seems to be eligible for free agency this year (an exaggeration, but a slight one), so who knows who will be pitching for them next year? Minnesota’s offense is going to stay strong, but losing Thome’s unlikely surge would take a bite out of it. There are many, many decisions to be made this offseason for Minnesota (Hudson, Hardy, etc…) so projecting their next season this early is a bit like throwing darts blindfolded. If Twins ownership is willing to spend a few more dollars, the whole picture could look very different in a couple of months – but exactly how much money is Pohlad’s estate willing to throw at the team?