I had a radio spot on ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis today, and during the interview, I repeated something that I’ve been saying for a month or so now – I think the Twins are the best team in baseball. I get why people don’t see it that way, as they aren’t as star studded as the Yankees, Rays, or even the Rangers, but what they lack in name value, they make up for with sheer quantity of useful players.
Really, who is the worst player on the Twins who will see significant playing time in October? Probably Jason Kubel, who doesn’t hit enough to make up for his defensive problems in the outfield. But Kubel, while not a good player, is also not a terrible one. He’s a league average hitter, maybe a little bit better, and on days when the ball isn’t hit towards him, he’s just fine. He isn’t actively taking wins off the board, and there’s reason to think he may perform better in the playoffs than he did during the 2010 season.
The same goes for Michael Cuddyer, who is basically the same kind of player – decent bat, bad defense. Both of them have their uses, and yet, they’re the worst players the Twins put out there on a daily basis. Where most teams have offensive holes, the Twins have J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Denard Span, who have each put up about a +3 win season this year. Even their reserve middle infielders, Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto, are valuable role players.
The same is true of the pitching staff. Maybe Carl Pavano isn’t the sexiest #2 starter in the league, but very few of the other teams headed to the playoffs can throw a more effective game 4 starter than Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker. The Twins have four average or better starting pitchers, plus Brian Duensing, who has pitched like one even if he’s probably been a bit over his head.
Relievers? The Twins have a bunch of solid arms down in the bullpen too. Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, and Matt Capps might not come with theme songs and overpowering fastballs, but they’re good pitchers. Toss in Brian Fuentes as a good situational reliever, Jose Mijares as a quality second LHP, and whatever starter they don’t choose for the #4 spot, and the Twins won’t have any lemons coming on in relief.
The old cliche that you’re only as strong as your weakest link isn’t really true unless you’re in the business of building fences, but the Twins didn’t run away with the AL Central through smoke and mirrors. They put a good team on the field every night with a deep batting order that can score runs no matter what three hitters are due up, starting pitchers who throw strikes, and relievers that can get out of jams. There is no soft underbelly to the Minnesota roster. You can’t pitch around one guy and then go on cruise control.
If this was a 5-on-5 competition, the Twins might be in trouble. However, since every game involves 10+ players, the Twins depth of talent gives them an advantage over all of their competitors. When your worst player is Jason Kubel, you’re doing pretty good. Don’t underestimate the Twins just because they didn’t build a top heavy roster. They can win with this team.
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