Monday, June 23, 2008

Blast From the Past

After defeating the Diamondbacks yesterday, the Twins are now 8-1 9-3 in interleague play this season, which has allowed them to move back within 1.5 games of the first-place White Sox. This this little stretch reminds me of the 2006 season, during which the Twins fueled an amazing midseason run by going 16-2 against National League teams.

To be clear, this Twins team is highly unlikely to pull off the type of historical four-month winning spree that that 2006 squad pulled off, for a variety of reasons. While it was a great game, yesterday's win represents a few of the reasons that the Twins can hardly be considered a sustainably great team. They scored seven runs while managing only one extra-base hit (a "double" by Delmon Young on a fly ball that the left fielder lost in the lights) and got another strong outing from Livan Hernandez, who allowed only one earned run despite surrendering nine hits and a walk over seven innings of work. The offense is unspectacular, the rotation is inconsistent, and the bullpen is far from dominating. Certainly, this Twins team lacks many of the elements that made that 2006 unit a great one.

Nevertheless, this group holds some similarities to the 2006 team that raise some eyebrows. Back in '06, Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett came onto the scene and replaced dead weight (Tony Batista and Juan Castro) with surprisingly strong performances that gave the team a major boost both offensively and defensively. This year, Alexi Casilla and Brian Buscher are on their way to doing the same thing. In 2006, the Twins got unexpectedly great years from several members of the bullpen, most notably Dennys Reyes and Pat Neshek. This year, hurlers like Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow have been yielding surprisingly impressive numbers -- though it's still quite early to declare either one a success at this point.

Of course, one of the key aspects of that 2006 team's magical run was the emergence of Francisco Liriano as a dominating force in the Twins rotation. There's almost no chance of Liriano repeating that performance this year, but certainly he could return to the rotation and give this team a boost if he can continue to progress in Triple-A.

This isn't an instance where history is likely to repeat itself. But it's not totally unthinkable that the same ingredients which led to success for that 2006 team could manifest this season. And if that happens, who knows what is possible.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nick,

One small correction, the Twins are 9-3 in InterLeague play. You seem to be missing the Colorado series a while back.

Regards, "the Dragon"

Andrew Kneeland said...

Forget 9-3, I'm more impressed with this 6-0 homestand. :D

Anonymous said...

Nick,

I agree with your assessment of this year's Twins team vs. the 2006 team. This unit definitely has more flaws. That being said, I think the other contenders in the AL Central have comparatively more flaws than two years ago. Should be an interesting second half!

Nick N. said...

Oops, good call Dragon!

Mike_C said...

eventually catch up. With all those runners on base all it takes is 1 bad pitch and you're in a 2-4 run hole.

I agree that the fact that Twins rely on on getting a huge number of hits to score (opposed to extrabase hits and HRs) is not going to maintain reliable scoring.

TT said...

The offense is unspectacular

Perhaps, but it is has been one of the best in the American League so far. I don't see much reason to think they can't sustain it. There are some players who may be playing a little over their heads but Twins also have a number of players who could step up and improve over the rest of the season.

the rotation is inconsistent

I am not sure that is really the case. The rotation is mediocre, but if they can give the Twins six plus innings each time out that is all they really need.

the bullpen is far from dominating.

I think the bullpen is as dominating as the rotation lets it be. You will notice how much better they became when they only needed to produce two or three innings per game. And when they had a lead to protect instead of just trying to eat up innings.

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