Top 10 Questions of 2006

10 burning questions about the 2006 Twins season:

Can the Twins score runs?
If this past Wednesday’s 13-4 beating of the Blue Jays was any indication, then the answer is yes. The Twins showed what they can do as they consistently hit with runners in scoring position. The problem lies in the word “consistently”. Last season the Twins were LAST in the American league in runs scored partially because they couldn’t get anyone in scoring position and partially because when they did, no one drove them in. The addition of Rondell White to the lineup should help. He’s a professional hitter who drive the ball. Hopefully his presence will allow Mauer and Hunter to get more pitches to hit. The addition of Luis Castillo hopefully will help move runners around the bases as he loves to bunt, especially from the left side of the plate. If the Twins can score at least 100 more runs (which may seem like a lot but is only .62 more per game) this season they will be in much better shape.

Is the rotation strong enough?
I think Santana and Radke will be themselves which is great. Both should see more wins if the Twins score a few more runs per game. Silva I think will also be ok this season if he can keep his pinpoint control. I also think Scott Baker will be a nice number five starter as he showed good promise last season and this spring. The only question mark I see in the rotation is Kyle Lohse. He needs to regain control and bring that ERA down to the low 4’s. If he can do that and earn that pay increase, the Twins rotation will be solid.

Is Joe Mauer ready to lead this team?
I think Mauer will make strides this season to being a leader. He may be one more season away from being the full blown star of this team, but I think he will be even better this season. What Mauer really needs is a solid power threat hitting behind him so that he gets even more fastballs to work with rather than being pitched around. Hopefully White can be that guy that Justin Morneau was supposed to be.

Will someone step up and take permanent residence in right field?
Will it be Kubel, Cuddyer, or Ford? Well if its Cuddyer or Ford the Twins may be in some trouble. Neither one has the offense to help this team. Jason Kubel has a lot of potential to be a power threat which the Twins desperately need. Don’t get me wrong, Ford is a good player but isn’t what will get the Twins to the playoffs. He and Cuddyer are more valuable coming off the bench or to give guys a day off.

Will Torii be here after the All-Star break?
If the Twins are out of contention going into the All-Star break then I don’t think our Gold Glove center fielder will be here past the July trading deadline. With his contract coming up I can see the Twins dumping him for (surprise, surprise) prospects.

Is Morneau as good as was advertised?
He can be. Morneau just needs to work on hitting the ball to all fields. So far this season he appears to be in the same state of mind as he was all of last season. Morneau is still trying to pull everything which has been his down fall. The Twins need Morneau to have a solid season this year or they will once again struggle to score runs. If he falls flat this season the Twins are better off finding an alternative next season to play first. I will address this in a future post.

Are the Twins safe with only one unproven lefty in the bullpen?
This is very overrated. People put way too much emphasis on having lefty vs. lefty matchups. Sure this makes some sense, but what difference does it make if you have right handers that are just as good at getting lefties out? Example: Juan Rincon’s three year averages. Over the past three seasons (2002-2005) right handers are hitting .224 (110-490) while left handers are hitting .198 (79-399). If you ask me, that’s effective enough.

Is Tony Batista worth the risk?
This is a tough one. So far this season Batista has looked really bad in the field at third. For him to be any help to this ball club (and not just a huge hole at third) he will need to hit 30-40 home runs and drive in 90+ runs. I think there were much better options out there (Bill Mueller and Hank Blalock) but the Twins once again were cheap and went for the guy that “could” be good.

If the Twins are in a close race this summer will they make a move to add to their team?
I can see them making another addition like they did a few years ago when they added Shannon Stewart (who became the catalyst for them in the stretch run) but I don’t see a big name joining the club. I hope I am wrong as I’d love to see a big name join the roster and help us take that extra step in taking back the division. But minor additions would also be good to see but if the Twins don’t make any moves and they are neck and neck with Chicago and/or Cleveland then it could hurt in the long run.

Can the Twins compete with Cleveland and Chicago?
If half of the things I listed above happen then yes they will. But if too many of things these don’t come to fruition then it will be another long season for the Twins.

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