In 2011, the Twins were won of the worst hitting teams in all of baseball. They were 21st in batting average, 21st in hits, 25th in runs, 27th in RBI, and a horrible 28th in homeruns. Winning games is difficult with those kinds of numbers. Pitching and defense played a major part in the Twins dreadful season last year, but their struggles at the plate were every bit a factor. The loss of Cuddyer and Kubel due to free agency will be a big change on the leadership in the clubhouse, but their impact at the plate didn’t make the Twins a powerhouse hitting team. Their departure won’t be as significant as everyone believes. What will be significant is the Twins ability to get back to fundamentals at the plate. Fundamental plate discipline is necessary if they hope to make the long climb back to the top of the standings.
The lack of plate discipline from the team as a whole was probably effected by Mauer and Morneau’s significant absence throughout 2011. Patience tends to breed patience at the plate. Mauer is excited to begin play. Hopefully his excitement translates into another MVP-type performance in 2012. And while Morneau realizes concussions could end his career, he’s confident in his ability to come back and perform at a high level. Minnesota will need both the M&M boys to lead the way, both in the clubhouse and on the field. The Twins have placed a lot of hopes in their former MVPs. If they both fail to play 100 games again this year, we can expect another season of paltry hitting numbers.
But the injuries didn’t just hit Mauer and Morneau last year. Minnesota only had three players play 100 games, the lowest amount in MLB. Like Morneau, OF Dernard Span is hoping he’s put his concussion symptoms behind him. Japanese disappointment Tsuyoshi Nishioka missed part of the season with a broken leg. If he doesn’t remain healthy throughout 2012 and dramatically improve upon his numbers from last year, his time in a Twins uniform could be short lived. Minnesota needs further discipline at the plate even from those who seemed to avoid the injury bug last season. If Ben Revere can avoid a Sophomore slump, Danny Valencia can take another step forward, and Trevor Plouffe can become more selective, the expectations won’t be quite so high on other Twins stars as they approach the plate.
Health will play a huge factor in the season. The Twins can’t bounce back from their 2011 campaign without remaining healthy. So it’s no surprise that Gardenhire wants to see fewer doctors in 2012. But every major league team struggles with health issues. In a 162-game season, it’s impossible not to. Ultimately, the Twins need to get back to doing things the way that got them to own the AL Central for a decade. They need to get back to the fundamentals in every aspect of their game, but Minnesota needs to get back to the Twins Way at the plate–manufacturing runs and plate discipline. That’s their recipe for hitting success in 2012.