For the last few decades, the Minnesota Twins unofficial motto has been consistency. Front office staff, managers, players, and a�?the Twins waya�? embodied a type of baseball that valued fundamentals and pitchers who were better than their raw stuff. The Twins finished first or second in the AL Central eight times between 2001 and 2010. The other two years they finished in thirda��hardly a period of poor play. This run didn’t involve any World Series appearances and included just two total LDS wins in their five most recent postseason series, but the Twins were always in the thick of things.
Coming off a surprising 83-79 record in 2015, the Twins didn’t seem ripe for a collapse. Their .532 winning percentage was a little ahead of their Pythagorean win-loss of .497 and negative run differential. But with Miguel SanA? and Byron Buxton on the rise, Brian Dozier’s power, and Joe Mauer still contributing, the Twins were not expecting to become the worst team in baseball with just a .364 winning percentage. For the first time since 1995, Minnesota finished with fewer than 60 wins. Their 59-103 was behind the clearly rebuilding Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, the meandering San Diego Padres, and the disappointing Tampa Bay Rays.
Highlights and Lowlights
Second baseman Brian Dozier took in-season splits to a whole new level in 2016. Despite hitting just five home runs entering June, Dozier finished the year with 42 bombs.
When he wasn’t striking outa��which was often with 178 strikeouts in 116 gamesa��SanA? added 25 home runs and 22 doubles as he bounced around the diamond. Hopefully 2017 brings a permanent home for the 23-year-old.
Byron Buxton’s season numbers don’t look great but when he came up for September, the top prospect hit .287/.357/.653 with nine homers. Did he figure something out or was this a September mirage due to strange competition as teams make a push or play out the string? It’s too early to know but he’s clearly someone to watch.
The starting rotation was brutal. There’s no way around it. Ervin Santana was solid but the other mainstays were hit harder than whack-a-mole. And then there was top prospect JosA� BerrA�os (8.02 ERA, 7.50 DRA; 5.4 BB/9, 1.9 HR/9 over 58.1 innings). It’ll get better. It has to.
Did they have a uccessful season?
The Twins model of a baseball team stopped working. The game changed around them and 2016 was the final straw with the firing of Terry Ryan. Bringing in Thad Levine and Derek Falvey will give Minnesota fresh blood. And, new sets of eyes across the organization.
The Twins aren’t without young talent, have shown with Joe Mauer the ability to lock up their stars, and have a new stadium that lets them provide a top-notch fan experience. 2016 is likely the nadir of the rebuilding process simply because so many teams are embracing a slightly more committed approach to rebuilding internally by sacrificing a few wins here and there. Minnesota’s own AL Central is home to three such teamsa��the Tigers, White Sox, and Royalsa��who may be entering rebuilding cycles of their own in the coming years.
The Twins needed to leave behind their legacy and move forward. 2016 set that path in motion. Now the only question is how long it takes to get there.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference