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MLB Predictions 2012: Why the Minnesota Twins Can Make the Playoffs

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 05:  Catcher Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins takes batting practice just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Boston Red Sox during at Hammond Stadium on March 5, 2012 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images
Mikael WiitalaContributor IIIApril 1, 2012

63-99 is no reason to get excited. 

The 2011 Minnesota Twins were expected to be what the Twins have been for nearly the last decade, a good team in a weak division.  The 2011 Minnesota Twins turned into a last place team that was hardly recognizable by the end of the year.

So when Sports Illustrated released its annual MLB preview, it very unsurprisingly predicted the Twins to finish fourth in the division.  The biggest shock of all to most Twins fans is that they were not predicted to finish dead last. 

Prognostication of the upcoming season is one of the greatest parts of the year.  For most, as the cliche goes, hope springs eternal.  However, for the first time in the Ron Gardenhire era, it appears to most experts and diviners that the 2012 Minnesota Twins are dead on arrival. 

Why?

There are no need for "if this happens" or "maybe if they are lucky's," the Minnesota Twins as presently constituted can make the playoffs this season. 

Pitching and defense.  That has been the answer most often given when the reasons for the Twins successes are broken down.  No matter the lack of payroll or perceived lack of talent, these fundamental elements buoyed the Twins successes and failures. 

If the names Jason Marquis, Jamey Carroll, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit don't seem like answers to the pitching and defense problems that plagued the 2011 team, they more than likely are not.  The Twins are betting that their long-term approach to pitching and defense throughout the organization are the answer to the sub-par year turned in last season. 

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Manager Ron Gardenhire #35 of the Minnesota Twins returns to the dugout after a pitching change during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 24, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by
Jason Miller/Getty Images

At this point, one is probably asking, "So, just what exactly is Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire's plan other than praying that two substandard years in a row is too large a statistical irregularity to take place?"

The answer to that question is hitting, more specifically hitting with runners in scoring position. 

The 2012 Minnesota Twins are built to get on base.  The additions of Carroll, Willingham and Doumit are not a mistake.  These players were brought in to add more scoring opportunity to a lineup that ranked in the bottom third of the league in most all offensive categories. 

The key part to the Twins plan is that these free agents are simply supplementary.  They do not have to be all stars for the Twins to have success.  What they do have to do is get on base, move runners over and then let the most important pieces to the Twins puzzle do the rest.

Ultimately, the success of the Twins relies on the return of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span to health and productivity.  The three cornerstones of the Twins have to be available to play and deliver on a nightly basis for the 2012 ballclub to make the playoffs.  Is this too much to ask of players who hardly had an impact in the last calendar year?  If recent Spring Training performances are to be believed, the answer is no. 

 

As Major League Baseball begins to write another chapter in its history, most fans' optimism is as high as it will be all season right now.  "If the ball bounces our way" or "on paper we have the best team" will soon be replaced with the cold reality that baseball is rarely a game decided with luck or on paper.

It may not be the popular position, but the Twins are not destined to dwell in the cellar again this year.  No "With a little luck's" needed, the 2012 Minnesota Twins are built to compete for the American League Central Division championship.    

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