Bill Smith is fighting a losing WAR

After last night's incredible comeback victory against the reigning AL champs, the Minnesota Twins improved to 48-55, but remain seven games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers. With just 59 games left on the season, the Twins playoff hopes are dim - they not only need to make up a seven game deficit, but they also need to leapfrog three other teams to win the division.

The Twins' disappointing season is the result of many factors, which not only includes a dizzying array of injuries, but some hugely disappointing performances from players that were coming off outstanding 2010 performances. In fact, it's a testament to the mediocrity of the AL Central that the Twins can even be thought of as contenders at this point, considering how little production we've received from established players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Matt Capps, Delmon Young, and others.

That's what makes the following chart so frustrating (after the jump):

C

SP

Wilson Ramos

1.7

Scott Baker

2.3

Joe Mauer

0.5

Carl Pavano

1.6

Drew Butera

-0.2

Brian Duensing

1.6

Rene Rivera

0

Francisco Liriano

0.9

Jose Morales

0

Nick Blackburn

0.7

Anthony Swarzak

0.3

IF

J.J. Hardy

2.1

RP

Nick Punto

1.3

Glen Perkins

1.4

Alexi Casilla

1.2

Jesse Crain

0.7

Orlando Hudson

0.9

Matt Guerrier

0.2

Danny Valencia

0.8

Brian Fuentes

0.1

Trevor Plouffe

-0.1

Alex Burnett

0.1

Justin Morneau

-0.3

Jon Rauch

-0.1

Matt Tolbert

-0.4

Jose Mijares

-0.1

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

-0.6

Joe Nathan

-0.2

Phil Dumatrait

-0.4

Pat Neshek

-0.5

OF/DH

Matt Capps

-0.6

Denard Span

2.6

Michael Cuddyer

2.4

Jason Kubel

1.2

Ben Revere

0.9

Delmon Young

0.6

Jason Repko

0.4

Jim Thome

0.2

Rene Tosoni

-0.8

What you see hear is a list of every Twins player this season with at least 50 PAs or 20 IP, ranked in order of their 2011 WAR (the number of Wins they've been worth Above a Replacement-level player at their position). The players in bold, as you've probably already guessed, are players that left the team between last year's trade deadline and this past off-season.

It's not a pretty picture.

  • Right now, J.J. Hardy and Wilson Ramos have accumulated more WAR this season than all but three current Twins.
  • The three infielders the Twins lost in the off-season - Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Nick Punto - have been worth a total of 4.3 wins above replacement. At the same time, our entire opening day infield - Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Danny Valencia - have combined for just 1.1 WAR.
  • The Twins currently have just two relievers who have posted a positive WAR (three if you count Swarzak, who has pitched more innings as a starter this season). Three of the four relievers they let walk this off-season have posted a positive WAR.

Looking at the moves Bill Smith and front office have made over the past year, it's clear they left several wins on the table. Simply using some back-of-the-napkin math, it's pretty easy to see how this team could be two or three wins better just by changing how we addressed the middle infield and bullpen. Reverse the Matt Capps trade and give Drew Butera's plate appearances to Wilson Ramos, and you could even put together four or five extra wins.

Now let me acknowledge the obvious - it's a whole lot easier to manage a roster with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. I didn't throw this chart together to call for Bill Smith's head, or to bash the front office for failing to see that Hardy was about to find the power he seemingly lost more than two years ago. The Twins faced a severe payroll crunch during the past off-season, and had to make some very unpleasant decisions.

But here we stand, in a season that has felt cursed from the start, sitting either on the bubble or just outside the bubble of playoff contention (depending on your level of optimism, I guess). And seeing just how...winnable...this division is right now makes it harder to stomach just how many 2011 wins the Twins lost in the past year.

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