2019 was one of the greatest regular-season performances in Minnesota Twins franchise history. 101 wins, the first AL Central banner in almost a decade, and 307 home runs (an all-time MLB record). I was at a lot of those Target Field contests, and by a certain point one almost expected 2-3 homers a game from Baldelli’s lineup. The catchy nickname “Bomba Squad” was eventually attached to the unit and that pretty much represented the team philosophy: overcome a leaky pitching staff and dearth of speed by simply bashing opponents into submission.
Of course, the prevailing theory about 2019 is that a much livelier baseball was put in play during regular-season contests. Whether intentional on MLB’s part or not, ‘19 represented a surge of power across the sport, not just in Twins Territory. We may never see the likes of it again. To paraphrase the now-infamous Rick Pitino rant: “30+ HR Mitch Garver isn’t walking through that door. Almost 40-HR Max Kepler isn’t walking through that door. Eleven players with double-digit HR totals aren’t walking through that door.”
In other words, the time of the Bomba Squad—like the “Get to Know ‘Em” crew or the Piranhas—has likely passed, fun as it may have been.
So, what could (or should) be the identity of the Twins going forward into 2021? Two suggestions—
- Starting pitching. The trio of Maeda, Berrios, and Pineda fronting the rotation is the best these parts have seen in quite some time. Newly-acquired J.A. Happ and the enigmatic Randy Dobnak are no slouches at the back end, and I’m still holding out hope for a Jake Odorizzi reunion. Should that last move transpire, the front 5/6 pitchers could be something to really hang their hat on.
- Defense. In a sneaky sort of fashion, the Twins have compiled a roster of position players that—when/if healthy—should be able to really pick it. Two—Buxton & Kepler—are what I would consider elite defenders. In the infield, Donaldson is a “plus” glove at the hot corner, while Simmons is the best in the biz at short and his presence allows Polanco to move to a more natural second sack stationing. Keeping Sano anchored at 1B—where he seems to be improving—is also ideal. More playing time for Ryan Jeffers behind the dish would also seem to improve defensive metrics.
Granted, the Twins’ offense will still put its share of balls into the seats (especially if Nelson Cruz can be brought back into the fold). Sano will have enough white-hot streaks to rack up homer totals, Kepler is pretty steady in that department, a full season of Donaldson will only help matters, and Alex Kirilloff didn’t bump Eddie Rosario off the roster with his glove.
But I think the days of the Twins leading the league in dongs are behind them for a time. Perhaps a more balanced approach will serve them well, especially come (hopefully) playoff time when one-dimensional squads can be more easily schemed around.
What do you think the Twins’ identity will be during the ‘21 season...
2021 Twins Identity
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Overall strength of lineup (1-9)