The final Concordian sports column this year could only be about baseball because I am a die-hard Twins fan. All the doubters need to be aware that the Twins do have a chance this year. April has always been tough on the Twins. They haven’t hit a winning streak yet, but they also haven’t been playing horribly like they were a year ago. We’re turning double plays, the bullpen is not giving up five-run innings and, most importantly, we’re hitting homeruns.
Josh Willingham has made his presence known by hitting with power. He is in the top ten players for each of the offensive categories and had a hitting streak for the first fifteen games of the season, tying Kirby Puckett’s record. So far, he has been a great upgrade for both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Willingham’s bat has been the most important factor in the number of wins the Twins have had so far.
It is great to see that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are healthy, playing often and even producing runs. They both could be doing better, but the season is still early. Their productivity is crucial for the Twins’ success this year, but we can win with or without them. We can do this because of Ryan Doumit.
Doumit is currently our backup catcher, occasional right-fielder, option to play first and designated hitter at times. He is the utility player we now need since Cuddyer left us. His ability to play catcher and outfield makes him an asset that we underappreciate.
So far, his bat has been weak. It took him two weeks before he hit his first homerun. But he is the player who will dictate how well our team does this year. I claim this because Joe Mauer cannot catch every single day. On average, an MLB catcher only catches 140 games of the 162. Mauer will catch a lot less because of his recovering injury from bilateral leg weakness. Therefore, Doumit will get the remainder starts.
There simply is no replacing Doumit this year. His backup to catch is Drew Butera, whose batting average last year for the Twins was a whopping .167 and just 23 RBI’s in 93 games. Butera was not the reason for last year’s woes, but he definitely was a bleeding wound that needed to be clotted. If Doumit hits only his career average of .271 with 71 RBI’s, he will already have generated 48 more runs than his replacement. That is the difference between last place and second place in the division; it has happened before. So Doumit alone stands as the key. He will make the difference this year if we are in last place, or have a chance at the postseason.
The rest of the team does not need to have career years for us to win the Central Division. Our pitching staff needs to get the team’s ERA lower than the league average, which they had been for a decade before last year.
We also need to average at least one homerun a game; last year we only hit 101 in 162 games. It would help if Mauer and Morneau returned to their MVP selves, but if they just put up their career averages for the whole season we should have a chance.
Just watch out for Doumit because he will be the reason we are winning or losing.
Michael is a Sports Writer for the 2011-2012 season of The Concordian.