“Not constant or loyal in affections” is the dictionary meaning of the word fickle. The phrase “what have you done for me lately?” is a working example of the sentiment that drives being fickle. When Minnesota Twins fans look at some of the predictions being made about how their team will fare this season, it is genuinely fair for them to ask, “where’s the love?”.
2015 was the Twins first season under Paul Molitor as manager and not-so-coincidentally the first time the team finished above .500 (83-79) since 2010. Heading into 2016, USA Today pegged the Twins for an 80-win season (granted still last in the Central) citing:
…wouldn’t surprise us if they produce an MVP (Miguel Sano) and Rookie of the Year (Jose Berrios)
Heading into 2017, USA Today has pegged the Twins to again finish last in the Central but with a paltry 66-win total. Why?
The Twins return almost exactly the same team that warranted an 80-win prediction just one short year ago. The biggest move being changing catchers from Kurt Suzuki to Jason Castro.
Sano’s 2016 was marred by a defensive experiment in the outfield that thankfully will not be repeated this season. An experiment that affected his performance at the plate to the tune of breaking teammate Brian Dozier‘s team record of strikeouts. Speaking of Dozier, it is fair to suggest his 2016 homer total (42) will decline and that Sano’s 2016 homer total (25) will pick up.
As for Berrios, he has already been optioned to Rochester where he should have spent more time last season anyway. Pumping the brakes on the soon-to-be 23-year-old is right thing to do. See the development of outfielder Byron Buxton for how the club had previously rushed a young talent only to wait longer than most expected to see positive results.
Speaking of learning from mistakes, Byung Ho Park and his .191 average from last season are starting in the minors. The Twins are not allowing his .353 spring training average whitewash what truly was a miserable 2016. Time in the minors will serve Park well.
There are valid questions to be asked about the starting rotation but if young bats Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and Danny Santana continue to trend upward, the Twins are much closer to an 80-win team than a 66-win team. Remember, a 7-6 win is just as valid as a 2-1 win.
With Molitor in the last year of his contract, he is not quite a lame duck but not putting any down payments on real estate. As much as Molitor may get too much credit for the 2015 turnaround, he is getting too much blame for the 2016 tailspin.
Then again, what do I know? Of the four brave souls who participated in our MLB Standings predictions piece, I’m the only one putting them over 66 wins giving them 76.