The 2011 version of the Minnesota Twins was one barely recognizable, even to their most loyal fans. Hammered by injuries all season long, just three Twins, Michael Cuddyer, Ben Revere, and Danny Valencia, managed to play in 100 or more games, and Revere only got his chance to do that thanks to missed time for fellow outfielders Denard Span, and Jason Kubel.
The rash of injuries, including a combined 265 missed games by the club’s lead-off, three, and four hitters, lead to an anemic offense and a last-place finish. Minnesota’s 63-99 record, which left them an alarming 32 games behind the division-winning Detroit Tigers, was not only the worst record in the 10-year career of manager Ron Gardenhire, but it marked the only time since Gardenhire took the helm that his club has failed to play at least .500 ball.
In short, while they weren’t expected to run away with the division in 2011, no one should have seen this coming.
Of course, it wasn’t only injuries that were to blame for the woeful season endured by Twins fans. The Twins’ starting rotation, which had been third-best among American League clubs in 2010, fell to second-worst in 2011. The main culprits of such a steep decline were right hander Kevin Slowey, who didn’t make a start until August, but then posted an amazingly bad 0-8 record and 7.25 ERA through his final eight appearances, all starts. In fairness to Slowey, the Twins’ season was over long before he pitched his way out of town, with only Scott Baker posting an ERA below 4.30 for Minnesota. Left handers Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano made a combined 52 starts last year and pitched to a 5.23, and 5.09 ERA, respectively.
The bullpen gets their share of the blame for 2011 as well, however, as no AL club took more losses in relief than did Minnesota. The Twins didn’t have a ton of save opportunities, but also did a poor job of converting those into wins. Only two AL clubs converted less than the 63% of chances that the Minnesota bullpen. The Twins had taken heavy losses in their relief corps through free agency following the 2010 season and they certainly appeared to miss dearly former stalwarts Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch. Former starter-turned-set-up-man Glen Perkins was perhaps the lone bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for Minnesota relievers, one that saw them post a higher ERA, 4.51, than any other relief unit.