What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
You want improbable? How's *this* for improbable: the Minnesota Twins are World Champions despite a patchwork, mediocre rotation and an offense that seemed to be better in 2008 than in 2013. But despite all of that, the Twins climbed baseball's highest peak in 2013, and there's a party in Minnesota for the new champions.
Energized by a solid performance in the World Baseball Classic, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau finally got his game back on track after what essentially was two and a half lost seasons. Morneau blasted 35 homers, a career-high, OPSed .974, and put together a six win season, also the best of his career. While that sets him up well going into free agency this offseason, it didn't matter for the Twins. They got their title.
Morneau was supported in Minnesota's lineup by their do everything catcher Joe Mauer and left fielder Josh Willingham. Mauer hit .323 with an .868 OPS, and Willingham topped last year's career-high of 35 homers by hitting 38, making Terry Ryan's astute three-year contract that he gave to Willingham before the 2012 season look like a genius move. The team also picked up solid contributions from large Swiss army knife Ryan Doumit (.791 OPS, 21 homers), Aaron Hicks (the newest in the line of Twins center fielders, who hit 12 homers and stole 31 bases in his rookie season), and even from powerful third baseman Trevor Plouffe (26 homers, despite a .220 batting average).
Minnesota's pitching staff was....a different story. With a rotation full of soft tossers who don't miss many bats, it was going to be a challenge all year for the Twins. But no matter: they got the job done. Philly import Vance Worley stayed healthy and threw a career-high 173 innings, pitching to a 3.38 ERA despite a whiff rate around 6%. The Twins' breakout star from a year ago, Scott Diamond, improved upon his 2012 by throwing 191 innings with a 3.68 ERA despite striking out less than 100 batters for the season. Liam Hendriks stuck in The Show all year, and had a 4.09 ERA for the season. But the big surprise was Kyle Gibson, a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, who threw 137 innings in the majors, struck out 140, and had a 2.96 ERA, bringing up comparisons to Francisco Liriano's debut with the Twins in 2006.
The Twins didn't win the AL Central, as the mighty Tigers simply couldn't be taken down. However, the Twins did win the American League's second wild card berth, and knocked off the Tampa Bay Rays in the single game playoff. Once the ALDS rolled around and the Twins were matched up with those same Tigers, Minnesota won in five games, their first playoff series win in over a decade. In the ALCS, the Twins took on the AL West champion Angels and won in six, confounding the Los Angeles offense with their tricky pitching and beating their pitching staff into submission with a stellar heart of the order. Finally, in the World Series, Minnesota squared off with Atlanta, and the Twins beat the Braves in seven games once again. This series didn't feature any walkoff homers, ten inning classics, shenanigans at first base, or a series to use as a Hall of Fame case for a player in the future, but it was an excellently played series of baseball.
After failing to reach the top of the mountain for over 20 years, the Twins are back. This championship resembled 1987 more than 1991, but all that matters in the Twin Cities is that another flag will be flying at Target Field.
Twins on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm a Dreamer
2013 Burning Question (1:30 PM)
This Is My Nightmare (3:00 PM)
2013 X-Factor (4:30 PM)