After floundering for the first five months of the season, the Twins went on an incredible 17-4 run to capture the division title. However, after being swept out of the ALDS by the Yankees, one has to wonder how much of this run was due to luck and how much due to actual talent. Looking at the lineup the Twins used during the month of September, it certainly looks like the former is the case. For the sake of brevity, I've decided to use weighted on-base average for the 2009 season (and if you need it, there's a detailed explanation of wOBA and how it is calculated here).
First of all, it's not hard to see how the Yankees managed to shut down the Twins. There are only four above-average hitters (.335 +) in this lineup and all except Cuddyer were left-handed. And since they were missing Justin Morneau, the Twins were stuck with backup catcher Jose Morales (.334) at DH (it's not quite as bad as Jason Tyner at DH, but still). Jason Kubel is horrible against lefties, and was clearly overmatched against Sabathia and Pettitte. Span and Mauer* hit lefties well, but without much power (career-wise, slugging .472 and .408 against lefties, respectively). Justin Morneau was slugging a respectable .500 against lefties this year, but he was out the entire series with a back fracture. Without any real right-handed power hitters in the lineup (or even four average right-handed hitters) it's no wonder the Twins struggle so much against left-handed pitching.
*In all of the fuss over Phil Cuzzi's blown call, somehow lost is the fact that, holy crap Joe Mauer got two base hits off of a lefty IN THE SAME AT-BAT, one of which went for extra bases. PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY!!!!
Of course, a team cannot win 17 of their last 21 games on luck alone. They also need strong performances from the pitching staff (more on that in the next post), and a favorable schedule. And indeed, the Twins had a pretty soft schedule down the stretch. 24 of their remaining 32 games were against sub-.500 teams and all but seven were against division opponents, with six against the Royals, six against the Indians, and eight against the then-first place Tigers.
The offense does look as though it might be a problem next season. Any lineup with five below-average hitters is bound to struggle, let alone four exceptionally poor hitters, and the Twins can't expect the same level of production from the likes of Kubel and Cuddyer. Cuddyer has been extremely inconsistent throughout his career, and at 31, is unlikely to put up another 30+ home run season.