Monday, July 2, 2012

A .500 Team?

After a pretty good weekend which saw the hometown club win 3 out of 4 against divisional rival Kansas City, the Twins are now 33-45 and 8.5 games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox. The Twins' record still doesn't look pretty, but I'm here to tell you that it's not as bad as it looks. Since May 1st, the Twins have gone 27-29 thanks in large part to an offensive that has been out-producing some pretty horrible starting pitching.

Aside from Joe Mauer, the offensive production has come from a couple of unexpected performers in the likes of Josh "Hammer" Willingham and Trevor "Plouffda" Plouffe who both seem to have made it their mission to lead the team in homeruns this year. In yesterday's game against KC, both Willingham and Plouffe went deep and Trevor managed to have the upper hand at the end of the day, hitting two bombs in a 10-8 Twins' win. On the scorecard, Plouffe leads the team in HRs with 18 and Willingham is one back at 17 (Morneau is a distant 3rd place with 10 homeruns so far this season). In only 59 games so far this season, Plouffe has managed to rack up 31 RBI and 35 Runs and has asserted himself in the middle of what has become a very formidable lineup for the Twins. The 3, 4, 5, and 6 hitters for the Twins are Mauer (.324/.414/.445) and then some combination of Willingham, Morneau, Plouffe and Doumit, all of whom bring some thunder (or at least the potential for it) to the plate with them.

Getting back to the pitching; after owning an MLB-worst 5.64 team ERA in April, the staff as a whole has been slowly improving. In May the team ERA dropped to 4.96 and in June it dropped again to a mildly respectable 4.33 mark. Twins' starters have improved quite a bit as well. After posting a miserable 6.75 ERA in April, they posted a 5.74 mark in May and improved again in June with a 5.09 ERA collectively. A 5.00+ ERA is still pretty brutal, but at least they are moving in the right direction. It's possible that the Twins could get Carl Pavano back towards the middle or end of this month and I have a feeling that Nick Blackburn will begin to figure out his issues and start to pitch better as well. It would be hard to get much worse than his current 7.74 ERA...

With 4 teams ahead of them in the standings, it's impossible HIGHLY unlikely that the Twins will be contending for anything come September, but I think that over their past 50+ games, the Twins have shown that they are at least capable of competing on a night-in, night-out basis. It's been good to see some of the youngsters like Plouffe, Scott Diamond, Cole DeVries and Ben Revere step up. The result has been much more watchable than last year's 99-loss team and gives me a little more hope going forward. The only thing I hope this recent success doesn't lead to is hesitation on the part of the front-office to make the trades they need to make. Despite being "only" 8.5 games back in the standings, the Twins still need to be sellers and with players like Span, Willingham, and Liriano performing well of late, the team has some decent trade-bait to dangle out there.