Monday, June 2, 2008

May Review

May Record: 15-13
Overall: 28-27, 2nd in AL Central by 2 games

Fitting that the Twins should conclude this month by losing an extra-inning game that would have been theirs in regulation had they played perfect defense. The 3 unearned runs that scored after Punto's error made it 23 total for May, adding 0.82 runs/game for the offense to overcome. The Twins lost 3 extra-inning games this month, and all three featured fielding or base-running errors which helped their opponent tie the score at the end of nine innings. Never mind the increased strain on the pitching staff caused by the poor defense - it costs wins as well. Had the Twins won two of those 3 extra-inning games, they'd be in first place, and would have had a great month at 17-11.

Thankfully, the offense came to life. This was especially apparent in the walks department: after finishing last in the AL in walks and OBP in April, the Twins came in 3rd in OBP for May. This led to a 2nd-place finish in runs scored, behind only Texas. The HRs picked up slightly, but the team went crazy with triples, and finished the month in 4th place in OPS.

Good thing the offense took a step forward, because the pitching slid back. The injury to Pat Neshek exposed the weaker links in the bullpen. Livan Hernandez predictably gravitated away from his exemplary April toward his recent norms. Boof Bonser started consistently giving up big innings, and has lost his spot in the rotation. Thankfully, the least experienced members of the rotation have proven to be worth the high prospect ratings they received, and they will soon be joined by Scott Baker (and possibly Liriano?).

For a young team with low expectations, any winning month has to be considered a success. As I write this, the Twins are within easy reach of first place, and remain several games ahead of pre-season AL Central favorites Cleveland and Detroit. If the Twins can continue to improve in June, the notion that this is a rebuilding year should be set aside, and the Twins should use their considerable cap-room and minor league assets to acquire an impact player or two for the second half.

On to evaluations of players with at least 35 PAs and pitchers with at least 7.2 IP:

Getting It Done

Justin Morneau - Just 9 of his 38 hits this month went for extra bases, but he led the regulars by playing in every game and hitting .336/.405/.496 for the month with 20 RBI and a 21/13 K/BB ratio.

Joe Mauer - The M&M boys are back! We're still waiting for Mauer's first HR, and he had just 5 XBH in May overall. But he reached base at a .442 clip, thanks to a .333 BA and 8/19 K/BB ratio. He was second in runs with 17.

Carlos Gomez - The 30/6 KK/BB rate is still a concern for a leadoff hitter, and his SB efficiency dropped to 6/10. But his approach at the plate has been much better, his K/BB rate is an improvement over April, and his 48 TB is second only to Morneau. He got his OBP up to .348, and if he can keep improving like this every month, he's going to be a good one.

Mike Lamb - He overcame his abysmal April to go .302/.340/.407 in May, and finally hit his first HR last week. He continues to be productive with men in scoring position, and has been serviceable at 3rd base.

Alexi Casilla - What a pleasant surprise he's been the last couple weeks. Though his average was horrendous in Rochester, he was walking about as much as he struck out, and that has continued with the Twins (7/8 K/BB). On top of that, he hit .340/.417/.520 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in just 50 ABs. He's made some costly errors, but his range is excellent. He's making a case for sticking in the Majors this time.

Joe Nathan - 5/6 in save opportunities, and the one he "blew" wasn't his fault at all. Too good to only get 11.2 IP.

Matt Guerrier - He gave up way too many walks (9), so his WHIP was a big problem for awhile, but he finished the month strong and wound up with a 2.12 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 17 IP. The Twins desperately need him to keep that up!

Kevin Slowey - After coming up just short (in terms of IP) of quality starts in his first 3 starts after returning from the DL, Slowey put together 2 very good starts to finish the month. He allowed just 1 ER in 15 IP in those starts, ending May with a 2.87 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 31.1 IP.

Nick Blackburn - He'll give up his hits (38 in 33.1 IP), but his control (5 BB in 5 GS) and his ability to get ground balls keeps him out of trouble and pitching deep into games. Hope his nose is OK.

Glen Perkins - He didn't have it Friday night against the Yankees, but his first 4 starts were terrific. If he can keep giving the Twins 4 out of 5 good starts, he'll have a place in the rotation.

Bobby Korecky - I'm not sure how long there will be room for him with the Twins, but he's done everything they've asked of him so far. His 0.91 WHIP was tops in the 'pen for the month.

So Far, So Good

Livan Hernandez - The 2.43 K/9 plus the 1.57 WHIP are a recipe for disaster, yet Livan has so far produced reasonably well. He averaged well over 6 IP/start, and he often manages to get out of the trouble he gets himself into. June is historically his worst month, so look out...

Jesse Crain - Like Livan, Crain managed to pitch effectively despite an atrocious 2.14 WHIP and 3.86 K/9. He'll need to drastically cut down on base-runners if he's to remain useful. However, for his 2nd month back from major shoulder surgery, not bad.

Juan Rincon - Way too many walks (12 in 15.1 IP) killed his WHIP (1.70), but he was mostly able to limit the damage, putting up a 4.12 ERA for the month with 0 HR allowed.

Brian Bass - Why is someone with a 6.61 ERA and 1.90 WHIP in this category? Well, if you throw out his appearance in Detroit (1.1 IP, 7 ER on 7 H), his overall numbers for May aren't too shabby: 3.00 ERA, 1.60 WHIP in 15 IP. Rookies are going to have bad games every now and then, but on the whole, Bass has done his long-relief job well.

Need to Pick It Up

Dennys Reyes - A lot of hits fell in against him this month. He was frequently used in situations that exposed his weaknesses (any time he pitches to a RHB, for example). Hopefully Breslow can take some of that pressure off, and Reyes will have better luck this month.

Boof Bonser - Boof just couldn't stay out of the big inning this month, and it cost him his spot in the rotation. Hopefully, he can be an asset to the bullpen.

Delmon Young - May was an improvement over April in terms of OBP (16/11 K/BB ratio) and power (4 2B, 3 3B), but we all had reason to expect even more. His defense has been terribly scattered for the last couple weeks.

Jason Kubel - He's showing some signs of life, and didn't get a whole lot of ABs early in the month. Still, his OPS should be comfortably in the .800s, not barely over .700.

Brendan Harris - Thank goodness he's drawing walks, or he'd be completely useless. .217/.320/.289, and his terrible defensive range is evident whether he's playing 2B or SS. I wish they'd kept Bartlett.

Craig Monroe - He hit 4 HR in limited action, and a couple of them were huge. But he struck out in 1/3 of his ABs, and the BA fell back to its 2007 levels (.216).

Michael Cuddyer - Lots of Ks (23) and not that many XBHs (7). 17 RBI for the month, but with Gomez, Casilla, Mauer and Morneau constantly on base, it could have been a lot better.

Matt Tolbert - He was only batting .212/.257/.303 before he foolishly destroyed his thumb by diving into first base.

Adam Everett - 6 of his 9 hits were for extra bases! That's about the only good thing I can say about him. Not that sorry he's not in the lineup every day - not sure I want to see him back when he's healed.

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