Tuesday, July 1, 2008

June Review

Twins Record: 17-11
Overall Record: 45-38, 2nd in AL Central by 2.5 games

The month began about as bleakly as you could imagine. After finishing a split with the Yankees, the Twins dropped a series at home to Baltimore, beginning a 6-game losing streak. In the middle of that streak the Twins suffered a brutal 4-game sweep at the hands of division rivals the Chicago White Sox. More of a slaughter, actually - the Twins were outscored 40-15 during the four games. Gardy urged the team to refocus on fundamentals, coinciding with the arrival of Interleague play. Thank goodness for Interleauge, what has come to be the most successful piece of the season in recent years. The Twins once again delivered, going 13-2 vs. the NL this month - including a 10-game winning streak - to cap a very successful June.

The offense continued to rank among the top in the AL in runs, H, 2B, 3B and BA, despite ranking 10th in HR, OBP and OPS and 12th in BB. The 23 HR this month were more than April or May, but still not close to the rest of the league. Interestingly, the team was just 7/16 in SB attempts, ranking last in the league - that's something they'll need to improve upon in July. The Twins do it with timely hitting and productive outs, batting well over .300 with RISP, and leading the league in sacrifice bunts and SF.

The pitching staff appears to be among the league's worst in June, but 40 of the 116 ER the Twins allowed for the month occurred in that skewed 4-game series in Chicago. In the 24 games outside of that, the staff put up a 2.96 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 216 IP. A lot of pitchers' stats have been dragged down by that weekend, but the general trend is of vastly improved pitching, including ample innings from the young guys in the rotation. This has reduced the pressure on the bullpen, enabling them to be more effective as well. The Twins have a chance to be among the top 5 pitching staffs in the AL in the 2nd half, particularly if they remove certain members who are dragging them down.

The Twins were able to tighten things up defensively in June. After committing 18 errors in April and 25 in May, they made just 13 errors in 28 games this month. That pace would have them among the league leaders had they come out of the gate like that. Better defense translates into fewer runs allowed: the Twins gave up 10 unearned runs in April and 23 in May, but they allowed just 6 in June. Part of that is a credit to stingier pitching, but it also reflects the fact that there were fewer extra outs given by the defense.

On to the evaluations. About 2/3 of the team wound up in the happy column - I guess that's to be expected when things are going well.

Getting It Done

Jason Kubel - he stopped swinging at pitches out of the zone, and it's made all the difference. Not just the 14/12 BB/K ratio, but he's saving his swings for pitches he can handle, resulting in a sick .317/.418/.636 line with 6 HR for the month. And he's even starting to hit LHP...

Joe Mauer - the average and OBP have been there all year, but now the power is starting to come. Mauer's 11 2B and 3 HR this month helped him to lift his OPS to nearly 1.000.

Justing Morneau - the power and the walks dipped a bit this month, but I can't argue with a guy who so consistently comes through with RISP. His 21 RBI this month led the team.

Delmon Young - Young's OPS has been improving by .100 or more points each month so far. Now that he's shown he can put a couple over the fence, the next step is to merge his good plate discipline from May with the power of June.

Alexi Casilla - second on the team with 17 RBI for the month. He's been matching up well with other leading AL 2B from the offensive standpoint, and he's definitely improved the team's range at the position.

Brian Buscher - just 50 AB from Buscher this month, but he's already shown why he was the organization's top minor-leaguer last year. 14 RBI in 14 games since joining the starting lineup, with an .825 OPS.

Mike Redmond - 7 games and 25 ABs for Redmond this month, the result of the grinding schedule the Twins finished in the first half of June. His .360/.407/.440 line in those 7 games isn't a huge drop-off from Mauer.

Micheal Cuddyer - no more K troubles like in May (9/10 BB/K rate for June), resulting in a .291/.385/.866 line with 13 RBI. Unfortunately, he'll likely miss at least half of July with his finger injury.

Scott Baker - finally at full strength after an injury-filled spring, Baker gave the Twins 5 starts, averaging 6 IP, 3.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, with a respectable 6.90 K/9. I look to him to lead the staff in the 2nd half.

Kevin Slowey - 3.55 ERA and 1.03 WHIP this month, and that's including the uncharacteristic pounding he took in Chicago. He may have a chance to approach 200 IP by year's end, despite missing a month early in the season.

Joe Nathan - blew a save in Milwaukee, but the Twins came back to win anyway. Otherwise untouchable, with an 0.82 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, and 11.45 K/9 with 8 saves for the month.

Jesse Crain - 13.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 14 K. I'd say he's pretty well recovered from shoulder surgery, and can be counted upon in the late innings once again.

Craig Breslow - I can't figure out why Cleveland let him go. He was unblemished in June, allowing just 5 base runners in 9 IP with 8 K.

Dennys Reyes - allowed a frightening HR to Grady Sizemore in Cleveland, the only HR he's allowed this season. Otherwise, he did his job (1.59 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in 6 IP), usually in well under 10 pitches.

Matt Guerrier - still walking too many guys for my taste (6 in 12.2 IP), but he rarely lets an inning get out of control.

Brian Bass - he was dented in a couple of the blow-out losses early on, but he's been very reliable of late. He walked just 3 in 18.1 IP, helping himself to a terrific 1.04 WHIP in June.

So Far, So Good

Nick Blackburn - he had a couple of rough outings this month, one in the Chicago series, and one last weekend when he couldn't get his sinker down. Generally, though, he's been as reliable a member of the rotation as anyone this season.

Glen Perkins - only 4 outs short of averaging a QS over his 6 appearances this month (34.2 IP, 18 ER). 17/5 K/BB rate over his last 4 starts.

Need To Pick It Up

Carlos Gomez - while the rest of the offense clicked, Gomez' numbers began a slow decline. His final June line of .236/.266/.309 with 28/4 K/BB ratio is not only terrible for a leadoff hitter - it's terrible for anybody.

Brendan Harris - 3/24 BB/K rate this month to go along with his .242/.270/.379 line. If that's all the better he's going to hit, I'd rather have Everett or Punto (or someone else) at SS.

Mike Lamb - only a handful of ABs for Lamb this month, and only a couple of hits. I don't know what his role might be going forward.

Craig Monroe - only 4 H for Monroe in 32 AB in June. 2 of the H were HR, and he cut his K rate down to 1/5.33 AB, but still not doing much vs. LHP, which is the only way he's going to get playing time in the 2nd half.

Livan Hernandez - averaged 5.2 IP, 6.62 ERA, 1.79 WHIP. And that's including 2 very good starts during the streak. I'm pretty sure Francisco Liriano can do better than that.

Boof Bonser - the K/9 is fantastic (11.57), but he allowed an unbelievable number of base-runners (2.14 WHIP). He did seem to get better as the month went along, but he's certainly a candidate to disappear when the bullpen drops to 6 members.

1 comment:

Andrew Kneeland said...

Great summary. In a few years Blackburn could be our fourth or fifth pitcher. It's a good sign when a pitcher of his caliber is at the bottom of the barrel.

Good work!