Monday, May 11, 2009

2nd Split: 8-8

Overall Record: 15-17
3rd in AL Central by 3 games

Other splits: 7-9

The series loss to the Royals and poor road trip last week may make it seem like it was a lot worse, but the reality is that the Twins managed to tread water over the last 16 games. After being blown out 97-66 over the first 5 series, they were able to outscore their opponents 81-72 in the 6 series since. One would have expected them to do a little better than .500 with a +9 run differential over 16 games. Then again, they should have lost a lot more than 9 games with a -31 run differential over the first couple weeks, so the Twins are still in a pretty good position given their relatively poor play up to this point.

This stretch was reminiscent of late last season, and not in a good way. The Twins lost 3 games they were leading after 6 innings, thanks mainly to a faltering pitching staff that still boasts only 4 members with ERAs under 4.50. There are some positive signs, as Scott Baker seems to be figuring things out and Jose Mijares has mostly provided an upgrade to the bullpen. But it's frustrating to see light-hitting teams like KC and Seattle managing to put up 5+ runs against the Twins' pitching.

The offense has warmed up, thanks in no small part to the debut of Joe Mauer. While Delmon Young certainly picked up his batting average, as I predicted he would, he had nary an XBH during this stretch. The big improvement from the right side has come from Michael Cuddyer, who hit .207/.254/.310 through the first split, but jumped to .340/.453/.660 with 12 RBI in the second. Joe Crede also heated up, going .300/.333/.525 before a tight hamstring forced him from the lineup this weekend. Unfortunately, Nick Punto and Carlos Gomez have mostly played themselves out of the lineup, and Alexi Casilla played himself back to Rochester - and Matt Tolbert hasn't done a hell of a lot better so far.

The Twins have continued to play largely error-free ball. Their 13 errors is by far the fewest in the AL, and three of the 5 errors they committed during this split came in one game at the hands of a rather harsh official scorer. Too many of the fielding mistakes came from Casilla, and the exchange of him with Tolbert hopefully will at least shore up that area of the team.

130 games to play, the pitching staff still hasn't gotten it going, and the Twins are only 3 games behind the Tigers and Royals. Nothing to worry about yet.

Bold prediction: The offense is going to have to carry the team through the next 5 series (Tigers, @Yankees, @White Sox, Brewers, Red Sox).

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