Wednesday, May 27, 2009

3rd Split: 9-7

Overall Record: 24-24
2nd in AL Central by 3.5 games

Other splits: 7-9, 8-8

It's been a streaky couple of weeks, but things are generally trending in the right direction for the Twins. Facing a slate of first-place teams - plus the White Sox in Chicago - I said last time that the offense was going to have to carry the team through this stretch. And did it ever! The Twins scored 105 runs over these past 16 games, better than 6.5 R/G on average. They put up 6 or more runs in 8 of these recent games, and were victorious 7 times. Unfortunately, they only came up with 4 R/G in NY, which was just enough for them to lose all 4 games by 1 run or in extra innings. Had they been able to do just a little bit more in any of those games, this split would have been great instead of just good.

As I noted earlier, there is a dark cloud hanging over this offensive explosion: almost all of the production has come from just 6 players. Denard Span (.364/.478/.436, 11 R), Joe Mauer (.389/.500/.815, 8 HR, 22 RBI), Justin Morneau (.383/.493/.800, 6 HR, 18 RBI), Michael Cuddyer (.311/.400/.672, 5 HR, 13 RBI), Jason Kubel (.413/.481/.500, 8 RBI) and Joe Crede (.256/.304/.628, 5 HR, 14 RBI) did just about all of the damage. Gardy wisely moved Mauer up to the #2 slot in the order, eliminating an easy out between him and Span; the Twins have won all 6 games with Mauer in that position.

Just as importantly, the pitching staff seems to be finding itself. They have allowed 3 or fewer runs in 6 of the last 7 games. This is especially due to Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey, who in their 7 starts during this stretch combined to allow just 12 ER in 48.2 IP, each completing at least 6 IP every time out. Anthony Swarzak made an impressive big-league debut with 7 scoreless innings - I'll be watching his next couple of starts with great interest. Scott Baker claims to have made a mechanical adjustment that certainly yielded good results in his last start - we'll see if he can repeat it.

Just 6 more errors over this split, so with 19 total for the season the Twins are still leading the league in fewest errors and unearned runs allowed. They are in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency - the percentage of balls in play turned into outs - but I think that says more about the guys on the mound than the guys in the field. As the starters continue to improve, I expect the Twins to move up the defensive efficiency leader board.

The Twins have a much easier draw in the coming split, although it will include 12 road games, including the dreaded early June West Coast trip. The Twins are just 5-14 on the road - 2nd to last in the Majors in terms of winning percentage. They're going to have to turn that around starting this weekend if they want to keep the positive trend going.

Bold Prediction: Francisco Liriano is going to give the Twins 18+ IP with an ERA lower than 4.20 over his next 3 starts.

No comments: