Friday, April 23, 2010

First Split: 11-5

1st in AL Central by 2 games

Click here for a reminder of why I do these.

Remember last season, when the Twins didn't have a split more than 2 games above or below .500 until the final stretch in September? Things sure feel different now. A fast start is a big help toward a successful season. Not that the Twins haven't overcome slow starts in the recent past, or run down rivals who had fast starts. But crucial decisions get made based on records and standings in the middle of a season - whether to cash in the chips or deal for that extra piece that will make you even stronger in October. And morale is so important over a marathon season, for the fans as well as the players. Everybody can feel good about the way the Twins are playing right now, and they can remember this feeling and what it means about the potential for this team when they encounter tougher stretches down the road.

At this point, the Twins are in the top 5 in the AL in nearly every phase of the game. R, OBP, OPS, ERA, shutouts, Saves and Save %, BB allowed, WHIP, P/PA, RZR and UZR - it's all working. The defense has made only one error - a throw from LF that struck the would-be winning run just before the runner reached home plate in the 8th inning. All the routine plays have been made. This makes the Twins the runaway league leaders in fielding %, fewest errors and unearned runs allowed (0).

That defense has benefitted a pitching staff which, as usual, has been the stingiest in the league in issuing walks, especially since the first turn through the rotation. Other than a couple of tough innings from Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares, the bullpen has been stellar. Francisco Liriano is showing that he can recapture his dominance from 2006, or at least 80% of it, which should be good enough to make him a legitimate ace. The rest of the rotation has been solid in at least 2 of their starts to this point, generating 9 QS.

That's plenty for an offense averaging just over 5 R/G. The Twins have the 3rd highest OBP in the league despite having only 3 players hitting over .270. That's because they lead the league in BB, with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Jason Kubel all drawing 10+ free passes so far. The lineup is almost certain to hit for a higher average down the road, so if they can keep drawing walks at this pace, they're going to bring home even more runs.

A bona fide contender, a spectacular new ballpark, gorgeous spring weather - what a great start to the season!

Bold prediction: The team BA will be over .280 after the next 32 games.

No comments: