Overall Record: 31-20, 1st in AL Central by 4.5 games
A few days ago it looked as though the narrative for this month would be about a .500-ish record from a Twins team that still couldn't quite get over the hump against playoff caliber competition. They had just lost 2 frustrating 1-run games to the Yankees at home in the same day, dropping them to 11-12 in May. But they finished the month on a high note, winning their last 5 games, including a sweep of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, and enter June once again on pace to finish the season with around 100 wins.
The offense continued to struggle with men on base, especially with the bases loaded. But thanks to 109 more BB, the Twins' OBP was .358, good for 2nd in the league. They also were among the league leaders in SB% and SF. Their scoring was down slightly, from 5.13 R/G to 4.75, but that was still good enough rank them in the top half of the league in offense.
The pitching remained at the top of the league rankings with a 3.79 ERA. This was due in part to the fact the Twins were far and away the league leaders in fewest walks allowed, as usual. They're getting QS about 60% of the time and limiting opponents to a .311 OBP. They allowed 26 HR in 251.2 IP for 0.93 HR/9 - which is actually pretty good for the Twins (last season they were at 1.15 HR/9). Target Field taketh away, but it also giveth.
The fielding was once again extremely sure-handed, as the Twins committed just 8 errors resulting in only 2 unearned runs. Their zone ratings remained favorable despite the fact that JJ Hardy spent most of the month injured, leaving Brendan Harris to cover a lot of innings at SS.
This month I'll be evaluating players with at least 20 PA, starting pitchers and relievers with at least 7 appearances:
Getting It Done
Justin Morneau - Through 2 months Morneau is doing what Mauer did last year, leading the AL in BA, OBP and SLG% thanks to a searing .400/.496/.710 line in May. Producing in the spring has never been his problem, however.
Denard Span - His poor BABIP numbers from April evened out in May, enabling him to go .353/.403/.462. Even more impressive, he went 7/7 in SB, putting him on pace for 35-40 on the season.
Delmon Young - .313/.348/.538 with 9 2B, 3 HR and 18 RBI. That's what we signed up for. 6 more BB against 11 K already gives him one more BB than he had in all of 2009.
Orlando Hudson - He led the team with 23 R from the #2 spot. Hopefully he won't miss too much time after his game-ending collision with Span on Sunday night.
Nick Blackburn - A 2.65 ERA and 7.1 IP/GS despite just 2.4 K/9. One of these days, I'm going to figure out how he does it, and the paper I write about it will win the Nobel Prize for Sabermetrics.
Scott Baker - 3.55 ERA and 6.1 IP/GS with a 33/8 K/BB ratio and only 3 HR allowed in 38 IP. (He almost certainly would have had 40+ IP had he not run into a rain delay against the Yankees last week.) That's the real Scott Baker.
Matt Guerrier - He got the job done without missing bats in April, but in May he had 11 K in 11 IP to go along with a 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP.
Brian Duensing - He continues to be very effective out of the bullpen. It's a shame that the only HR he allowed in 10.1 IP proved to be so costly.
Jose Mijares - He's been the good Mijares again since returning from the DL, allowing just 1 R in 7.1 IP with a 6/0 K/BB ratio.
So Far, So Good
Michael Cuddyer - .245/.339/.434 doesn't look too great from a corner OF. But his 13/14 K/BB ratio was exceptional for Cuddyer, and he had more than his share of well-hit balls result in outs. If Alex Rios hadn't brought back that ball from over the bullpen fence, Cuddyer's May line would have been .255/.347/.472 - he swung the bat well enough to deserve at least that.
Alexi Casilla - A 4/7 K/BB ratio in 40 PA gave Casilla an OBP of .400 for the month. He threw in a 2B and a 3B among his 9 base hits. I'd like to see him steal some more bases, but that's plenty useful for a role player.
Wilson Ramos - Sure, he did almost all of his hitting in his first 2 games, but it was an impressive snapshot of his potential. I'm sure we'll see him again in September - assuming he isn't traded for some other goodies, that is.
Joe Mauer - AJ Pierzynski would kill to hit .293/.384/.400, but for Mauer, it's a bit of an off month.
Jason Kubel - The strikeout rate remains rather high, but he did major damage when he made contact, leading the team with 20 RBI, 4 of which came on the grand slam off Mariano Rivera.
Francisco Liriano - The ERA was over 5.00 and the WHIP over 1.50, but I don't see any problem with Liriano's game right now. His HR/9, K/9 and BB/9 were all excellent. In essentially the same number of innings as Blackburn had, Liriano allowed 8 more hits, even though his K numbers meant that he gave up 25-30 fewer balls in play. That's just bad luck, and it will even out soon.
Carl Pavano - He threw one clunker in Toronto, but gave the Twins all they could have asked for in the other 4 GS: At least 7 IP with a 3.00 ERA with 3 HR allowed in 30 IP.
Jesse Crain - It looked as though Crain was on the brink after getting blasted twice in 3 appearances on the East Coast trip. But he hasn't allowed a R in his last 6 appearances, with just 3 H and 1 BB against 5 K over those 6 IP.
Jon Rauch - It was a bit of a shaky month for Rauch, who sent a 6-2 game against the Brewers into the bottom of the ninth at 7-6, then served up the clinching HR to the Yankees on Wednesday night, then let things get interesting against the Mariners on the 31st. Still, 6 saves in 7 chances, thanks in part to just 1 BB in 11 IP.
Alex Burnett - The ERA was excellent, but he walked as many as he struck out, inflating his WHIP for the month to nearly 1.50. He's been effective, but he'll have to cut down the walks before I'll believe that he can have consistent success this year.
Need to Pick It Up
Brendan Harris - Just 3 for his last 35, Harris wound up hitting just .140/.178/.163 for the month. His defense isn't anything special, either, so he's got to be hanging by a pretty thin thread right now, with everyone from Danny Valencia to Matt Tolbert looking like they could do better.
Nick Punto - He didn't walk much in April, so that's starting to come around, but the high number of strikeouts (15 in 69 AB) were the reason he was bad at the plate instead of merely not good.
JJ Hardy - He started the month 7 for 18 with a 2B and 3B, the latter resulting in a wrist injury as he slid into 3rd base. I really missed his glove during his 3 weeks on the shelf. He's gone just 4 for 24 since returning, but hopefully can find his groove again soon.
Jim Thome - Appearing mainly as a pinch hitter, Thome did a nice job of getting on base (.362 OBP), but struck out 14 times in 46 AB.
Drew Butera - Sadly, 4 for 20 with a 2B may be as good as it gets for Butera.
Kevin Slowey - No, it wasn't bad, but someone with Slowey's skills ought to be able to do better than a 4.55 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 1.6 HR/9. Of course, what really disappointed me was the average start that finished short of the 6th inning.
Ron Mahay - The damage basically came in just 2 appearances, and there were extenuating circumstances in each. But they hurt, especially for someone who is on the fringe of usefulness like Mahay. He alternated excellent and crappy months for the Royals in 2009 - we may be in store for a similar roller coaster ride this year.