Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hitting Woes?

18 games down. A 7-11 record. 1-8 on the road. 144 games to go. We know how bad the pitching has been so far, but how about the hitting? This offseason, the main question was whether or not the Twins had a better offense with its acquisitions of Tony Batista, Rondell White, and Luis Castillo. So how has it been? Together, the Twins are hitting .267/.327/.400, have scored 86 runs on 18 HRs and 81 RBI. Lets go through the good, the bad, and the ugly for the Twins' offense so far:

The Good

Luis Castillo: He has by far been the best Twins hitter so far. At .404/.481/.468, he leads the team in average and OPS and is tied for the lead in steals. His defense has been shaky at times, but he's adjusting to the turf. We've seen his patience, intelligence, speed, and slap-style hitting being very effective. If he stays healthy, he could be the Twins' MVP.

Joe Mauer: He's a stud, plain and simple. Sure, his power so far hasn't been great (4 XBHs, .421 slugging), but his patience at the plate is as good as it's ever been. He has shown some speed, he is hitting .316 and he just got his first homer Sunday. He'll hit .300 this year and be a cornerstone of the top of the order along with Castillo.

Tony Batista: Limited range, funky stance, and helmet-tapping aside, he's been plenty productive this spring for the Twins. Hitting .279/.353/.459 with 2 HRs and 8 RBI and drawing seven walks (tied for second on the team) are all positives and maybe more than what we were expecting from Batista. Granted, he may not hit .279 all year, but if he draws 50 walks and hits 20-25 homers, that would certainly be a improvement in production from the hot corner.

Shannon Stewart: He was needed this weekend and was off with family issues and that's too bad. The 1-2-3 hitters have all been solid this year and Stewart is no exception. He started out hot, with those two homers in the Toronto series, but he is batting .333/.377/.456 so far and if the Twins end up with three .300 hitters at the top of their order, that would be huge.

The Bad

Torii Hunter: If you take away his grand-slam and 6 RBI night against the Jays, Torii has 4 homers, 7 RBI, and a .214 average. He has hit some home runs that have been big, but otherwise, his production hasn't been too good and the .280 OBP is pretty ugly. Torii really needs to pick it up, as he has left a lot of runners in scoring position recently. It's great to see Stewart, Castillo, and Mauer getting on base steadily, but if no one drives them in, it really doesn't matter.

Justin Morneau: Same goes for Morneau. He has had a few homers, but right now has a .215/.271/.415 line very reminiscient of last year. Justin seemed to be doing better, but he's slumped recently. Getting Hunter and Morneau going is what will really get this offense moving and hopefully facing Kansas City's awful pitching will help out.

Juan Castro: It seems unfair, but despite a .280 average, he has a .608 OPS. That would be the result of two walks and only one extra-base hit, a double. Castro has gotten some big hits, but he has no power, little patience, and is hitting only .158 in his last seven games. We may be pleading for Jason Bartlett's third coming very, very soon.

The Ugly

Rondell White: You knew it was coming. Sure, he's hitting .300 in his last seven games, but with no walks this year and one extra-base hit, White is hitting .149/.157/.164. Thats so cringe-worthy it's hard to look at. It's worse that our middle-of-the-lineup guys are in need of so much improvement. White is getting some singles, but he's helpful and great in the lineup when he's hitting a ton of doubles, a few homers, and driving guys in. He has a long way to go, but I'm sure he'll be back in the fourth spot soon, since Ruben Sierra really isn't a solution.

Needless to say, so far, things haven't been that bad. In fact, that the Twins won seven games with the pitching they've gotten is impressive. They have shown more patience at the plate, and the ability to come back against great pitchers. Now all they need is guys to drive the ball some more and, of course, the pitching staff to show a hint of life. With a visit to Kansas City this week, that sounds quite possible.