Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Month in Review: April

With the off-day yesterday, I thought I'd step back and take a look at the month that was for April 2007. I'm hoping to make this a monthly feature in which we can break down the season month by month and take a look at how things are progressing for our hometown nine. Today I'll take a look at where the Twins currently stand, which players were hot and which ones were not, which prospect was most impressive, and what we can look for in the upcoming month.

April Record: 14-11
Overall Record: 14-11 (2nd Place in AL Central)

TEAM REVIEW
April was a mixed bag for the Twins. On the one hand, they finished three games above .500 and their 14 wins put them in a tie atop the AL Central. On the other hand, they had a fairly easy schedule; so much so that finishing three games above .500 is a bit of a disappointment. The Twins played just 10 of their 25 games against potential contenders. They managed to sweep the Orioles and Mariners, but also split at home with the Devil Rays and lost two of three to the Royals in Kansas City. Fortunately, they ended the month on a positive note, taking two of three on the road against a very tough Detroit ball-club.

THREE UP, THREE DOWN
A look at three players whose performances were outstanding over the past month, and three who fell bellow expectations.

Three Up:
1. Ramon Ortiz: 35 IP, 3-1, 2.57 ERA, 14 K / 6 BB, 0.94 WHIP
The Twins' offseason signing of Ortiz to a one-year, $3.1 million deal drew much ire from fans, including the ones who run this blog. Suffice to say that we've been made to look pretty silly over the first month of the season. Ortiz has been nothing short of spectacular. The secret to his success isn't really so secret: he's keeping opponents off the basepaths. His 0.94 WHIP is well below his career rate of 1.42, and he's allowing just 1.54 BB/9 IP after entering the season with a 3.15 ratio. Whether or not he keeps this up for the rest of the season, Ortiz has already far exceeded my expectations by delivering five consecutive quality starts to begin the season.

2. Carlos Silva: 29 IP, 2-1, 3.10 ERA, 19 K / 7 BB, 1.52 WHIP
Silva was one of the worst starting pitchers in all of baseball last year, and he generally got roughed up in Spring Training. Bearing these facts in mind, many fans figured Silva would be out of the rotation by now. Instead, he's been extremely solid, posting a 3.10 ERA and never having allowed more than three runs in an outing. Unlike Ortiz, however, Silva hasn't really kept opposing hitters off the bases. Since he's only served up two homers over 29 innings and has allowed just a .250 opponents' batting average with runners on, this hasn't hurt him too much so far. Don't be surprised if that changes.

3. Torii Hunter: .326/.352/.651, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 16 R, 4/5 SB
Hunter has always been a streaky player, and this year he has come right out of the gates with a major hot streak. He's only drawn two walks over 91 plate appearances, but you won't find too many people complaining when he's producing like this. One has to wonder whether his impending free agency is in any way spurring his outstanding play.

Three Down:
1. Nick Punto: .220/.304/.317, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 10 R, 2/3 SB
It's been a rough start for Punto, who started the season with a good series against Baltimore but then went into a terrible slump at the plate. Looking deeper into the numbers, however, there are some encouraging signs. Punto has at least one hit in nine of his past 11 games, and during that span he's raised his average nearly 100 points. Also, after striking out 10 times in his first 42 at-bats, Punto has struck out just once in 40 at-bats since, leaving him with a near-even 11:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Cutting down on strikeouts and putting the ball in play is pretty clearly the key to Punto's success at the plate, so if he continues to make steady contact I think that batting average will continue to climb. Meanwhile, what he's lacked at the plate he's made up for in the field, as he has yet to commit a single error.

2. Jason Bartlett: .239/.316/.296, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 3/3 SB
Bartlett hasn't been much better than Punto at the plate so far, but he's shown similar signs of improvement as of late. He doubled twice on Sunday afternoon, which matched his prior season total for extra-base hits. While his batting average hasn't been good and he hasn't walked a ton, he at least has not been striking out -- just seven Ks in 71 at-bats. The thing about Bartlett's performance that makes it a bit more troubling than that of Punto is the shaky defense; Bartlett has committed six errors in 22 games.

3. Dennys Reyes: 7.2 IP, 0-0, 7.04 ERA, 7 K / 7 BB, 2.61 WHIP
Last year, Reyes was downright phenomenal. This year, his start has been anything but. In 50 and 2/3 innings for the Twins last season, Reyes allowed five earned runs, three homers, and issued just 15 walks. In 7 and 2/3 April innings this year, he allowed six earned runs, a homer, and issued seven walks. I think most people expected Reyes to come back down to earth this season, but not quite this hard.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
Jeff Manship - Beloit Snappers
The easy choice for this honor would have been Kevin Slowey, who delivered another masterful performance for the Rochester Red Wings last night, but instead I'm going to go with a lesser-known guy in Manship. Selected in the 14th round of last June's draft, the 22-year-old Notre Dame product has gotten off to a tremendous start this season, going 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 0.59 WHIP in five starts for Beloit. Over 32 April innings, Manship struck out 37 and walked just three. He is still pretty far from the majors at this point being that he's in Low-A ball, but look for Manship to rise quickly with his dominating stuff. Meanwhile, his college teammate Jeff Samardzija, who could have conceivably been a first-round pick in the past weekend's NFL Draft but had opted for baseball instead, is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.56 WHIP playing in the same league as Manship with the Daytona Cubs.

MAY PREVIEW
Things definitely don't get easier for the Twins at this point. After opening this month's schedule with a three-game series in Tampa Bay, the Twins will play a stretch of 15 games against the Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers, Indians and Brewers, all of whom have played well so far this season. The Twins will then face a couple solid offensive clubs in the Rangers and Blue Jays, and then finish the month with another series against the White Sox. After playing some uninspiring ball against a lot of bad teams in April. the Twins will have much to prove against a much tougher set of opponents here in May.

5 comments:

ubelmann said...

The Cubs also had to pay Samardzija a bunch of money to lure him away from football. Maybe Samardzija was a slightly better prospect than Manship, but the Cubs paid an awful lot for all of those touchdown catches.

Corey Ettinger said...

Nelson, I have a review of Manship, I'd like to either submit it to your site or ask you to link to it. I think your readers get some decent info from it.

Nick N. said...

The Cubs also had to pay Samardzija a bunch of money to lure him away from football. Maybe Samardzija was a slightly better prospect than Manship, but the Cubs paid an awful lot for all of those touchdown catches.

Right, I think that's the most interesting part of the whole situation. Methinks a lot of it had to do with Samardzija having such a big name because of his outstanding play for the Notre Dame football team, and not as much to do with him being a better player than Manship.


Nelson, I have a review of Manship, I'd like to either submit it to your site or ask you to link to it. I think your readers get some decent info from it.

That sounds great. Either way.

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