Friday, June 01, 2007

Month in Review: May

Another month of baseball is complete, and it was an interesting one for the Twins. Let's take a look at how they performed as a team, which players did well and which ones didn't, which prospect was most outstanding, and what we can look forward to over the next 30 days.

May Record: 13-14
Overall Record: 27-25 (3rd Place in AL Central)

TEAM REVIEW
Overall, the month of May could be viewed as a disappointment for the Twins, as they posted a losing record and dug themselves into a bit of a hole in the AL Central. However, looking more closely, it's hard not to be optimistic about what they were able to do. They had a very tough stretch in their schedule where they had to play series against three of the American League's toughest teams in Boston, Detroit and Cleveland. The Twins did not fare well in those nine games, as they went 2-7, but they took care of business for the most part against the rest of their opponents, especially in the latter half of the month. After going 4-11 and averaging 4 runs per game from May 1 through May 17 (a stretch which included the three aforementioned series), the Twins went 9-3 and averaged 6.33 runs per game through the rest of the month.

The story for this team right now is resiliency. Things looked glum after the Indians dominated the Twins in a three-game sweep in the middle of the month, but the Twins have played some very good baseball since then and have pushed themselves back into contention in the tough AL Central. Early in the season, it seemed that when an opposing team took an early lead, the Twins would lay down and die, but that hasn't been the case lately. In Saturday's game against the Blue Jays, the Twins erased a three-run deficit in the ninth inning to force extra innings before they eventually losing in the 13th. In Wednesday's game against the White Sox, the Twins battled back from an early five-run deficit and won in the bottom of the ninth to complete a sweep of their divisional rivals.

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. Justin Morneau: .314/.380/.667, 10 HR, 29 RBI, 21 R, 0/0 SB
After putting up some solid numbers in April, Morneau was downright spectacular in May. His K/BB ratio regressed (13/13 in April; 20/11 in May) but Morneau improved in just about every other category. He nearly doubled his RBI total from April and hit four more home runs, while posting a 1.047 OPS that shattered his .879 total from the previous month.

2. Boof Bonser: 36.2 IP, 4-0, 2.45 ERA, 38 K / 14 BB, 1.36 WHIP
Bonser struggled out of the gates, but he was in ace form in May, posting a terrific ERA and striking out more than a batter per inning as the Twins won five of his six starts. The only somewhat alarming numbers are the 14 walks and the consequentially unspectacular WHIP, but I think we can live with that given the results.

3. Michael Cuddyer: .317/.430/.524, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 19 R, 1/1 SB
It was really hard to choose just three guys for this segment because so many guys had great individual months in May. Mike Redmond, Luis Castillo, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana all would have been deserving candidates. Still, I had to go with Cuddyer just because he showed such tremendous improvement. In April, Cuddyer drew just five walks and slugged just .450. In May, he drew 10 more walks to increase his on-base percentage by nearly 100 points, and he also hit five home runs (compared to two in April) to increase his slugging percentage by 74 points. Cuddyer responded extremely well after being moved into the No. 3 spot in the order, so it will be interesting to see whether he sticks there once Joe Mauer returns (with Mauer sliding up to the No. 2 slot).

Three Down:
1. Ramon Ortiz: 22.1 IP, 0-3, 10.48 ERA, 8 K / 5 BB, 2.01 WHIP
In our "Month in Review" piece for April, Ortiz ranked No. 1 on the "Three Up" list after going 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP during the season's first month. Most people felt it was too good to be true, and those people were right. Ortiz was absolutely crushed in five straight starts before being demoted to the bullpen, where he will be pitching mop-up duty for the foreseeable future.

2. Jason Bartlett: .243/.349/.284, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R, 3/3 SB
After a rough April, things didn't get much better at the plate for Bartlett in May. While his partner on the left side of the infield, Nick Punto, also hit very poorly (again) in May, Punto at least drew 16 walks and stole seven bases while playing outstanding defense to somewhat make up for it. Bartlett's defense has been suspect, and he's not really doing anything exceptionally well at the plate. I continue to expect Bartlett to pick things up and start playing like he wants this starting shortstop job, because he's just too talented to be playing this poorly.

3. Jason Tyner: .209/.286/.239, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R, 0/0 SB
In May, Tyner continued to show no patience at the plate while hitting for no power. Since he didn't collect as many singles as he normally does, this left him with an extremely ugly hitting line and an OPS that barely topped .500. Tyner hasn't been playing a whole lot and he's starting to look increasingly expendable. I fully expect him to be the odd man out when (if?) Rondell White returns from the disabled list.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
Kevin Slowey - Rochester Red Wings
Slowey's May actually wasn't quite as good as his April, but he still put up some phenomenal numbers and he gets the nod for Prospect of the Month for earning a call-up to the big leagues this week. After going 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA and .152 BAA in April, Slowey went 3-2 with a 1.86 ERA and .231 BAA in May. His strikeout rate dropped from 9.8 K/9 IP in April to 6.7 K/9 IP in May, but his ground ball rate improved. He also tossed three complete games in May after throwing none in April.

JUNE PREVIEW
It's time for interleague play, which should be music to the ears of Twins fans after last year. The Twins will play home series against the Nationals, Braves and Brewers; they'll play road series against the Mets and Marlins. The Braves and Mets will likely provide a tough challenge for the Twins, but the rest of those series should be winnable. The Twins start the month with a road trip to the West Coast which kicks off tonight in Oakland and continues into next week with a three-game series in Anaheim that starts on Monday. The only American League opponent the Twins will face at home in June is Toronto, who comes into town for a four-game series toward the end of the month. All in all, the June schedule isn't overly tough and should provide the Twins with an opportunity to make up some games in the standings.

3 comments:

twayn said...

Nice capsule piece, Nick. I would like to note that in your 3 Up, 3 Down section you didn't make any mention of Matt Guerrier, who has become a real anchor in the bullpen. Over the month of May, Shaggy threw 18 innings in 13 appearances, giving up just 11 hits and 3 earned runs and lowering his ERA from 2.25 to 1.91. He also had 16 K's and only 3 BB during the month. He's just quietly been very, very good on the hill and I thought he deserved some notice.

Nick N. said...

Very good point Twayn. Just another guy that I was unable to fit in. Another guy who really stood out in the bullpen in May was Pat Neshek, who posted a 0.66 ERA with 18 K over 13.2 IP.

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