Monday, July 02, 2007

Month in Review: June

Three months down, three to go. June was a pretty good month for the Twins, and they head into July in reasonably good shape. Yesterday we learned that the Twins will send at least three players to the All-Star Game (Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and Torii Hunter) and we also watched Jeremy Bonderman out-duel Scott Baker, who tossed a second consecutive gem. However, rather than analyzing either of those events, I'll spend today's post taking a look back at the month that was for June 2007.

June Record: 15-12
Overall Record: 42-37 (3rd Place in AL Central)


TEAM REVIEW
As mentioned above, the Twins had a good month. They started out poorly, by losing three consecutive series, but then they swept the Braves and went on to win nine of their last 15 games. The Twins entered the month two games above .500, and left it five games above. Because Detroit and Cleveland both played well over the course of June, the Twins remain comfortably in third place, but by playing winning baseball they stayed afloat and kept themselves within striking distance.

The Twins' big bats cooled off a bit in June (most notably Joe Mauer, who batted just .229 for the month), but a few others started to show signs of life. Jason Kubel started showing some power and Jason Bartlett ended the month on an 11-game hitting streak. Meanwhile, the starting pitching was mostly solid and Scott Baker ended the month with a string of great starts to make a statement about his spot in the rotation.

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. Johan Santana: 41 IP, 3-2, 1.98 ERA, 33 K/9 BB, 0.98 WHIP
Santana seems to be settling into his annual second-half groove. After a solid first couple months, Santana was spectacular in June, allowing just 31 in hits in 41 innings. He tossed a complete game shutout against the Mets. He got especially strong toward the end of the month -- over his last thee starts, Santana went 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA. If this truly is the start of another one of his famous mid-season runs, the next few months could be a lot of fun.

2. Jason Bartlett: .298/.368/.402, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, 10/10 SB
After hitting just .241 over the first two months of the season, Bartlett was in need of a big month to get him back on track. It came in June, as he raised his OPS on the season by almost 150 points (.633 at the end of May, .773 at the end of June). Bartlett finally started to show a bit of power, collecting a pair of home runs along with three doubles. After slugging below .300 in both April and May, he slugged .405 in June. That's still not particularly great and I'd really like to see him hitting more doubles (just three in the month), but as long as he's getting on base at a solid clip I can live with the lack of power. Bartlett also became a monster on the base-paths, swiping 10 bases in June after stealing just six bases in the previous two months combined. Bartlett still has yet to be caught stealing this season in 16 attempts.

3. Pat Neshek: 13.2 IP, 1-0, 1.32 ERA, 17 K/2 BB, 0.44 WHIP
Neshek has been pretty damn good all season, but his month of June was something else. Aside from the two solo home runs he surrendered (neither of which hurt the team too much), Neshek was lights out. By allowing just four hits and two walks over 13 2/3 innings, Neshek allowed less than one base-runner every two innings. That's an insane rate. He's allowed six runs this season, and all six have come in on home runs. Basically, you don't rally against this kid. Neshek has a chance to become the Twins' fourth All-Star representative through the "Final Vote" promotion; you can vote for him over at MLB.com (http://mlb.mlb.com/index.jsp).

Three Down:
1. Luis Castillo: .250/.289/.287, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 14 R, 4/7 SB
Castillo entered the month of June batting .335, and by the time the month was over he was barely sitting above .300. It's not just the fact that Castillo hit for a poor batting average in June that is disturbing, it's the fact that that .250 average was about as empty as could be. Castillo hit just four doubles and drew just six walks, and amassed a pathetic OPS of .576 for the month. For all the complaining that people have done about Jason Tyner this year, it's worth noting that Castillo now has a lower slugging percentage than Tyner and an OBP that sits just 12 points higher. Don't be fooled by Castillo's .300 average; he having a poor season offensively.

2. Boof Bonser: 28.2 IP, 1-3, 6.91 ERA, 17 K/6 BB, 1.57 WHIP
Bonser made my "Three Up" list in May by going 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA, but June was a different story altogether. His ERA was near 7, he gave up 39 hits in 28 1/3 innings, and he struck out just 17 hitters after fanning more than a batter per inning in each of the first two months of the season. The Twins need Bonser to get back on track.

3. Nick Punto: .150/.253/.213, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 10 R, 4/4 SB
Punto makes the "Three Down" list for a third consecutive month with by far his ugliest month of the season. Not much else to say here.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
Nick Blackburn - Rochester Red Wings
Alexi Casilla made a strong bid for this award by hitting .330/.423/.443 with 16 walks and nine doubles in June. Yohan Pino of Class-A Ft. Myers also had a great showing, posting a 1.54 ERA and tossing a seven-inning no-hitter on the months final day. But there was no way I could give the Prospect of the Month honor to any player other than Blackburn, who did not allow a single earned run over the course of the entire month. In five June starts, Blackburn went 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA, allowing just 28 hits over 39 innings while striking out 21 and walking just ONE.

JULY PREVIEW
After losing their first game of July yesterday, the Twins continue their grueling road trip tonight when they open a four-game set against the Yankees in New York. The Twins finish their road trip this weekend in Chicago, then get a three-day break for the All-Star game before launching a nine-game homestand against Oakland, Detroit and Los Angeles. They then hit the road for three games in Toronto followed by three in Cleveland, and finish up at home against the Royals. This month will no doubt be filled with all kinds of trade speculation. I think Terry Ryan will make a move of some sort, but don't be surprised if it's not until right around the July 31 deadline. While the Twins played just two games against intra-divisional opponents in June, they play 13 in July, which will provide a good opportunity to move further toward (or perhaps away from) the top of the AL Central standings.

4 comments:

Baseball_Lipgloss said...

I agree with your Three Up and Three Down selections… and not just because Barty is cute :)
Luis Castillo has been such a great member of the team with defense and delivering the zings offensively in the infield but something has been missing these last few weeks (like great defensive plays and more RBIs.)
Jen

Tricia said...

Poor Nicky...Why can't he get a hit once in a while? Ugh. He's such a good defensive 3rd baseman. I feel really frustrated watching his at-bats. I can't even imagine how frustrated he must be.

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