Friday, August 03, 2007

Month in Review: July

The Twins pretty much just treaded water in July. After July 1, they were four games above .500 and 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. After July 31, they were four games above .500 and 6 games out of first place in the AL Central. They should consider themselves lucky to be in such a position with the way they played for much of the month. They suffered a devastating home sweep at the hands of the division-leading Tigers in the middle of July, and the next week they were swept in Toronto by the Blue Jays. Fortunately, the Twins stayed afloat thanks to a four-game sweep over the Athletics coming out of the All-Star break, and another four-game winning streak to finish the month.

July Record: 13-14
Overall Record (through 7/31): 55-51 (3rd Place in AL Central)

TEAM REVIEW

It was an ugly month for the Twins offense. They averaged 4.27 runs per game over the course of the month, but that number is skewed by the 32-run outbreak in their double-header against the White Sox on July 6. Take those two games out of the equation and the Twins averaged a miserable 3.29 runs over 24 games. General Manager Terry Ryan responded to this offensive ineptitude by doing nothing except dump one of the team's better hitters around the trading deadline. Sweet.

The Twins were kept afloat by their pitching staff, which was very good for the most part and downright phenomenal toward the end of the month.

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: .347/.391/.644, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 14 R, 1/1 SB
Somewhat quietly, Morneau had an absolutely monstrous month of July. He posted season highs for average and on-base percentage, and his .644 slugging percentage falls short only of the .667 he posted in May. The one negative with Morneau was that he struck out 16 times while drawing just six walks over the course of the month, but as long as he keeps putting up numbers like these, you won't find me complaining.

2. Scott Baker: 40.1 IP, 3-2, 4.02 ERA, 27 K/5 BB, 0.99 WHIP
The 3-2 record and 4.02 ERA may not look overly impressive, but make no mistake: Baker had a very encouraging month in July. He allowed less than a baserunner per inning and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was over 5:1, which are both excellent signs for a young pitcher. And while 4.02 may not seem like a terrific ERA, keep in mind that his May ERA was 5.94 and his June ERA was 5.64. Plus, if you take away the game in Chicago in which he allowed seven runs over five innings (a game he won anyway, thanks to some nice run support), Baker's July ERA was just 2.80.

3. Joe Nathan: 13.2 IP, 8 SV, 1.32 ERA, 11 K/1 BB, 0.68 WHIP
It's nice to see Nathan back in the form we're used to. July was Nathan's best month in almost every statistical category. He gave up only two runs, one of which was an ultimately meaningless solo homer in the last game of the month. Nathan's month-by-month walk totals since April: 4, 3, 2, 1. I like that trend.

Three Down:
1. Juan Rincon: 8 IP, 12.38 ERA, 9 K/6 BB, 2.38 WHIP
Just brutal. Rincon has been awful as of late. On the one hand, I kind of wonder whether some injury is bothering him, like what was happening with Jesse Crain earlier in the season. On the other hand, Rincon has pretty much been steadily regressing for almost three years now, so maybe this is just what he is now.

2. Carlos Silva: 37 IP, 3-3, 5.84 ERA, 12 K/7 BB, 1.43 WHIP
Silva pieced together a very nice outing in his last start of the month, but his overall numbers were still very ugly. He surrendered six home runs over 37 July innings, which, combined with the poor ERA, had him resembling Silva v. 2006.

3. Torii Hunter: .239/.297/.477, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, 0/0 SB
It's tough to be considered productive when you're getting on base less than 30 percent of the time. The power was still there for Hunter in July, as he collected 11 extra-base hits in 88 at-bats, but the run production was missing. After averaging 21 RBI over the first three months of the season, Hunter drove in just 11 in July. He's always been streaky, so this is probably nothing to worry about, but with the way this offense has been slumping, they could really use another signature hot streak from their center-fielder.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
Trevor Plouffe - New Britain Rock Cats
From 2002-2004, the Twins drafted a high school position player in the first round of each draft. Those players were, in order: Denard Span, Matt Moses and Trevor Plouffe. Entering this season, it was looking like all three of those players were on the road to becoming flops, but finally there is some reason for hope. While Moses has turned things around a bit after being demoted from Rochester, the player who is really starting to draw some intrigue is Plouffe. Last year, in Ft. Myers, Plouffe hit just .244/.315/.344 with four homers, 26 doubles and eight stolen bases. In New Britain this year, he has surpassed all those numbers already in about 60 fewer at-bats. The 21-year-old shortstop prospect is currently hitting .290/.344/.440 with eight home runs, 31 doubles and 10 stolen bases. In July, Plouffe hit .310/.375/.450 with a homer, two stolen bases and 11 doubles. Good to see this promising young athlete finally catching on at the pro level.

AUGUST PREVIEW

The Twins have a chance to make up some ground in the Wild Card race this month, with six games against the current leader, Cleveland, and six more against another team ahead of the Twins in the WC standings, Seattle. Of course, to have a shot in that race, the Twins will also have to hope the Yankees falter a bit, which seems somewhat unlikely at this point. The Twins will need to take advantage of the series against lesser teams like Kansas City, Baltimore and Texas this month. Most of all, they need to start hitting!

6 comments:

S.Chancellor said...

I knew the offense was bad, but I I had no idea it averaged only 3.29 runs a game (discounting the 32 run day). Now that is a salient observation.

This is a .500 team, and it will take 92+ wins to make the play-offs.

The GM should have just been brutally honest - he should have taken responsibility for the club's lack of major league hitters and admitted that the team was no threat to contend. We all could have stomached the Castillo trade, and even the moving of Silva, Nathan, Hunter, if he had been forthright.

I am not advocating trading Hunter, but if the GM doesn't think the team can contend (which he doesn't as evidenced by the Castillo trade), and if he doesn't plan on re-signing him, then he should have moved him.

Minnesotans, and Twins fans, are an intelligent lot. We can accept a 'retooling' season as long as we know what the expectations are. We endured 9 years of rebuilding, or whatever that was, in the 90's.
But we've been had by the GM this time around.

Nick N. said...

I'm okay with Ryan not trading Hunter. The draft pick compensation when he leaves as a free agent will be nice, and dealing him would have cause a PR nightmare.

I don't understand why Silva was not traded though. There was a market for starting pitching at the deadline, but instead Silva will leave at the end of the season for nothing.

twayn said...

Silva allegedly was not moved because Ryan was worried that Santana would be upset if his best friend on the team was traded. That's according to a couple of trade rumor reports from last week. Turns out TR managed to tick off Santana anyway by trading Castillo. And you might be premature with your thought that Silva will be leaving at the end of the season. He's currently playing out his 2007 club option, but I wouldn't be surprised to see TR make him an offer for next year. He hasn't been horrible this year (9-11 with a 4.61 ERA). He could easily be 12-8 right now if he'd had more run support in some close, low-scoring games. And if the price is right he could be a cost effective veteran starter for next year (and we know how Gardy and TR prize their veteran starters - even crappy ones like Ortiz and Ponson).

Nick N. said...

There's no way I see Silva coming back next year. It's just not feasible. Considering what mediocre starters who can eat innings made on the free agent market last year, Silva should easy be worth at least $8-10M per year. It makes no sense for the Twins to spend that kind of money on him when their rotation will already be overcrowded as it is:

1. Santana
2. Liriano
3. Garza
4. Baker
5. Bonser/Slowey/Perkins/Duensing/Blackburn/etc

Why overpay for a mediocre vet when you've got so many talented young (cheap) options who are likely to do the job better?

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