Friday, May 02, 2008

Month in Review: April

April Record: 13-14
Overall Record: 13-14 (T-2nd Place in AL Central)

TEAM REVIEW
All things considered, the Twins are pretty lucky to be just a game under .500 after one month's play. They've been outscored 122-102, which gives them a Pythagorean win/loss record of 11-16. Fortunately for them, they've won some tight ballgames and avoided any prolonged losing streaks, but if they continue to play like they have so far, things could spin out of control quickly.

The Twins offense has been just miserable through 27 games. They've scored fewer runs than any American League team other than the Royals. (The Twins are at 102, the Royals are at 101. The lowest-scoring AL team outside of those two is Toronto, with 116.) The Twins rank last in the AL in on-base percentage (.305), walks (58) and home runs (14). It's been ugly.

The pitching has been better, but far from exceptional. The staff has posted a 4.24 ERA, which ranks eighth in the AL. I suspect that the team ERA will hang around that number for the entire year, but that's not going to be nearly enough unless the offense picks up the pace considerably.

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. Nick Blackburn: 38.1 IP, 2-1, 3.52 ERA, 19 K / 6 BB, 1.38 WHIP
The rookie right-hander has been the team's most pleasant surprise over the first month of the season. He's shown no fear, pumping the ball in the strike zone and trusting his defense to take care of business. That method has worked so far, as Blackburn has induced ground balls at a 47.7 percent rate and has surrendered just one home run in nearly 40 innings. In all likelihood, the GB rate is going to come down and the HR rate is going to go up, so Blackburn will probably need to start missing a few more bats to maintain his success.

2. Joe Nathan: 11 IP, 9 SV, 0.82 ERA, 11 K / 2 BB, 1.00 WHIP
So far Nathan has lived up to his new contract. In 11 appearances during the month of April, he allowed only one run, and that came in a blowout loss when he was just getting his work in. Nathan's value wasn't maximized thanks to Ron Gardenhire's sometimes frustrating late-inning bullpen management, but nonetheless the Twins closer did everything that was asked of him.

3. Justin Morneau: .268/.345/.495, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 12 R, 0/0 SB
Morneau was really the only hitter on the team who excelled in the season's first month. His overall hitting line is far from amazing, but he was a crucial force for this offense, hitting six homers and driving in 22 runs (T-3rd in the AL). The run production has come about thanks to some incredibly clutch hitting -- Morneau hit .481/.571/.889 with runners in scoring position.

Three Down:
1. Mike Lamb: .203/.224/.278, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 4 R, 0/0 SB
No matter what you thought about the Lamb acquisition, you had to at least believe he was going to provide improved production over Nick Punto's atrocious 2007 performance at third base. Thus far, he hasn't. Lamb has been a complete and utter disaster. He's managed to drive in 11 runs thanks to a .438/.400/.688 line with runners in scoring position (which is probably the sole reason fans haven't completely turned on him), but with the bases empty he has batted .152/.188/.196. I've been very patient with Lamb, and quite frankly I'm dumbfounded that he hasn't started hitting yet. Time to get it going in May.

2. Delmon Young: .265/.306/.314, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 13 R, 6/7 SB
The Twins brought in Young in a major offseason trade in an attempt to replace Torii Hunter's production in the lineup. So far, the new left fielder has been a massive disappointment. I can deal with the unimpressive .265 average. I can deal with -- and even expected -- the terrible plate discipline and accompanying ugly on-base percentage. But Young's lack of power has been extremely painful. He's managed just four extra-base hits (zero of them homers) in 27 games.

3. Jason Kubel: .237/.257/.381, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 11 R, 0/1 SB
As one of the biggest Kubel supporters, it pains me to write his name on this list. And really, he has been one of the team's chief run producers, ranking second to Morneau in home runs and RBI. But a .237 average and .257 OBP simply are not acceptable. He needs to get that 20-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio turned around, and soon.

PROSPECT OF THE MONTH
Luke Hughes - New Britain Rock Cats
Signed out of Australia back in 2002, Hughes had some success in the rookie leagues before struggling his way through Low- and High-A ball. Yet, last year he had something of a breakout at Class-AA New Britain, posting a 794 OPS in 92 games while playing mostly second base. Still, he finished the season as a 23-year-old with a .263/.322/.382 career hitting line in the minors. He started this season back at New Britain, and he was nothing short of spectacular over the season's first month, batting .354/.430/.677 with eight homers and 18 RBI in 24 games. He posted a solid 18-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio and went 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts. One month into the season, Hughes is just one home run short of setting a career high. He should find himself in Rochester quite soon if he continues to rake like this. (UDPATE: Hughes went 4-for-5 with his ninth home run last night.)

MAY PREVIEW
The Twins pitching staff will be put to the test this month, with series against the Detroit(twice), Boston, the White Sox, the Yankees and the Rangers, plus a three-game set in Colorado.

7 comments:

ubelmann said...

It's almost difficult to imagine Kubel working so many walks in the second half of last season the way that he's been hacking this season. Unfortunately, I think that's almost what's keeping him in the lineup, since it makes him look more aggressive, and the big knock against Kubel within the organization is always that he's not trying hard enough. Oddly, he did nearly the same thing last April, but it apparently wasn't good enough:

.261/.288/.348

Maybe he's just going to have random months where he doesn't walk. I'm not worried about the strikeouts--they are a natural result of a non-Pujols/non-Bonds trying to hit for power, but the walks certainly aren't there. I like his chances of turning it around, but it would be easier if he didn't have months like this where he just makes too many outs.

John said...

You've got Delmon Young as 11/12 for steals. He is in fact 6/7.

He's going to have a lot of trouble hitting many home runs when 60% of the time he makes contact the ball is on the ground.

I fear he's going to be a big bust unless he can tweak his swing and get more line drives and fly balls.

Anonymous said...

maybe the twins should design the new stadium with an outfield fence that is negative 10 feet tall like you could do in the old earl weaver baseball game. then delmon could start hitting some homers.

Nick N. said...

Oops, thanks for catching that John, I fixed it.

David said...

Mike Lamb is the guy I am most worried about. How much longer can he hold on to his job?

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