Given the volatile nature of BIP luck, it was fair to expect second-year regression for both players, and sure enough that's what we've seen. Valencia is hitting .218/.301/.327 for the Twins, and Jackson is hitting .190/.258/.281 for the Tigers.
Of the two slumping sophomores, I'd say Jackson has more to worry about. He was extraordinarily lucky to maintain a such a good average while striking out in over a quarter of his at-bats in 2010; this year he once again leads the league in whiffs and the balls he has put in play haven't been as apt to evade gloves.
Meanwhile, Valencia's funk seems more like bad luck than regression to the mean. He has actually upped his line drive rate from last year (from 18.8 percent to 23.9 percent) and has shown very good discipline at the plate, with 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 113 plate appearances.
Valencia was unlikely to rattle off another .800 OPS in his second season, but I think most of us would have been content if told he was walking more, striking out less and hitting more liners after a rookie campaign that wasn't exactly shabby.
* I wrote on Monday about the dire state of the catcher position for the Twins. Joe Mauer's replacements have produced a worse hitting line than the average National League pitcher, and they're not exactly making up for it on the other side of the ball; Minnesota pitchers have generally struggled and opposing teams have run wild on the bases.
I concluded then that the Twins ought to either sign or trade for a catcher if they sensed that Mauer's return was still weeks or months away. The combination of Drew Butera and Steve Holm was simply not acceptable as even a moderately long-term solution for a major-league team.
It turns out the front office agreed with at least part of that sentiment. They optioned Holm to Rochester yesterday, but he's only swapping places with another lackluster option who was already there. In order to jolt their fledgling squad, the Twins have replaced Holm and his .343 OPS (which, mind you, was actually superior to Butera's .306) with 27-year-old Rene Rivera and his .583 OPS in Triple-A.
I suspect the Twins were dissatisfied with Holm's game-calling (opponents scored 26 runs over the last two games he received) and inability to control the running game (he was 0-for-5 throwing out runners). A shakeup at the catcher position was beyond necessary. But replacing Holm with another no-bat minor-league journeyman who has no business playing in the majors is not a passable solution for an offense that has been baseball's worst over the first five weeks of the season.
* In addition to Rivera, the Twins called up two other minor-leaguers who merit a bit more enthusiasm. With both Jim Thome and Jason Repko hitting the disabled list earlier this week, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere have been promoted to try and build on their brief 2010 MLB debuts.
Revere, who hit .375 over his last 10 games in Rochester, is a welcome addition. His bat isn't much of an asset, but he's a better defender than Rene Tosoni -- who has looked very green -- and he adds significant speed to the roster.
Plouffe has gained attention by smashing six home runs over his first 21 games in Triple-A this year, and would have a hard time proving a worse option at shortstop than Alexi Casilla, but I maintain the stance I took on him in early April:
I'd note that while Plouffe's power is intriguing -- especially for a middle infielder -- his on-base skills and defensive aptitude are questionable. Much like with Luke Hughes, we shouldn't allow a brief power-hitting streak to skew our perceptions of him as a ballplayer.The Twins themselves don't seem to believe in Plouffe as a legitimate answer, as they've directed Tsuyoshi Nishioka to take reps at shortstop while he rehabs from a broken leg.