Minnesota Twins Players of the Week 4/23-4/29
The Minnesota Twins returned to Target Field this week after spending last week on the east coast and proceeded to take it on the chin.
The Boston Red Sox broke out of their collective slumps by sweeping the Twins and the Kansas City Royals continued the Twins losing streak before Gardy's crew won the last game of a rain-shortened series.
Minnesota's favorite ballclub finished the week 1-4, but certainly had their chances to win three of the four games they ultimately ended up losing.
It certainly was an eventful week. Fans saw the brief return of Ben Revere while Josh Willingham was away for the birth of a child, Glen Perkins fell down some stairs and Chris Parmelee took a ball off the helmet and has yet to return.
It may have been a rough week for winning games, but the bats were not to blame. Starting pitching continued to be the weakest link for the Twins and any hopes of turning the early season woes around starts with them.
Let's now look back at some of the best and worst performances of the entire week.
Hitter of the Week: Joe Mauer
Mauer's production continues to rise.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Last week I told you that Joe Mauer was the Twins most consistent hitter and this week was no exception.
Mauer collected at least one hit in all five games this week and played in all five games this week at catcher, first base and designated hitter.
Joe finished the week 8-for-19 (.421 batting average). He scored four runs, drove in four runs, had a double and a triple (both in Friday's loss to the Royals) and walked three times.
Twins fans definitely would like to see more power production from Mauer, and Joe should want to see it himself, but constantly being on base for Willingham and Morneau will pay off in the long run.
Honorable Mention: Danny Valencia
Valencia was the earned dishonorable mention honors as last week's Least Valuable Player for his lack of plate discipline and suspect defense.
This week, Danny showed Twins Territory that he has the tools to be the team's every day third baseman for the foreseeable future.
Valencia appeared in all five games this week going 5-for-16 (.313 BA). He scored three runs, had four RBI, had one home run (he was robbed of another), one double, one triple and reduced his number of strikeouts from nine last week to two this week.
Maybe Valencia just needed some home cooking to get his game going this year, but the Twins certainly need him to continue to produce and score enough runs to keep them in games.
Pitcher of the Week: Jared Burton
Burton continues to perform in the clutch.
If you think it is easy to write this every week, you try to pick a pitcher of the week out of the mess the Twins have been trotting out to the mound game after game.
Jason Marquis could have been selected for picking up the Twins only win this week Sunday against the Royals, but he also gave up five earned runs and 11 hits in his first start of the week: a loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Maybe Anthony Swarzak could get the nod for keeping the Twins in what seemed to be a blowout loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday, allowing the Twins a chance to steal a win.
Instead, Jared Burton is the pitcher of the week for his continued domination of the 7th innings of games.
Burton appeared in three games this week, pitching one inning in each and only allowing one baserunner on a walk in Sunday's win versus the Royals.
While what he is doing may not seem very impressive, the lack of quality starting pitching the Twins have had this season is making the bullpen even more important than usual.
Knowing that Burton will come in and keep runs off the board in the 6th, 7th or 8th innings of a game will allow Ron Gardenhire to pull starters out of games sooner and still be confident in keeping a lead.
It may not be much, but at this point it's about all the Twins have going for them in the pitching department.
Honorable Mention: Jason Marquis
Jason Marquis may not have done enough to be pitcher of the week, but he certainly did enough to be honorable mention after picking up the win on Sunday.
I won't go over it again, but Twins fans should get used to Marquis' steady-but-suspect performances on the mound.
If you think of Marquis as Carl Pavano 'Light,' it might help. Like Pavano, he will get you through six innings, but will rarely shut down the opposing offense.
Dominant? No. Steady? Yes. That's about all the Twins can ask for at this point and time considering the other options.
Least Valuable Player: Francisco Liriano
This is a different picture than I used last week, seriously.
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
If you are saying, "But Liriano didn't even pitch this week. They took a step back with him and skipped his start," you are right.
It still doesn't mean that Francisco Liriano was not the least valuable player on the Twins roster this week.
Liriano needs to be starting every time his spot in the rotation comes up, and the fact he is so bad the Twins are unwilling to let him take the mound makes him undoubtedly the least valuable player.
Frankie is the guy, along with Carl Pavano, that should be giving the Twins a chance to win even when they aren't scoring seven runs a game.
So, while Liriano has not been valuable while pitching for the Twins this season, he becomes even less valuable when the Twins don't have enough confidence in him to let him do his job.
Hopefully the week off has done Liriano some good and he has figured out some things mechanically that will allow him to be a reliable starter for the rest of the season.
I am just not counting on it.
Dishonorable Mention: Jamey Carroll
There is nothing inherently wrong with Jamey Carroll or the way he plays the game.
He is an above-average fielder at his advanced age and does a good enough job handling the bat and getting on base that he should be a part of the Twins everyday lineup.
The problem is, he is currently hitting second in the Twins lineup, and when he is not moving runners over and taking walks, he is essentially useless to the offense.
Carroll went 3-for-19 this week (.158 BA). He scored four runs, drew four walks and that is it.
The Twins ability to win games at this point is based solely on the ability to outscore their opponents. Having Jamey Carroll hitting second almost guarantees that, even if Denard Span gets on base, Joe Mauer will be hitting with a runner on first base with one out.
Moving Carroll down in the order, even if it is temporary, will only benefit the Twins and give them more chances to score runs early in games.
My suggestion would be to move Trevor Plouffe into the second spot in the order, since the Twins have seemingly given him an everyday spot in the lineup.
While Plouffe was equally as bad at the plate this week, 2-for-16 (.125 AVG), he does a good job taking walks (five this week) and has the power to find a gap and not leave Mauer staring at a potential double play when he walks to the plate.
The Week Ahead
Blackburn will try to get back on track this week.
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The week starts with Nick Blackburn facing off against C.J. Wilson, Albert Pujols and the rest of the struggling Angels on Monday night.
The Angels are 7-15 and are probably hoping to jump-start their winning ways, much the same way the Red Sox did against the Twins.
The Mariners are 11-12, but have had troubles scoring runs in most of their losses. Hopefully the Twins will take advantage of this and end the road trip on a positive note.
One final note: the Twins currently are last in Major League Baseball with a 5.69 team earned run average.
However, the Twins have a more respectable ERA of 4.34 from the seventh inning on, while, from innings one-through-six the ERA sits at 6.29.
Those numbers should tell the story of the Twins season so far. If the team is to turn things around, it is going to have to start with starting pitching.