5 Reasons Things Are Looking Up for the Minnesota Twins
Sure the Minnesota Twins are still the worst team in the American League, but things are looking better. They've surpassed the Padres and Cubs, at least, having won six of their last 10 games heading into the Wednesday night game against the Royals.
The roster that manager Ron Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan were toying with in April is starting to settle down, and the Twins bats are starting to make some noise.
Currently with a .382 winning percentage, the Twins are still projected to finish 62-100, exceeding the mark of futility from last season, when they avoided their 100th loss on the last day of the season against the Royals at Target Field.
But the Twins are playing better than that now.
Gone are re-tread veterans Sean Burroughs and Jason Marquis. Luke Hughes and Clete Thomas, who played four and 12 games respectively for the Twins, are now with other organizations. Danny Valencia has been dispatched to Triple-A in hopes of regaining the form he had the second half of 2010 when he hit .311 in 85 games with seven home runs and 40 RBIs.
The starting rotation has three new faces, and the M&M boys are starting to come around.
While the Twins won't be competing for the division or a Wild Card playoff spot, they have been playing more competitively and are even a little easier to stomach these days—of course it does help that Francisco Liriano is back in the rotation and Nick Blackburn is off the disabled list.
As the spring moves to summer, here are five reasons things are looking brighter for the Minnesota nine.
The Twins' Record Has Been Improving Each Month
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The Twins opened the season dropping their first four games.
They finished the month of April with the worst record in baseball, at 6-16.
Since then they have picked it up, with a 15-17 record in May and June. Looking at the recent success, the Twins have three straight series—all right so it was against the Royals, Tigers and A's, but I'll take every win I can at this point.
If the Twins can at least continue to play at the same winning percentage they have since April, they will finish the season with a 72-90 record.
OK, it's not great, but at least it's taking the Twins in the other direction from the 99-loss season of 2011.
The Twins Are Hitting with a Little More Power
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Before anyone comments that I'm crazy and that the Twins are last in the American League in terms of home run hitting, they are on a pace to hit more than last season.
In 2011 the Twins had 107 home runs in 5,421 at-bats. That's a home run every 50.7 at-bats.
So far in 2012, thanks to the 11 home runs hit by Josh Willingham and 10 hit by Justin Morneau, the Twins have 41 home runs in 1,844 at-bats—one for every 44.9 at-bats.
Trevor Plouffe, who is starting to find his groove even though he may not know what position he'll play from one day to the next, has seven home runs in 36 games. Last season he hit eight in 81 games.
Even Joe Mauer has already matched his 2011 total of three home runs in 30 fewer games.
On a final note, it should be noted that the Twins have as many home runs as the Los Angeles Dodgers...the team currently with the best record in baseball, at 35-21.
The Twins Rotation Looks Good with the "New 3"
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As stated in the opening slide, the Twins starting rotation has been remade since the opening of the season.
In April the Twins starters finished 4-12 with a 6.75 ERA in 22 games.
May was a little better, with an 8-13 record and an ERA of 5.74 for the month. On the season, the starters are 13-28 with a 6.10 ERA.
The hope of a turnaround rests on the arms of the southpaw Scott Diamond and right-handers P.J. Walters and Cole DeVries—none of which were in the starting rotation when the season opened.
Combined, these three are 7-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 14 starts.
Diamond is emerging as the Twins best pitcher, with a 3-1 record and a 1.86 ERA.
Now if only the Twins can find another two pitchers to fill out the rotation...
The Bullpen Is Much Improved
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Last season the Twins bullpen was the worst in baseball.
They finished with a 17-28 record, 4.51 ERA and 20 blown saves.
This season, however, the bullpen has been a pleasant surprise. As each pitcher is settling into his role, the results have been decent.
Twins relievers are 8-6 with a 3.52 ERA, currently in 14th in baseball—moving up 16 spots from where they finished in 2011.
Jeff Gray, whom the Twins selected off waivers from Seattle last October, leads the bullpen with a 3-0 record. He has a 4.43 ERA over 22.1 innings pitched.
In 2010 Brian Duensing was 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 40 relief appearances. After a failed attempt in the Twins starting rotation last year, he has returned to form, leading the bullpen with 29.1 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.76.
Speaking of the bullpen...
If the Twins Can Give a Lead to Matt Capps the Results Have Been Good
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Matt Capps has been nearly perfect at the end of the Twins bullpen.
Heading into the season there was a huge question as to how effective Capps was going to be after a less than successful season in 2011. Last year he finished with 15 saves in 24 opportunities pitching in 69 games, finishing with a 4.25 ERA.
So far this season he has converted 13 of 14 save opportunities and has a 3.38 ERA over 21.1 innings.
Here's hoping the Twins can give him more opportunities through the summer.