Twins Rewind, Week 10: Chicken or Egg?
Has the Minnesota Twins' recent turnaround been due to better starting pitching or better hitting?
Much like the riddle involving the chicken and the egg, no one really cares as long as there are more wins in the standings and Colonel Sanders doesn't run out of product.
However, unlike the chicken and the egg, we have been present during this time and can come to our own conclusions.
The most often cited reason for the turnaround, Scott Diamond, made his season debut on May 8 versus the Angels and has gone 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA in seven starts since that date.
As a team, the Twins record is a much improved 17-14 since that point as well.
As for the hitters, the most important date was May 16, the day Justin Morneau returned from the disabled list and the day before Ben Revere was recalled from Triple-A Rochester.
Since that date, the Twins' record is 14-9, with Revere batting .342, second on the team only to Joe Mauer.
In the same time, Morneau is hitting .262 and leads the team with 23 RBI.
So what does this tell us?
In short, it tells us that each part is equally important and will pick the other side up on any given day.
For every 5-0 win for Diamond, there has been a 10-7 game the hitters have won during this current stretch for the Twins.
On to week 10 of the MLB season and another winning week for the Twins.
Minnesota's hitting continued to be hot. As a team they went 65-for-216 (.301 BA) and averaged nearly six runs a game.
The starting pitching also continued to improve, as starters allowed only 16 earned runs in 32.2 innings of work (4.41 ERA), and opponents averaged 4.67 runs per game in total.
As always, some players were a little more outstanding or underwhelming than others, and we look back on those performances now with Twins Rewind.
Hitter of the Week: Ben Revere
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As I mentioned before, Ben Revere has been integral to the Twins' current run of success and this week was no exception.
Revere batted 11-for-44 (.458 BA) with six runs scored, three RBI, one triple and four stolen bases, leading the Twins in batting average, hits, runs scored and stolen bases.
His presence at the top of the Twins' batting order has been tremendous in two ways. First, he is getting on base so others can drive him in.Second, he is creating havoc while on the base paths to create opportunities for himself to touch home plate.
This current version of the Twins' lineup with Denard Span and Revere at the top of the order will continue to put themselves on base and in turn will put the team as a whole in a better position to win games.
Let us not underestimate Revere's value in the clubhouse as well.
I dare you to find a minute of footage of Ben not smiling, laughing or joking around with his teammates.
Revere may not be the guy you want giving a motivational speech before a big game, but with no-nonsense players like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau around, his energy and enthusiasm have got to mean something in the locker room as well.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Plouffe
Whether it is a trend or not, Trevor Plouffe had himself one heck of a week at the plate.
Plouffe went 7-for-23 (.304 BA) with five runs scored, six RBI, three home runs and two doubles, leading the Twins in the latter three categories.
Plouffe has been essentially a boom-or-bust hitter so far this year, almost one-third of his hits this year have been home runs (nine of his 28 hits).
This week was no different, as three of his seven hits were home runs.
Maybe more interesting than his batting numbers was the fact Plouffe started games in left field, at third base and also at first base this week.
This definitely is a stretch, but Michael Cuddyer struggled the same way early in his career both at the plate and in the field.
It wasn't until he found a home in right field that Cuddy's career took off.
Could Plouffe benefit from stability the same way Cuddyer did years ago?
The answer is probably yes, but Plouffe should concentrate on being more consistent at the plate before he worries about signing with the Rockies in eight years.
Pitcher of the Week: Matt Capps
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Remember two weeks ago when Matt Capps gave up the lead against the Tigers on a Sunday afternoon?
You probably have forgotten that by now because Capps has been lights-out since that Miguel Cabrera home run touched down.
This week, Capps appeared in three games — picking up two saves and one win in those performances.
In fact, going back to that blown save, Capps has appeared in six games allowing only four hits and two walks, while going five-for-five in save opportunities with the one win coming Friday against the Cubs.
The secret to Capps' success has become the solution to the Twins' bullpen problems from a year ago.
Capps goes after hitters, pounding the strike zone and forcing the opposition to make contact.
The rest of the bullpen has followed Capps' lead, allowing just one walk this past week in 21.1 total innings.
We all know Capps will blow another save somewhere down the line this season, but indications are that these blown saves will be few and far between.
Honorable Mention: Scott Diamond
Another week, another stellar outing for rookie starter Scott Diamond.
Diamond was the winner in Saturday's 11-3 beat down of the Cubs, pitching six innings, giving up no runs on seven hits and striking out five.
At this point, Diamond has started to get the attention of some national media members, with early Rookie of the Year buzz starting to enter the conversation.
The Twins and Diamond are obviously a long way away from that possibility, but if Diamond can continue at 80 percent of his current pace, he may just give Mike Trout a run for his money come award season.
Francisco Liriano Award for Baseball Non-Excellence: Francisco Liriano
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Am I picking on Francisco Liriano at this point?
Yes, but facts are facts and Liriano was the losing pitcher in both of the Twins' losses this week.
Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Bruce Chen and the Royals was not Liriano's fault as he pitched six innings, giving up one earned run on four hits while striking out eight Royals.
However, Sunday was more like the Frankie we all have gotten to know and love.
While not terrible, Liriano only went 5.2 innings, giving up four earned runs on four hits and three walks.
Of course, the offense could have helped him out as the Twins did not score a run for Liriano while he was in either game this week.
Still, Liriano has a long way to go before Twins fans should feel any confidence in him when he is taking the mound.
On the bright side, it shows the improvement of the Twins as a whole when performances like Liriano's were the worst of the week.
Dishonorable Mention: Brian Dozier
I think Twins fans went a little overboard with the praise for Brian Dozier after he was called up, at no fault of his own.
While Dozier's start with the big league club was impressive, he has slowly moved himself from Cristian Guzman territory to Pat Meares territory in no time at all.
Dozier was 5-for-25 this week (.200 BA) with two runs scored, two RBI, two doubles, one stolen base and no walks.
The zero walks is what scares me because it is not just a Brian Dozier problem, it is a Twins' problem.
As a team, the Twins drew just 20 walks this past week compared to striking out 38 times.
While not a horrific ratio when your team hits .300 for the week, what happens if a majority of the bats go cold?
Instead of just Dozier having a sub-par week, the whole offense would be in the tank.
Chances are Dozier will bounce back next week, as most players who I single out for their performances seem to do, but more patience and better pitch selection will serve the rookie well going forward.
The Week Ahead
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Tuesday will bring the return of Jim Thome to the Twin Cities as the Phillies and Twins start a three game set.
Nick Blackburn will make his second start back from the disabled list against right-hander Kyle Kendrick on Tuesday.
Blackburn should be followed by P.J. Walters on Wednesday, Scott Diamond on Thursday, Francisco Liriano on Friday, Liam Hendriks on Saturday and Blackburn again on Sunday if all goes as planned.
The Twins have a real chance to prove that this current hot streak is not a mirage against two playoff teams from a year ago.
While the Phillies and Brewers are both currently playing sub-.500 baseball, it would be a real confidence boost to take series from teams that should be contenders until the very end.
Week 11 of the Major League Baseball season is shaping up to be an important one for the Minnesota Twins.
Hopefully, next week we will be reviewing another successful week of Twins baseball that sees the Twins get out of the cellar of the American League Central Division.