Minnesota Twins First Half Grades
Before I begin with the grades, allow me to say this: Had I decided to write this article right after that 7-4 debacle against the Tigers on Saturday to continue their slide, I would have given every Twin an F, and then lit my laptop on fire. Luckily, the Twins won on Sunday, and I have had an additional day to cool off, so my grades will be (more) objective. The only other thing to keep in mind is that grades are partially based off of expectations, since not every player is created equal. Alright, let's get started.
Joe Mauer has been, by any measure, disappointing in the first half. I'm not all that concerned about him, but the lack of homers is a bit troubling. The average has been around the .300 line for some time now, but I expect that to rise in the second half.
Justin Morneau has been great as usual in the first half. His concussion worries me, because anything to the head can be trouble. I think he'll be fine. My bigger concern with him is his customary second half slide, but that has no bearing on these grades. Orlando Hudson has been very solid at second all year. J.J. Hardy doesn't have very good numbers, but he was finally turning it around before his wrist injury. It's tough to judge him so far with such a small sample size. As for the rest, Danny Valencia has been ok, Nick Punto has been Nick Punto, Drew Butera's hitting .151 and Brendan Harris has been awful. I'm done with Harris. He's a 29 year old who is decent in the field, has no power, no speed, and doesn't even hit for average anymore. It's time to put him out to pasture.
Outfielders and DH
Delmon Young has been the best of the bunch so far. His inclusion on the "Final Vote" All-Star ballot was a bit of a stretch (That didn't stop me from voting for him 25 times, but still). Regardless, he's been very good. Denard Span has been solid but not spectacular in the lead-off spot. Both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer have been somewhat disappointing, Cuddyer slightly more so, at least in my opinion (since I have the only vote on this report card, I guess it's the one that counts in my tiny corner of the world). Jim Thome has done exactly what I had hoped. He's one of the least athletic players I've ever seen (did you see that triple!) and can't hit for a high average anymore, but he has mashed 10 homers in fairly limited time. If he can keep hitting it out and driving in some runs, I will be happy.
Carl Pavano and his big, beautiful mustache have both been fantastic all year. Francisco Liriano was the AL Pitcher of the Month in April. He has cooled off since, with some dominant starts, but also being shelled a few times. He actually has a losing record in the first half (6-7), but some of that can be chalked up to poor run support. Scott Baker has struggled, but also received a cortisone shot in his sore elbow and will have 10-11 days between starts over the break, so hopefully that will help him. Kevin Slowey has been decent but can't get out of the 6th inning, and Nick Blackburn has been very bad, with an ERA of 6.70.
Technically, the Twins have one of the best bullpen ERAs in the AL, but they still scare me. There are a lot of unproven guys, and no one who is dominant. I was hopeful for Pat Neshek coming into this season, but good health remains elusive for him. Brian Duensing has done really well in long relief. Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett have been solid. Anthony Swarzak's numbers have been terrible. Ron Mahay is fine. Matt Guerrier scares me. It seems like he always ends up with good stats but blows a few huge games throughout the season. Finally, Jon Rauch has been a slightly above-average closer so far. Hopefully that will be good enough down the stretch.
I think it's difficult and somewhat unfair to rate managers and general managers until after the season. Managers don't make their biggest impact until the stretch run, and it's not fair to judge the front office until after the trade deadline (although missing out on Cliff Lee was very disappointing).
In closing, the season started out great, and has hit the skids more recently. I still feel good about the Twins' postseason prospects, as they have always been a historically strong second half team. The problem is, I still don't see them advancing to a World Series without that undisputed ace (Roy Oswalt anyone?)
This is already probably too long, so I'll wrap it up. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section.
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