Brief Assessment of the Twins

The Twins have made a strong push in the AL Central, lurking just one-half game behind the division-leading White Sox and a game behind Boston in the Wild Card standings. Why? A solid offense with much of the production coming from Morneau (15 HR, 73 RBI, .322/.391/.909). However, while Mauer is not a big home-run or RBI guy (6 HR, 44 RBI), he’s back to batting well over .300 (.324/.419 [from a team-leading 55 BBs]/.884) and is contributing by being on base for others such as Morneau to drive him in, which is happening since Mauer leads the Twins in runs with 62. Yet others have either done well enough or better than expected at the plate to provide balance. Nick Punto, who is returning from a sprained finger, is hitting way above his .250 career average with a .324 average this year. Alexi Casilla has been a spark plug, hitting .313 and driving in 36 runs. Delmon Young has probably produced less than the Twins expected (4 HR, 39 RBI, .299/.340/.745) but has been pretty decent.

But the team as a whole ranks third in the AL in total runs with 484, 35 ahead of the seventh-ranked Yanks, and in batting average at .279, 12 points higher than the fifth-ranks Bombers. Perhaps most importantly on offense, the Twins are ripping the ball with RISP, easily leading the AL with a .313 average and standing a full 60 points higher than NY. Mauer is at .338 with RISP, Morneau .356, Casilla .346, Young .297, and Punto .435. While the Yanks are better with RISP, 2 outs at .273, Minnesota is better still at .284, again leading the AL.

The pitching has been fairly good, and they rank just below the Yanks with a 4.21 ERA. However, they’re second-last in BAA with .277, primarily from their starters also ranking second-last with a .286 BAA–hopefully good signs for the Yanks. Tonight’s starter Nick Blackburn has been good (7-5, 3.65 ERA) and, while he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, he’s like Mussina in how few he walks (18 in 118 1/3). Wednesday’s starter, lefty Glen Perkins, has been good (7-2, 3.84 ERA), and better against righties (.239) than lefties (.277). Nathan is clearly a closer to avoid (0-0, 1.11 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 27 saves/29 chances, 46 K’s in 40 2.3 IP), one of the very best in the game.

The Twins haven’t done it with smoke and mirrors, just good baseball, clutch hitting, and getting young starters to step up. While they have a balanced attack, the Yankees clearly cannot allow Morneau and Mauer to beat them. Nor can they flood the bases with runners, for the Twins have too often cleared them this year.

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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