The Twins beat the Tigers 6-2 on Wednesday, improving their record to 12-12 and finishing at .500 for the month of April. If someone had told me that the Twins would be .500 at the end of the first month of the season, I would have been quite surprised. It’s not as though a .500 record is spectacular or anything like that, but since the Twins hadn’t been at .500 for two seasons, it is pleasantly surprising. All in all, I would say that April 2013 has been a huge success. Let’s spend some time looking at what has contributed to this success, and what has held the team back from more success.
The middle infield has been the biggest surprise of the season, in my opinion. Brian Dozier had a rough 2012 season, but has bounced back in 2013 after a position change. He has handled second base very well and his offense has really improved since his move to the leadoff spot in the order. Pedro Florimon hasn’t been special, but he has been solid. Solid at the shortstop position and the ninth spot in the order in enough for me. Eduardo Escobar appears to emerging as a fan favorite and a player who is earning more playing time. I know I like him!
A recent slump aside, Joe Mauer has been very good this season. He just took his first day off on Wednesday and has posted a respectable 110 OPS+ thus far. His slump has hurt his overall stats, but I expect those stats to head back toward his career norms very soon. Josh Willingham might be the best power hitter the Twins have had in years. His .544 slugging percentage so far this season is excellent. His batting average will never approach .300, but his .400 OBP more than makes up for a little missing contact.
Kevin Correia spent his April proving just about everyone in baseball wrong. I don’t think there was a single person or expert who thought the Correia contract was anything less than confusing. Many were much more than confused. Correia has thrown over 36 innings this month, with surprisingly dazzling results. He has earned a large chunk of his 2013 salary, just with his April performance. I wrote about Correia in more depth (and less seriousness), if you want some fun Correia stats.
The Twins’ bullpen has been outstanding. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton were known commodities, and each has pitched well so far. Surprisingly, Perkins has the highest ERA of all Twins relievers. An ERA of 4.15 is the highest on the team! This is a testament to how effective the other members of the bullpen have been so far. Anthony Swarzak has been mostly great since returning from injury. Josh Roenicke has gotten great results, although his peripheral stats point toward a drop-off. Casey Fien and Brian Duensing have been solid. Ryan Pressly has been effective in his jump from AA. As a whole, the Twins’ bullpen leads the American League and is a huge contributor to the team’s success thus far.
The Twins’ rookie hitters have hardly set the world on fire. Aaron Hicks is slowly working his batting average toward the Mendoza line. Oswaldo Arcia has two home runs, but hasn’t added a whole lot more. However, the fact that each player is getting seasoning in the Majors, while learning how to deal with some struggles, bodes well for their futures with the Twins. When you consider that the team is still achieving at a higher level than expected, the extra patience with these two extremely talented rookies is absolutely worth the growing pains.
It hasn’t been all lollipops and gumdrops though. Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee each came into this season needing a full season of at bats, in order to prove their worth to the team. Neither player is doing anything that would inspire confidence in their futures. Parmelee and Plouffe aren’t talented rookies like Arcia and HIcks. They are fully matured players with disappearing upside. Each has parts of their game that I like. Plouffe has huge power against lefties. Parmelee takes good at bats and plays right field surprisingly well. I wouldn’t write either player off yet, but I would understand if each starts to lose some playing time.
Sadly, one of my favorite players, Justin Morneau, is not performing like the Justin Morneau we all grew to love. Morneau has been a below average offensive player this season, and has continued his major struggles against left-handed pitching. If the plan was to trade Morneau at the deadline, to obtain more prospects, I would say that the plan is not going well thus far. I still hold out hope for a bit of a turnaround, but Morneau is past the MVP portion of his career.
Perhaps Morneau has entered the portion of his career where he needs a platoon-mate. Trevor Plouffe mashes lefties, so maybe he is a match? It might seem like a wild idea to platoon Morneau, but we are in year three of very poor production against lefties, while Plouffe can’t hit righties. It might be a natural match, but actually putting it in place is more complicated than it seems on paper. It would be a bold move and with no one really available to take over at third full-time, it may not even be worth all that much.
The rotation as a whole has been pretty poor this season. Mike Pelfrey does not qualify for the ERA title, but if he did, he would be dead last in that category. Vance Worley does qualify, and he is fifth from last. Liam Hendriks was ineffective and then was sent to AAA. Scott Diamond has been getting better, as he further recovers from injury. I believe in Worley and Hendriks. I think many have forgotten that Worley had elbow surgery in August of 2012. Some rust and recovery is to be expected. Hendriks is still very young, and should get another look later in the season. Pelfrey is coming off of an even more serious injury, and may have returned too quickly.
Every team deals with good and bad. The Twins would like to get more from their starters and probably need a bit more from the lineup. There are certainly players who will improve as the season progresses. While my overall expectations for this team have not changed a lot, I do see more potential than I saw before the season started. With the prospects that this organization will add to the team in the coming years, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the long-term success of this franchise. I had pegged 2014 as the first season in the turnaround, but perhaps I was one season off. Regardless, watching a competitive team has been a pleasant development and the 2013 season has started with a successful April.
Who has surprised or disappointed you this season? Please share in the comments below.