May 4, 2014; Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout April, the Minnesota Twins offense continually surprised fans and media alike with its ability to drive in runs, ranking among the top in the league in runs per game. But that 5.56 runs per game average in April has dropped considerably in the month of May, dropping 2.5 runs to 3 runs scored per game over the first 10 games of the month. What’s the cause of this run shortage in May? Maybe the team missed Joe Mauer’s on base percentage during the six games that his back injury forced him to miss. Or maybe other injuries and roster changes messed with the groove of the Twins batting order. But the main sources of this relatively struggling offense are the Twins three April hitting stars, Jason Kubel, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Colabello.
Each one of those batters hit extremely well in April and truthfully carried the team high above its potential, especially when the starting pitchers were spotting so many runs to their opponents. Kubel hit .288/.360/.425, Plouffe hit .307/.415/.477 and Colabello hit .286/.337/.473, with each of them driving in a bunch of runs. One of the biggest things that they did to succeed was patience at the plate which limited strikeouts, increased walk totals and upped the amount of hittable pitches. The previously free-swinging Plouffe was the best example of them all, matching his 20 strikeouts with 15 walks. These guys were the engine of the Minnesota Twins offense during April but each has taken a turn for the worse during the first ten games of May.
Colabello was the worst of these three hitters in terms of BB:K ratio in April (6:24) but now he has really fallen off the map in May with only 3 walks to a whopping 17 K’s. His hot start has really come crashing down as he is batting .171/.227/.268 in 41 May ABs, possibly signaling pitchers growing awareness of how to get out the new and improved Colabello. Colabello’s scorching RBI machine April has dried up significantly as well, driving in only 3 runs so far in May compared to 27 in April. Part of this has to do with his batting dip, but he also isn’t getting as many ABs with runners on base since Plouffe has had an atrocious May.
Plouffe is hitting .119/.159/.190 in 42 May ABs and his 2014 great eye at the plate has suddenly disappeared to a tune of 2 walks versus 16 K’s. Batting averages and on-base percentages are going to suffer mightily with a BB:K ratio like that and Plouffe can’t keep his third spot in the lineup with those numbers. He has always been a streaky month to month hitter though and hopefully his new use-all-fields approach will bring him around quicker than normal.
Kubel’s promising, resurgent April hasn’t totally been spoiled yet but he has already racked up 18 strikeouts in 36 May ABs, after striking out 26 times in 80 May ABs. You simply can’t strikeout in every other at bat. Kubel is hitting better than Colabello and Plouffe in May though, with a .222/.300/.222 batting line, but it’s still bad enough to lose his starting spot in the outfield, as he didn’t play yesterday and won’t start today.
Now that the Minnesota Twins starters have turned it around, the offense doesn’t have to score as many runs to win games. But without the help of these three batters, the offense will be hard pressed to score even a few runs every game. Maybe their timing is off. Maybe they need to adjust their approaches as pitchers adjust to them. Maybe the Twins just need to get healthy to have some roster stability again. Whatever the case is these guys are supposed to be the heart of the batting order and we need that heart to actually have a pulse.