Minnesota Twins: Trending Up at the Break
Minnesota Twins Trending in Right Direction at All-Star Break
Where was this break in April or May when the Minnesota Twins needed to regroup?
An All-Star break during one of their long losing streaks would have been nice. Now, when they are playing their best baseball since May of 2015?
Not so much.
The Twins are scorching hot, even by really good MLB-team standards. Even after enduring 95+ degree days in Arlington, the Twins did not wither.
Instead, it was the American League-leading Texas Rangers who seemed to succumb not just to the heat, but to the barrage of power generated by the July edition of our Minnesota Twins.
The Twins were 5-2 this past week, with series wins over the Oakland A’s and the Rangers.
They are 7-3 for the month of July, as many wins for the entire month of April, and only one less than the total from May.
A winning record for the month would be their first winning month since winning 20 games a year ago May.
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The Minnesota Twins wrapped up the season series against the one of the elite teams in all of baseball, winning five of seven from the Rangers.
And, today, Kennys Vargas was named American League Player of the Week. Halcyon days, indeed.
UP: Offense. Twins are not only hitting well this month (.310), they are leading all of baseball in runs, extra base hits, and total bases so far this July.
That pesky runners in scoring position (RISP) stat?
Risen to a respectable .241 average for the year, propelled by the likes of Eduardo Escobar (.395), Kurt Suzuki (.310), and Eduardo Nunez (.306).
UP: Max Kepler. Despite playing in just 46 games, Kepler is tied for second on the team in RBI’s (28) in RISP situations, behind only Brian Dozier‘s 31. In fact, Kepler is fourth on the team in total RBI’s (33), despite his limited opportunities.
Kepler should start gaining ground in the Rookie of the Year race, especially given his showing against his main competition for the award, Nomar Mazara, this past weekend. Mazara has 11 homers and 36 RBI’s in 81 games, while Kepler has eight home runs and 33 RBI’s in just his 46 games.
Mazara will get extra votes for playing for a team that is in the playoff hunt, so Kepler will need to handily outpace Mazara in certain stats to get the consideration. His batting average has actually dropped in July (batting only .216 this month), but he’s bashed five home runs and driven in 18 runs in the 10 games he’s played.
UP: Kennys Vargas. Hall of Famer Cris Carter of the Vikings was famously known for, “All he does is catch touchdowns.” Vargas, at least the 2016 version, should trademark, “All he does is hit for extra bases.”
Since his recall on July 4th, Vargas is 8-for-14 with five doubles, three home runs, and zero singles.
His slash is an other-worldly (.471 AVG / .609 OBP / 1.903 OPS), with the encouraging ratio of six walks versus only three strikeouts.
His power production in the middle of the lineup fills the need that Byung-ho Park was supposed to after his signing.
UP: Pitching, Tyler Duffey in particular. Duffey was this close to boarding the shuttle to AAA Rochester. He had gone seven straight starts with allowing at least four earned runs.
Since then, he’s won all three of his starts, with his ERA falling nearly an entire run during that stretch.
He now has a team-high five wins, and gets to savor his six-inning, no runs, nine-strikeout performance in Thursday’s 10-1 win over the Rangers.
The best part is that he has gotten the Twins to at least the seventh inning (or better) since being placed on the hot seat.
DOWN: Strikeouts. A third of the way through the month, the Minnesota Twins have struck out just 62 times in July, ranked 28th (out of 30 MLB teams). The improvement at the plate this month has moved them now to 14th in the league for the season, after sitting in one of the top three spots for most of the year.
The Twins have also led the league in walks for July (50), giving them a team OBP of .391 this month.
While Joe Mauer has been, at times, prolific for reaching base this season, the improvement at the plate by Dozier since May, plus the addition of a patient hitter like Robbie Grossman has shown the other young Twins how to approach at-bats.
Grossman doesn’t have enough qualifying plate appearances, but he would otherwise rank third in the AL for OBP (.421). He’s walked 36 times in just 48 games with the Twins, tied for third with Miguel Sano.
UP: Sano at third base. While he’s made some errors (four in 22 games played at third), he’s also made some dazzling plays, while also showing off his strong throwing arm.
The best part of Sano playing third is how comfortable it seems to have made him at the plate.
Since his activation from the disabled list, Sano has played at third while Trevor Plouffe recovers from a cracked rib. During that time, Sano is hitting .282 and second to Kepler in RBI’s with nine in the ten July games.
UP: Eddie Rosario. Hitting just .200 prior to his demotion, Rosario has lifted his average 40 points this month, collecting five extra base hits in seven games.
After a surprising 2015 campaign, Rosario had just seven extra base hits in 32 games before being sent down.
Rosario is a free swinger, striking out 34 times this year versus just three walks. But when he does make consistent contact (10 hits in four-game Rangers series), his ability to hit the ball into the gaps allows him to utilize his speed.
With Byron Buxton resting his bruised knee, Rosario’s speed in the outfield has been a plus as well.
And with Kepler now entrenched in right field, and Grossman providing stability in left, it will be interesting to see what manager Paul Molitor does with now five outfielders (including two rookies) for the rest of 2016.
Of course, the trade deadline may help sort some of this out.
UP: Cohesion. Watching this team in Spring Training, seeing the production from Rosario, Sano, and Dozier, 2016 looked to be a promising season.
While the season is now lost, much can be gained in the remaining couple months.
The Minnesota Twins are hitting at nearly every position.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki and Dozier heated up first, and Kepler’s ascension helped shore up the bottom of the lineup.
With the additions from the DL and from AAA added to the mix, the Minnesota Twins are formidable from the lead-off spot down to the number nine hole.
It’s the All-Star edition of Twins Trends, and we haven’t even mentioned the Twins’ representative in San Diego, Eduardo Nunez.
While the national media balked at the Minnesota Twins having a presence despite their horrible first half, Nunez belongs.
He’s sixth in the AL in batting average, and third in stolen bases.
He also has 12 HR and 40 RBI from primarily the lead-off position.
Next: Five Favorite Twins All-Star Moments
STRANGE, BUT TRUE, STAT OF THE WEEK: Sunday’s 15-5 win over the Rangers was the second 10-run (or more) road win in franchise history against the team that entered the day with the best record in its league. The only other time was an 11-0 shutout over the Bash Brothers Oakland A’s in June of 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum.