One big surprise of my relocation to Seattle has been that right after I left Minnesota, the hapless Twins started winning after four dismal seasons (basically the whole time I lived in Minneapolis.) They have clawed their way to the top of the division. Not many people predicted an even .500 club, but new manager Paul Molitor has turned the club around. In a weird twist, the much hyped Seattle Mariners have been pretty damn bad despite acquiring Nelson Cruz, who is a triple crown threat. So the more exciting team is 1,600 miles away and I’m stuck with the bumbling Mariners. I can admire the Twins from afar and it’s a pretty darn likable team dontcha know! Here are the players:
Brian Dozier: The Star
The Twins success starts with lead off hitter Brian Dozier, who leads the league in runs scored with 47 and extra base hits with 32. He also leads the club in home runs with 11. On the defensive end, Dozier sucks up everything hit his way at second base like a industrial strength vacuum cleaner. Easily the MVP of the club with a .266/.339/.872 line and top of the line defense.
Torii Hunter: The Wizened Vet
Former Twins all-star Torii Hunter is back, but now he is now 40 years old and seemed to be in decline. Surprisingly, he is having a resurgent year, leading the club in batting average and RBI’s. Hunter used to patrol center field, but, having lost a couple steps, he is now a right fielder and a slow one at that.
Joe Mauer: The First Base Man
Statistically Joe Mauer is in decline. His on-base percentage is at .330, despite making .400 look easy and routine in his prime. His home runs only come once in a blue moon now with two this season, but Mauer still anchors the 3 spot in the line up and plays first base as well as a catcher can be expected to. Ideally teams want more power out of their first basemen, but Mauer seems to get big hits in big situations so you kind of have to put up with it. Plus that 250 million dollar contract and all.
Trevor Plouffe: The Stud Third Baseman
Usually batting clean up, third baseman Trevor Plouffe has been playing at an elite level with a .320 OBP and 9 home runs. Even more refreshing has been his improving defense. His Range Factor is near the top for his position and his error rate has gone way down.
Kurt Suzuki: The Steady Vet Catcher
Suzuki hasn’t been able to maintain his fantastic offensive numbers from last year (.345 OBP), but is dependable as a catcher and his .319 OBP is good for his position.
Eduardo Escobar: Mr. Utility
Eduardo Escobar plays third base, shortstop and left field as needed and is a streaky hitter. He tends to start the year on a tear, but he has slumped mightily recently dropping his OBP to .250. Last year he posted solid offensive numbers with a .275/.315/.721 line in 433 at-bats.
Eddie Rosario: The Rookie Phenom
Eddie Rosario made a splash in his big league debut, crushing a home run in his first at-bat. More importantly, Rosario has brought speed to an outfield sorely needing it, tracking down liners in left field. He has batted .289 so far and brought speed to the base paths.
Aaron Hicks: The Five Tool Fool
Aaron Hicks was billed at a five tool center fielder: bringing running speed, arm strength, hitting for average, hitting for power, and fielding. He hasn’t been able to deliver on the hitting categories and has was sent down last season and didn’t make the club out of spring training. He got called up when utility outfielder Jordan Shaffer went down with an injury and showed glimmers of his five tool promise, making amazing grabs in center. Nonetheless, he has slumped at the plate with a .280 OBP. He has held on to his center field starting job thanks to his spectacular defense and the hope he’ll come around at the plate.
Danny Santana: The Slumping Sophomore Shortstop
Danny Santana had a dazzling rookie season that turned me into a Danny Santan-Fan. He batted .319 in 101 games, good enough for fifth best batting average in the league. Unfortunately, Santana has slumped as a sophomore batting just.217 with a dismal .235 OBP. Also troubling, he has committed 12 errors at 418 innings at shortstop, after committing only 2 errors in 261 innings at short last year.
Designated Hitter: A Void: Where’s Oswaldo?
The Twins have had a hell of time finding a dependable DH. They sent down slugger Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia hasn’t gotten called up from a rehab assignment yet after suffering a hip flexor injury. That leaves a shortage of power and no obvious choice for DH. Utility infielder Nunez has seen time at DH as has Torii Hunter when they opt for younger legs in RF. Hunter makes sense, but whoever they plug in, the position is batting .247 with 3 home runs this season. Not very good for a slot literally designated to hitting. Personally I hope they call up Arcia and that he can build on his impressive 20 homers last year in 372 at bats. He only managed .300 OBP but that’s still an improvement at DH for us.
Mike Pelfrey: The Zombie Arm Ace
Starter Mike Pelfrey’s arm was dead to me after two pathetic years marred by injuries and starts resembling batting practice. Then it came back to life this year! He is dominating hitters and lowered his ERA to 2.28 after today’s eight shutout innings. He’s 5-2 and out of nowhere is in the Cy Young discussion.
Kyle Gibson: The Sophomore Slinger
Gibson followed up a decent rookie season with an even stronger sophomore year so far posting a 3.00 ERA and 4-3 record so far. That’s pretty good for a Twins rotation that was dead last in ERA and strikeouts last year.
Phil Hughes: The Icarus Ace
Phil Hughes was the sole bright spot of the rotation last year, going 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA and an outstanding 1.13 WHIP. As a career 4.36 ERA pitcher, Hughes was pitching too close to the sun and this year his wings melted off and he dropped down to earth. His ERA has ballooned to 4.96 and he has gone 4-5.
Trevor May: The Rook
Trevor May didn’t look so hot in ten starts last year, posting a rotund 7.88 ERA. This year, he’s sharpened his stuff and posted a 4.35 ERA and a 4-3 record with 50 K’s in 56 innings.
Ricky Nolasco: The Lucky Belly Itcher
Ricky Nolasco started the season injured and is injured now, but in seven starts he posted a 5-1 record despite a 5.51 ERA. Talk about luck! Nolasco posted a 5.38 ERA last year, so unfortunately he seems to be more of a belly itcher than a pitcher. Maybe his luck and run support holds out though.
Glen Perkins: The Untouchable Closer
Glen Perkins has converted all of his 21 save opportunities. He is a big reason the Twins have the best record in the American League. His ERA is a minuscule 1.67.
Blaine Boyer: The Sharp Set-Up Man
Boyer has been almost as untouchable as Perkins as the set up man. He’s posted a 2.17 ERA and amassed 11 holds. Boyer was an off season acquisition with a career 4.39 ERA so he wasn’t expected to be such a catch. But sometimes free agents pan out.
The Middle Relief: A Bunch of Scrubs
The rest of the bullpen is pretty mediocre. Pressly, Graham, Fien and Thompson are solid enough, but Duensing, Stauffer and Thielbar are terrible. Sending down Duensing seems long overdue and it’d make room for a decent hitter to use as DH.