So the Cleveland series didn't go well. But now the Twins are coming to town, and with it is an opportunity for the Reds to gain some games back on the Pirates. The Twins were held up as a shining example of a well-run, small market team for a number of years. And I'm not saying that they still aren't well run. But they have really been scuffling the last few years.
Part of the issue has been injuries, as both of their big offensive stars--Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau--have been bothered by a variety of problems over the past few years. Their rotation has also been ravaged by injuries, especially this year. But part of it is probably also that they got a bit lucky for a few years in terms of player development all converging at once, and now they're not getting so lucky.
On offense, they do a good job of getting on base, but they don't hit for enough power to be an above-average offense. They're similar to the Reds in overall performance, though keep in mind that the Reds' hitting numbers include pitcher hitting. The Twins' starting rotation has been a complete and unmitigated disaster, and their bullpen has just been average...ish. Their fielding has been nothing special. Altogether you have a team that has performed essentially as expected out of spring training: they've been the doormats of the American League.
Trying something a bit different. I've long wanted a way to report more than just wRC+ for batting, but couldn't do it without splitting the two teams into different figures. Well...I've split the two teams into different figures. I think it's ok.
A few things this first time.
1. Man, Joey Votto is really amazing.
2. I love how predictable Ryan Hanigan has been: walks as much as he strikes out, good on base percentage, not a lot of power. I also really love the guy as a player. He's on pace for a 3 WAR season.
3. I've had the impression that Todd Frazier (who I'm totally guessing here by putting in left field...but that's what I'd do) wasn't walking much this year. His walk rate has been steadily rising for the past month, and is now perfectly acceptable. I hope that Dusty is able to keep him in the lineup more often than not, and I have no problem with benching Ludwick to do it.
4. Our middle infield is not a fan of the base on balls. That said, I love having Brandon Phillips on this team.
5. Jay Bruce's BABIP. Bad luck? Or a problem with his approach? Either way, I expect that to rise as the summer goes on.
I used to have a massive man crush on Joe Mauer. I don't think I was alone in that. His power has basically disappeared in his post-MVP self, however, and I'm in my first fantasy season since returning to the game in 2010 without him on my team. I'm ok with it.
It's sad to see Justin Morneau scuffling like he has been since the concussion. I think Joey Votto will get the start at 1B over him for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic next year, though. If he wants it, of course.
Josh Willingham is having a great year. But I didn't realize quite how much Trevor Plouffe has been killing it. He was something of a power-hitting shortstop prospect coming up. Right now, he's the Twins' third baseman and has been phenomenal through 180 PA's. And get this: his BABIP is .234! I think we'll see regression anyway, but this might not all be a mirage.
I've never understood what the draw was with Nick Blackburn. I think it's the excellent name, which I rate as a 60 name on the scouting 20-80 scale. But the guy is just not a good pitcher. A tolerable #5, maybe. I've gotten the impression that the Twins think he's more like a #3. He's not.
Brian Duensing is rejoining the rotation after spending the season as a reliever. They've pretty much exhausted all of their other options between injuries and their AAA guys just not being ready. He's had some success as a starter, even if he has a reputation for not being able to get right-handers out. I don't think he'll do any worse than their other options, but a 4.44 xFIP in relief as a lefty is not very encouraging.
On the other hand, Scott Diamond has been quite good thus far. I'm skeptical that he'll be able to keep it up while striking out fewer than 5 per 9, but so far he's avoided walks almost entirely while getting tons and tons of ground balls. He's an interesting pitcher.
This is where Jared Burton went, and he's been terrific! I've long had a thing for Jared Burton ever since my first foray into pitchf/x with the help of John Walsh, so it's great to see him rediscovering some success with the Twins. Glen Perkins has also been quite good. Matt Capps, though, seems to be on his last legs, and the rest of their pen has just been a disaster.