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TwinsCentric: Upward trends for the Twins

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: April 1, 2014 - 10:07 PM

We know about the negative trends: three straight years of losing, a spring marked by consistently low offensive output, and several veterans whose numbers have been on the decline.

Those trends are no fun to think about, especially here in a young season that remains full of possibilities despite some discouraging early signs. Today, let's focus on some positive trends that emerged last year and will hopefully serve as precursors of things to come.

Nolasco's Nifty Second Half Run

After being traded from the cellar-dwelling Marlins to the contending Dodgers last summer, Ricky Nolasco went on quite the run. In his first 12 starts with LA, Nolasco went 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA and 62/17 K/BB ratio in 74 innings while holding opponents to a .213 average.

He turned in a few clunkers in the final weeks of the season, taking some luster out of his second-half numbers, but the impressive stretch was a reminder that Nolasco can dominate when he's locked in.

His overall results last season (best since 2008) certainly seem to be bode well, even if his first start for the Twins left a bit to be desired.

Colabello's Improved Discipline

During his initial exposure to major-league pitching, Chris Colabello looked pretty overwhelmed. Understandably he seemed rattled early on, posting an atrocious 18-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 plate appearances through the end of July. Yikes.

The International League MVP made some impressive adjustments at the plate, striking out 40 times against 19 walks in 126 plate appearances from the start of August through the end of the year. Nothing great, but a huge step forward. He continued to control the strike zone well this spring, with 10 strikeouts and eight walks.

We know that when Colabello hits the ball he can generate some legit power (that was on display Monday when he drove a double deep to right in the ninth inning) but keeping his K/BB ratio in check will be vital to his success at the plate.

Escobar's Awakening

Serving as a backup infielder for the Twins in the first half last year, Eduardo Escobar was simply brutal at the plate. When he was sent down in mid-July, his batting line was an anemic .214/.268/.328.

The demotion to Rochester proved to be just what Escobar needed to jolt his slumbering lumber. In 43 games at Triple-A, he hit .307/.380/.500 with 22 extra-base hits and 17 walks. Very nice all-around production for the 24-year-old. He returned to the Twins as a September call-up and batted .324 the rest of the way.

Escobar has never hit much in the past, so it's tough to put too much stock into the strong second-half performance, but he's seen by many as a late bloomer and if he can develop into a remotely effective offensive threat off the bench (or as a replacement for a scuffling infield bat) it would be a big boost for this club.

Swarzak Settling In

After spending his first few seasons as a swingman and long reliever, Anthony Swarzak transitioned into a full-time relief role last year, and over the course of the season he was given more and more opportunities to pitch in shorter late-game situations. He figures to see more of those chances this year, with Sam Deduno presumably taking over the primary right-handed long man role.

That's good news, because Swarzak thrived in full-time relief duty, posting career bests in ERA (2.91), WHIP (1.16), BB/9 (2.1) and K/9 (6.5). He was especially effective in the latter part of the season, putting up a 2.70 ERA while holding opponents to a .603 OPS in the final three months.

Pelfrey's Progression

Many people are down on Mike Pelfrey due to his overall production in 2013, which certainly wasn't good, but I'm actually feeling confident in his ability to rebound and give the Twins a solid season. He made a rapid return from Tommy John surgery last spring and it showed in the early months, but in the second half of the campaign he was downright respectable, with a 4.39 ERA and .730 opponents' OPS from July through September.

Those are perfectly adequate numbers for a back-end starter making $6 million, and of course, now that he has gone through a normal offseason of rest and preparation, it's possible we haven't seen his best.

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Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
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Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
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Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
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Wright State 62
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(12) Arizona
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(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
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Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
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(23) Clemson
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Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
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(7) Ohio State
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Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
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Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
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Boston College
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Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
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New Mexico
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Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
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(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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(1) Florida State
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San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
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Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
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BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
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Ga Southern
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Texas-El Paso
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Fresno State
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Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
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