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TwinsCentric: Muted Mauer, Pelfrey's problems and Pinto's pop

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: April 23, 2014 - 9:54 AM

* The Twins rank third in the American League in run-scoring, which is pretty surprising on its own but even more so when you consider that Joe Mauer has chipped in very little thus far.

I certainly don't mean to contribute to the typical Mauer panic that arises any time he goes through any kind of slump, but the slow start is noteworthy. Early on, he's striking out way more than ever before (27 percent K-rate) yet hitting for no power (three extra-base hits and a .321 slugging percentage in 90 plate appearances).

In fact, dating back to spring training, Mauer has 33 hits and 29 of them are singles. That's not going to help change his reputation as a "singles hitter" and it's also the opposite of what most of us were hoping to see with the transition away from catcher.

As he's reminded us many times before, Mauer is the kind of hitter who can go on a week-long hot streak that will make us forget all about stretches like this one, but it bears noting that his current OPS -- at .677 -- is the lowest it's ever been at this point in the season outside of 2011.

* Mike Pelfrey's struggles this month have been sort of bizarre. It's not really peculiar to see him pitching poorly -- that's happened plenty before -- but I find the nature of the hardships strange.

Typically, as a pitcher moves further away from Tommy John surgery he tends to gain velocity and sharpen his command. Over time, the scar tissue heals, the arm strengthens and the pitcher regains a feel for his pitches.

That has not been the case for Pelfrey. Last April, while making an incredibly quick return from his elbow operation, Pelf was ineffective but he was throwing strikes and his fastball was registering in the mid-90s. This year his velocity has dropped with each start, to the point where in his last outing he flashed his lowest radar readings in the last three years while also issuing five walks and throwing only 52 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Last year he issued four or more walks twice in 29 starts. He's now done it in both of his last two.

Pelfrey claims that he's "not panicking" but it seems pretty clear that something isn't right. I've generally been in favor of giving him (and any other starter signed beyond this year) a long leash, but the Twins can't justify continuing to feed him starts if he's throwing like this.

From my view, this isn't a "send him to the bullpen" situation. This is a "stick him on the DL and figure out what the heck is wrong with his arm" situation.

Maybe that happens if we see similar results on Wednesday night.

* With Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia both on the disabled list, Josmil Pinto has taken over as the regular DH and has made good on the opportunity by flashing some prodigious power.

Pinto is batting just .239, but his slugging percentage is at .522 thanks to four homers and a double in 60 plate appearances. Among big-leaguers with 50+ PA, he ranks fifth in Isolated Power (SLG minus AVG).

Just as encouraging as the early pop is Pinto's strike zone control. He has drawn 14 walks -- contributing to an outstanding .417 OBP -- against just 13 strikeouts. He looks terrific at the plate, which is one of the best developments possible in a season where the Twins are trying to figure out their future at catcher.

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Once you're done here, Parker has a more in-depth look into Mauer's early struggles over at Twins Daily today.

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