Here are just a few Twins thoughts to try to help you through a Monday morning:
Panic Mode - As the Twins sit today, with a 5-10 record, six games behind the Cleveland Indians, and 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners, Mets and Astros for the worst record right now, a frequent question is when the Twins should hit the panic button. First of all, someone needs to define what that means for me? Is that the time when the Twins management gives up on the season and starts trading its veterans for prospects? Is it the time when the team gets rid of top prospects for middling middle infielders or relievers? If and when panic mode sets in, what is one to do as a fan? Yell at the TV more? Quit watching all together?
I know Twins fans (and all baseball fans) get tired of hearing phrases like, "It's only April," or "It's a marathon, not a sprint," but they became phrases because they are generally true. Of course, so is the saying, "You can't win a division title in April, but you can lose one." Thankfully the Tigers and White Sox are also really struggling at the outset of the season. Cleveland and Kansas City have sure been fiesty through the season's first few weeks, but does anyone think they'll be able to keep it up?
What the Twins need right now is a few consecutive series against the AL West!!
Delmon's Defense - it's become a fun topic for many Twins fans to discuss, but if you believe at all in defensive metrics, such as UZR, he has made some strides with his defense. In 2008, his first year as the Twins LF, his UZR was -19.4. In 2009, it 'improved' to -14.3. Last year, his UZR was -9.4.
In 2011, he has made 25 or 26 plays on Balls in his Zone (see www.FanGraphs.com) and five plays that were out of zone. He has made three diving plays through the Twins first 15 games, two of them in big situations. He has thrown out a runner at home (in a game the Twins lost just 1-0).
Delmon Young is never going to be Carl Crawford with the glove, but I think fans need to acknowledge the improvement that he has made, and based on early returns, his 2011 defensive numbers will hopefully be even better.
Don't Forget - One prospect for Twins fans to definitely keep an eye on this year is Rene Tosoni. The left-handed Canadian was pushed quickly through the Twins farm system. He has always been described as a ball player (which in baseball circles means a lot). He does everything well. He can hit for average, has some power, can run a little bit, play good outfield defense and has a strong arm. Despite missing half of the 2010 season because of shoulder surgery, the Twins still added him to their 40 man roster this past offseason.
It was a surprise to some (well, at least me) that Tosoni started this season in Triple-A Rochester because of the missed time a year ago. But he is off to a terrific start. Through 10 games, he is hitting .324/.381/.676 (1.057) with four doubles, three home runs and an organization-leading 13 RBI. He has hit a walk-off homer. He has hit a last-inning game tying homer. He has hit a late inning, game tying double. Obviously it is early, and the league will adjust to him, but he can hit. Well, he can hit right-handers very well, that is. His one downfall is his inability to hit left-handed pitching.
Sound like anyone else you know? That's right, keep Rene Tosoni in mind as a possible replacement for Jason Kubel should the outfielder/DH leave via free agency after the season.
Hoey's Here - At the end of spring training, the Twins kept Jeff Manship on the big league roster and optioned Jim Hoey to Rochester. Since then, Hoey has given up two runs on five hits, a walk, and a hit batter in 6.2 innings. He has struck out eight. He has pitched well, for the most part. Hoey will bring a hard-throwing option to the Twins bullpen which will be nice, as long as he continues to throw strikes.
Will Ron Gardenhire really feel comfortable with putting him in to 8th inning, close-game situations? That is the big question.
As for Manship, don't give up on him just yet. He has the stuff and the pitches to be a very good big league reliever. I think when he heads back to Rochester, he should work exclusively in late-inning, one or two inning situations. Maybe it would be good for him to work as a closer at times. He has never pitched in late bullpen situations in the minors. This is probably exactly what he needs, and when he does come back, he'll be more prepared.
Ohhh, That's Why - There was a lot of grumbling when the Twins decided to tender Glen Perkins a contract, and then signed him for the 2011 season. Many had (and maybe still have) given up on him. He has been very important for the Twins bullpen so far this spring. And, if the reports of fastballs at 95-97 are at all accurate, the Twins were very wise to retain his services. There is a ton of value in left-handers that throw that hard. And, by pitching just one inning at a time, he can air it out more. Then factor in his secondary pitches (developed as a starter), and he could be a tremendous bullpen option for the Twins!
Likewise, many Twins fans were wondering why the Twins added Eric Hacker and then kept him after a brutal spring training with the Twins. Well, if two starts is enough to make a decision (no, it's not, but it is more than he got in spring training), the decision is looking really good. In his two starts, Hacker is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and a 0.36 WHIP. In 11 innings, he has given up no runs on four hits. He hasn't walked a batter yet and has struck out ten.
The Big Question - Now that Matt Capps has taken over the closer's role and will only come into games in save situations, who will get those tough situations in the 7th or 8th innings, with the game in the balance? Would they put Hoey there? If Nathan couldn't do the cushy closer's job, he probably shouldn't be used in the tough situations in the earlier innings. How will this play out? What do you think?
Much Better - Last year, both the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings and the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats almost last 100 games each. The Red Wings are currently 4-6 but show signs that they will be much improved. The Rock Cats are 7-3 and just a 1/2 game out of first place in their division. Joe Benson is hitting .385/.442/.615 with four doubles, a triple and a home run so far. Yangervis Solarte is hitting .378/.395/.568 with five doubles and a triple. Chris Parmelee is hitting .357/.372/.548 with five doubles and a home run. Local product Mark Dolenc is hitting .323 and getting on base at a .417 clip. He leads the team with four stolen bases. And the starting rotation of David Bromberg, Bobby Lanigan, Deolis Guerra, Steve Hirschfeld and Liam Hendriks is very exciting! It should be a fun season to follow the Twins minor league affiliates.
Hopefully the Twins will turn things around quickly and make it another great summer at Target Field!