Second-longest current winning streak and tied for best home record in the American League. One game over .500 after an awful first week. Those are ways to describe the Minnesota Twins right now in objective terms.
Here's a subjective term: The Twins are looking like a more mature team. Paul Molitor has taken a businesslike approach that looks like it has carried over to the play on the field. I generally prefer data to observations, but this is a post where they go hand-in-hand.
The Twins of recent years often looked like a team that was intent on making big deals out of small triumphs, which may have been a reaction to having the good times be few and far between. There was the "Fun Bunch" group, mainly borderline major leaguers, who seemed more interested in the accouterments of being a ballplayer than anything else.
Now, the young players from that time who are still with the team are maturing.
In the first month, it's been especially satisfying to watch the growth of Trevor Plouffe. Yes, it's only been a month, but I'm not sure you would have expected Plouffe to lead or be second on the team among the everyday players in almost every offensive category while playing a steadier third base than ever before. You can break down his first-month statistics any way you want and Plouffe looks good.
These are things you couldn't say in the past. The prevailing wisdom had been that Plouffe was holding down third base as the best available option until the arrival of Miguel Sano. At that point, the thinking had been Plouffe would have to find another way to stay important for the Twins. But with Plouffe among the most productive third basemen in the American League right now and Sano batting .156 in Class AA, the future is deferred a bit -- and maybe cloudier.
The longer-term question is whether Plouffe's growth as a force on the Twins continues and will make the Twins consider alternatives for Sano's future -- outfield, first base, DH or even a trade. (I'm just listing options right now, not endorsing an alternate path.) Is Plouffe becoming as vital to the team as Brian Dozier? Will he become more vital down the road?
Watching him Sunday was interesting. His grand slam broke open Sunday's lopsided and series-sweeping victory over the White Sox and he made a couple of slick defensive plays. Just as important, Plouffe had the demeanor of someone who expected to succeed. I don't know whether that's a reaction to the environment that Molitor has created, but I wouldn't be surprised if the new manager is having that kind of influence.
The other way I'll tie Molitor to Plouffe has to do with his future. Molitor was a player who was moved around the field in Milwaukee during the first part of his career to make way for other players, something that didn't always sit well with him. Aside from being a DH, Molitor played more games at third base (Plouffe's position) than anywhere else. Will Molitor's experience will have a bearing on Plouffe's future?
For all of the worst-case situations and scenarios that Twins fans have dealt with in recent seasons, Plouffe may be creating options based on positives. While we're still a long way from giddiness, that's a refreshing change for the organization.
One more thing: If you're looking for daily updates on Twins minor leaguers, as well as season stats and team information, we've added a page that links to an assortment of data. You can find it here.