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Twins Progress Report: June


Checking in with the local nine near the halfway point

@BreakTheHuddle

Former first-round pick Trevor Plouffe finally put it all together in June, belting 11 home runs.

At the beginning of last month’s Progress Report (found here: http://wp.me/p2ebFE-bD) I predicted the Twins would draft Georgia outfielder Byron Buxton with the second overall pick. The team did just that.

In the middle of last month’s Progress Report, I predicted both Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters would stick in the Twins’ pitching staff and be solid contributors – I was half right on this one.

And at the very end, I predicted the Twins’ June record would be 13-14 – and if it hadn’t been for the Josh Willingham vs. Trevor Plouffe home run derby yesterday, I would’ve hit this one square on the head. Instead, the Twins finished a game OVER .500 (14-13), their first winning month since July of 2011.

I would like to be able to claim that I predicted the aforementioned Trevor Plouffe’s monster June, but alas, it caught me by surprise. I have a feeling I am not the only one; the organization clearly didn’t think enough of him to give him a starting spot out of Spring Training. Plouffe was forced to toil away as a platoon/utility type benchwarmer, unable to swing his way out of his early season slump. On May 7, his batting average was .103; by the end of May, he had raised it just 60 points.

June was a different story for Plouffe. He was given the everyday third baseman job and ran with it. His performance undoubtedly spurred the team as a whole. He hit .327/.391/.735 in June with 21 extra base hits (11 homers, 10 doubles) in 26 ballgames, leaving no doubt who will occupy the hot corner in Minnesota for at least the rest of the season.

While the team is still at the bottom of the A.L. Central, there is at least a bit of optimism in the Land of 10,000 Lakes – and for good reason.

The Basics:

Twins record: 33-45, 8 ½ games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox, currently the 6th worst winning percentage (ahead of the Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Rockies and Padres) in all of baseball. The month began with the Twins winning their first three series (in Cleveland and Kansas City, as well as at home against the Cubs) before dropping two of three to the Phillies, Brewers and Pirates. The Twins took two of three from the Reds before dropping two of three to the White Sox, and concluded the month by taking three of four from the Royals (the last game of which occurred on Sunday, which was technically July 1st).

June highlights: Anything and everything associated with Trevor Plouffe… A six run fourth inning propels the Twins to an 11-3 shellacking of the Cubs on June 9th… Francisco Liriano turning back the clock, dominating the Pirates in a 2-1 victory on June 20th… the 9th inning of the June 24th tilt against the Reds, in which Josh Willingham hit an Aroldis Chapman fastball approximately 1,000 feet for the go ahead home run in a 4-3 Twins victory.

The bearded face of mediocrity

June lowlights: Carl Pavano’s trip to the disabled list June 4th, which coincided with Nick Blackburn’s promotion to replace him… P.J. Walters’ June 13th start: 0 outs recorded, 4 hits, 4 earned on 25 pitches before being pulled and placed on the disabled list… Matt Capps allowing a go-ahead home run in a 3-3, 9th inning tie against the Brewers June 15th… The Twins’ June 27th clunker against the White Sox, in which they allowed 21 hits and played porous defense.

Grades:

Offense – June: B-, for the Season: C

Category

Rank (June)

Rank (Season)

Runs

T – 16th

19th

Batting Average

4th

13th

On-Base %

8th

10th

Slugging %

14th

18th

Extra Base Hits

T – 16th

16th

 

Plouffe and Willingham had the memorable hits (read also: home runs) in June, but the production of the team’s sluggers seemed to be contagious. Joe Mauer, despite the criticism he receives for his inability to hit home runs, had a great month, hitting .397 in 20 games. Ben Revere , Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe also hit above .300 for the month, and Jamey Carroll put up a line of .288/.360/.350 with 11 runs batted in.

June was not so kind to Denard Span, Brian Dozier and Justin Morneau. Span managed to top a .300 on-base percentage, meaning he was still supplying good at-bats despite base hits being few and far between. Dozier, hasn’t been reliably drawing walks and strikes out (close to once per six at bats) much more often than he ought to be.

Morneau’s month of June was particularly troubling – he hit just one home run (and five extra base hits) in 95 at bats. His May slugging percentage of .642 was slashed by more than half, to a paltry .316. While his numbers for the season aren’t exactly dreadful – .239, 10 home runs, 24 rbis, .307 OBP – it’s fair to wonder whether the old Justin Morneau is officially gone forever.

The key to July will be whether Span can get back on track (a combination of Span and Revere at the top of the order could give opposing catchers fits). Plouffe must prove his June was not a fluke (say that sentence five times, quickly) and a Morneau turnaround would go a long way toward alleviating some of Twins’ fans deepest, darkest fears.

Defense – June: D+, for the Season: C

Plouffe’s brilliance at the plate has far overshadowed his spotty performance in the field, which is probably the way it should be, but is still worth noting. The advanced metrics don’t seem to like him much no matter where he is on the field – but since he is now ensconced at third, it should be mentioned that of the 45 major leaguers who have played at least 150 innings at third base this season, only 6 are rated worse by FanGraphs.

Justin Morneau, Brian Dozier and Josh Willingham are also in the lowest third at their positions as well, meaning three quarters of the infield are below average with the glove. The Twins’ two best defensive infielders (Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla) are stuck behind one another at second. With the offense that comes with Plouffe at third, it’s hard to say it isn’t the best route to go – it’s just something Twins fans are going to have to get used to this season.

The defensive issues around the diamond are made more intriguing when you consider that Denard Span (center), Ben Revere (right) and Jamey Carroll (second base) are three of the highest rated defensive players at each of their respective positions. There is no middle ground with the 2012 Twins – you are either an excellent fielder or a very poor one.

Pitching – June: D+, for the Season: D-

Category

Rank (June)

Rank (Season)

ERA

21st

29th

Strikeouts

30th

30th

Batting Avg Against

27th

29th

On Base % Against

16th

28th

Slugging % Against

25th

29th

OPS Against

23rd

29th

Runs Allowed

24th

29th

Quality Starts

29th

Bases on Balls

5th fewest

5th fewest

 

More of the same from the Twins pitching staff, which is unfortunate, because for some reason it feels as though they are vastly improved. Scott Diamond has been terrific, Francisco Liriano has been (knock on wood) somewhat consistent and Cole DeVries, when given opportunities, has held his own. Liam Hendriks has been disappointing, again, Nick Blackburn had an abysmal June and none of the other spot starters (Manship and Duensing) have done anything useful when given a start.

Crow: It’s what’s for dinner.

Jared Burton and Glen Perkins each had nice months of June and have turned themselves into a nice one-two punch at the end of games for Ron Gardenhire. Alex Burnett didn’t allow a single earned run in the month of June – in fact, here are his June numbers: 11 appearances, 12 innings, 3 hits, two walks, no earned runs. This means I have to take back what I said about him in the season preview (http://wp.me/p2ebFE-7W) – “(Alex Burnett) doesn’t belong on a major league roster.” Clearly, he does.

Coming Up:

The Twins play four in Detroit and three in Texas before the All-Star break from July 9th – 12th. They host the A’s for three and the Orioles for four before going to Kansas City and Chicago for three apiece. Minnesota finishes the month at Target Field, playing three against the Indians and three against the White Sox.

Keep in Mind:

The non-waiver deadline is July 31st, and the Twins have several eligible trade candidates, including, but not limited to: Matt Capps, Jared Burton, Ryan Doumit, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span. Terry Ryan seems to have a good grip on his team’s chances, and even if the Twins get hot in early July, look for him to try and build for the future by dealing some of his veterans for prospects.

Prediction: Matt Capps gets traded. No one else does.

Predicted record at the end of July:  46- 57 (13-12 in 25 July ballgames).

BreakTheHuddle is a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves and the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers. Reach him at BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com, @BreakTheHuddle on Twitter or leave a comment below!

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