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Twins Progress Report: July


Checking in with the local nine two-thirds of the way home

Late on deadline day, the Reds came calling for Span (as the Dodgers did for Glen Perkins) and thankfully, Terry Ryan said, “No thanks.”

@BreakTheHuddle

A lot of time and energy has been spent the past few days by various members of the Twin Cities sports media defending the Twins’ trade of Francisco Liriano. They had to come out and defend Terry Ryan for taking a light-hitting, defensive minded infielder and a Double A middle reliever for Francisco Liriano.

The majority of fans apparently thought the Twins had a valuable asset that would return an impact prospect or perhaps a young major leaguer ready to contribute. When the news came through, and it was clear this was probably just another one of those regular old baseball trades, minor leaguers going one way and a two month rental going the other, fans were upset. Fans wondered if Terry Ryan really got the best offer he could’ve gotten.

Well, here’s the thing: I’m sure he didn’t want to give Liriano to the White Sox any more than Twins fans wanted to see Francisco come in and pitch well against the Twins (which he did, for a little while, last night). I’m sure if Terry Ryan could’ve gotten a better deal, he would have. The White Sox must have made far and away the best offer in order to entice Ryan to ship him off within his own division.

In a away, it was the only choice. Liriano’s salary next season (via arbitration, if it were accepted) would be in the $12-$13 million range. The Twins weren’t going to give him that, nor were they going to give a long-term deal to a guy who is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA for the season. What Terry Ryan did was the only wise and prudent choice to be made – take what you can and move on.

The Basics:

Twins record: 44-59, 12 games back of the Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Central and ahead of the Royals, Cubs, Astros, Padres and Rockies for the worst record in baseball.

The Twins began the month spltting four with the Detroit Tigers before dropping two out of three to the Texas Rangers before the All-Star break. The Twins returned from four days of rest and relaxation and promptly dropped three at home to the A’s and split a four game series with the Baltimore Orioles. The Twins then took two of three from the Royals, looked awful in getting swept by the White Sox in Chicago and closed July with a dominant sweep of the Indians and  ____ versus the White Sox.

July highlights:

A lightning strike occurred near The Ballpark in Arlington during a Twins-Rangers game on July 8th, and it sent players scurrying off the field. If you haven’t seen video of it yet, look it up, you’re in for a treat… A seven run first propels the Twins to a 19-7 thumping of the Orioles on July 16th… Scott Diamond spins a complete game, three hit shutout as the Twins top the Indians 11-0… The Twins rally from being down four in the first and win the game on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly in the 9th, 7-6 over the White Sox.

July lowlights:

Josh Willingham’s All-Star snub (.913 OPS, 19 home runs in the first half)… A July 13th-15th sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics in which the Twins were outscored a combined 24-10 in three games… Trevor Plouffe’s July 20th injury to his thumb, which has landed him on the disabled list… The July 23rd-25th sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox, who outscored the Twins 26-10 in the three game series.

Grades:

Offense – for July – A, for the season – C+

Category

Rank (July)

Rank (Season)

Runs

Tied – 1st

14th

Batting Average

1st

9th

On-Base %

2nd

6th

Slugging %

14th

20th

Extra Base Hits

20th

21st

The Twins lineup broke out in a big way during the month of July, tying for the major league lead in runs scored and leading outright in batting average. Six of the Twins’ regulars (Span, Mauer, Morneau, Doumit, Revere and Plouffe) finished the month hitting .300 or better; Josh Willingham put up a .283/.396/.663 line with 11 home runs and finished with more RBIs (27) than games played (25) in the month of July. Even Darin Mastroianni performed well in limited duty, hitting .357 and stealing 6 bases in 28 at bats.

I’ve gotten suggestions to do a “Jamey Carroll – E.T.” doppelganger column. I would consider it… if I didn’t like him so much.

The only real weak links continue to be Jamey Carroll and Brian Dozier. Carroll’s offensive numbers aren’t much of a surprise; despite the low average (.236, 38 points below his career average) he still draws walks, doesn’t hit for power and isn’t much of a threat at the dish. Dozier’s numbers ought to be a bit concerning, however. The rookie shortstop hit .250/.296.315 in 92 July at bats, and doesn’t seem to be developing either a keen eye (12 walks and a .269 OBP for the season) or gap power (14 extra base hits in 275 at bats). His performance down the stretch will factor heavily into whether the Twins will look elsewhere for a shortstop next season or give him more opportunities; he’ll be under a lot of pressure coming down the stretch.

Still, not even the struggles of Carroll, Dozier and Casilla (who hit an abysmal .146 in July) could drag the rest of the lineup down. Their regular 1 through 7 (Span, Revere, Mauer, Willingham, Morneau, Plouffe and Doumit) provide an intriguing blend of power, speed and patience. Watching the team score runs in bunches over the last month has been a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately…

Pitching – for July, D-, for the season – D-

… the pitching is still fairly awful. The team’s rotation for much of the month included Nick Blackburn (terrible until last night), Duensing (still having trouble with right handers), and Liriano (who had a July ERA over 5.00 until the trade). Sam Deduno and Cole De Vries, while performing admirably despite less than stellar stuff, likely don’t have staying power in a major league rotation.

Scott Diamond has continued to be the rotation’s most dependable quality starter, posting a 2-1 mark with a 3.54 ERA in 28 innings over 4 July starts. Included in that was the team’s first (and only) complete game shutout of the season, the aforementioned three-hitter against the Indians on July 27th.

The bullpen has finally begun to show signs of fatigue after being severely overworked throughout the first few months of the season. Jared Burton (1 run in 9 and 1/3 innings) and newcomer Casey Fein were solid, but Glen Perkins (3.46 ERA), Alex Burnett, Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson, Matt Capps and Jeff Gray have all either missed time or been maddeningly ineffective in the month of July. It seems that four months of short starts by the rotation finally caught up to the guys sitting out in the bullpen.

(Note: For a great examination of the Twins’ approach to high pitch counts, read this: http://www.1500espn.com/sportswire/Mackey_Are_Twins_headed_for_a_major_change_in_pitching_philosophy072212)

Category

Rank (July)

Rank (Season)

ERA

24th

29th

Strikeouts

26th

30th

Batting Avg Against

27th

29th

On Base % Against

25th

27th

Slugging % Against

26th

29th

OPS Against

25th

29th

Runs Allowed

26th

29th

Quality Starts

28th

Bases on Balls

12th most

5th fewest

Coming Up:

The Twins finish up with Chicago today at 12:10 before embarking for six on the road, three in Boston and three in Cleveland. They return home for three apiece against the Rays and Tigers before heading west on a ten game road trip which will take them to Seattle, Oakland and Texas. The Mariners come to visit the last week of August for a four game set before the Twins set out for Kansas City.

Keep in Mind:

The non-waiver deadline has passed, meaning the big stars (i.e. Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham) who weren’t traded likely won’t end up with a new team this season. But since a pricy pitcher like Matt Capps could possibly clear waivers, he could still be dealt before the August 31 deadline.

Predicted record at the end of August: 57-75,13-16 in 29 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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