Sunday, July 13, 2008
The "Half-Way" Point
The Twins lost 4-2 today in Detroit, but they won three out of four from the Tigers to go into the All Star break on a positive note. At the "half-way" point (OK, nearly 3/5th point!), they are 53-42, eleven games over .500. I want to know what your thoughts are about the Twins so far. What have been the storylines, both positive and negative? I'll list a few, but I will also intentionally leave some out because I want people to add to this list. Leave your comments below.
The losses of Torii Hunter, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva. Count me into the group that says the Twins would not be as successful had the Twins stayed pat with this group.
The effect of the Johan Santana trade - Carlos Gomez has big May. Minor League pitchers struggle.
This year's crop of veteran signings - Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb and Adam Everett. Livan has performed to expectations (and still been able to get wins). Lamb and Everett have both been disappointing, Lamb because he didn't hit at all, and Everett because he has been hurt all season.
The young guys that probably should have just been given a shot - Brian Buscher, Alexi Casilla, Denard Span. All three came up and performed instantly, driving in runs, getting on base, playing solid defense. In summary, they all went down to the minor leagues and clearly worked on the things that the team wanted them to work on and came up ready to go.
Speed - Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, Denard Span - Even through some of Gomez's frustrating times, I think that we have seen the affect that speed can have on a baseball diamond whether it be with a bunt, on the base paths, or making great plays on defense.
The Stars Continue to Shine - Justin Morneau has justified the big contract to this point. Joe Mauer reclaimed his spot as the top offensive and defensive catcher in the American League. Joe Nathan remains one of the top closers in the game.
The HR race - Justin Morneau 14, Jason Kubel 13. Every time Kubel catches up, Morneau takes the lead. Hopefully they will continue to challenge either other the rest of the season. If so... Jason Kubel is about to get expensive!
The Young Starters - Scott Baker has been everything that we hoped for. Kevin Slowey has had ups and downs, but we have seen just how good he can be. Glen Perkins struggled in Rochester, but he came up and has been very solid as a starter. Nick Blackburn has made me and many others eat some major crow with how well he has performed in the first half.
The Bullpen - With Pat Neshek's early injury, the bullpen has had to learn on the fly. Matt Guerrier continues to earn his pay checks. In my mind, the performance of Jesse Crain has been a big story. Dennys Reyes is showing that he has some left. Craig Breslow was a great claim. Brian Bass has had ups and downs (more downs of late).
Injuries - The Twins have had injuries to Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, Matt Tolbert and Neshek. Neshek was certainly a big blow. Cuddyer really hasn't had time to get into a groove before getting hurt again. Punto, Everett and Tolbert are all the same player, and really because of those injuries, guys like Casilla, Harris and Buscher have been able to play.
The Delmon/Garza trade - We all probably expected too much out of Delmon, and he got off to a really slow start and hasn't shown yet the type of power we would have hoped for. However, he has hit very well the last two months. His defense is not great, but I think we often underestimate the difficulty in switching sides of the field. Brendan Harris has certainly had his positive moments in the first half. He has been solid (with no range) at shortstop, and now is getting plenty of time at 3B too against lefties. Matt Garza is not missed by many of his teammates or coaches, but we all knew he had some great stuff. In the last month or so, he has really started pitching well. Jason Bartlett has solidified the Rays middle infield despite the fact that he isn't hitting a whole lot.
Trade Deadline - Will the Twins do anything at the trade deadline? In a very winnable AL Central, one big move could put a team over the top. We know that the White Sox are willing to do such things? Are the Twins? And should they be?
The Return of the Franchise - The return of Francisco Liriano was a big story in the first half, even though it was a very disappointing three start stint. It is now going to become a big story of the second half as it appears he is nearly ready to return again. What affect will he have on the team, and on the roster?
What other stories have you watched through the first half? What stories are you most intrigued by for the Twins in the second half? Leave your comments below.