Friday, April 25, 2014

Minnesota Twins April Power Rankings!

Welcome to the first official Power Rankings of the young season.  On the last Friday of every month, I'll count down the 10 best Twins' performances up to that point in the season.  Today, we'll look at the Twins through three weeks.  I'm not going to do any projecting, I'm basing these rankings solely on how the players have performed.  BABIPs and FIPs be darned!  Well, maybe I'll cite those stats when they support my argument.  BIAS!  Anyway, let's count down the 10 best Twins through the Twins' series with Tampa Bay.

NR.  Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer's 2014 season hasn't been the derailed train that crashed into a tire fire while covered in octopus' ink that it's been made out to be, but there's no doubt that he hasn't been one of the ten best Twins players to this point.  His strikeout rate is alarmingly high and while he's still getting on base and scoring runs, he has almost no power and he hasn't been great with the glove.  That said, I'd put money on Mauer being in the top 3 when I do this in May.  He's too talented to slump for seven weeks.  Put me in the "not worried" camp.   

Brian Duensing's demise appears to have been a bit exaggerated.  He wasn't great in 2013, but there were plenty of factors that pointed toward some bad luck and some potential regression on the horizon.  Duensing has yet to give up a run and he's pitched an inning or more in five of his eight appearances.  While he's only thrown 9 and 2/3 innings, that volume of good innings on this staff is practically worthy of team Cy Young consideration.    

While he has allowed a hilarious five of seven inherited runners to score, he hasn't given up many runs of his own and his ERA currently sits below two.  Deduno does not seem like a particularly good fit for high-leverage relief innings, but as a mop-up guy, he could actually provide some interesting value.  Case in point, he came in after a short Kyle Gibson start on Tuesday, let all of Gibson's runners score, then threw four shutout innings, striking out two and walking just one.  I'm 100% certain that Deduno finds his way into the rotation at some point, but I think this long-man role is a better fit for Deduno's "effectively wild' shtick. 

Perkins blew his first save opportunity of the season on April 2, then he gave up another two runs in a blowout win on April 5.  After that game, his ERA sat at 12.  Since then, he's thrown eight shutout innings, notching four saves while striking out twelve and walking just one batter.  Basically, he's the same nasty ol' nasty Perkins.  That doesn't sound nice, but I swear it's meant as a compliment.  He was particularly nasty in this most recent series against Tampa Bay.  He earned two saves by pitching two innings, striking out three and allowing no baserunners.  He needed just 20 pitches to complete those two innings.  Filthy.  Nasty.  Perkinsy.      

Suzuki made a grand debut as a Twin with four RBI and a .500 average in his first two games.  He's cooled off significantly, which is annoying because I had 5,000 "Kurt Suzuki is better than Ted Williams" t-shirts printed in early April and now I'm worried if I'll be able to sell them.  My lack of foresight, business sense, common sense, and intelligence aside, Suzuki has done a nice job as the Twins' regular catcher.  He's not good at pitch framing, but he handles the rest of the defensive responsibilities quite nicely.  While I think he finishes the season as a backup, his presence on the roster is a positive. 

Who doesn't love a good reclamation project?  You break out that old bench, polish it up, add some lacquer (?), sand it (?) and BOOM, you have a newer bench.  Jason Kubel = New Old Bench.  I'm not very handy.  Kubel has come in handy though!  He's hit for some power and driven in some runs.  His defense is...well, he can physically play defense and that's just a nice thing for him to do.  With the injuries the Twins have had in the outfield, it's nice that Kubel has been able to produce at the plate. 

Pinto seems to be one of those guys who just won't accept a part-time role.  Last year, he wasn't going to be the everyday catcher in September.  Then, he hit like a Wildman (specifically, Wildman Marc Mero) and forced his way into regular activity.  This year, it seemed that Pinto would get a start every third day or so and maybe a DH start every now and then if Ron Gardenhire wanted to put a cigarette out on his wrist.  Pinto was all "hey man, I'm just going to play a lot because I'm really good" and no one can really argue with him. 

He's shown impressive power, excellent plate discipline and a winning smile.  His defense at catcher hasn't been great, but that's an area of development and we all knew that coming into the season.  DON'T ACT LIKE YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT!   

Brandon Warne, who is doing some writing for the Pioneer Press, articulated something that I was noticing this season in regards to Plouffe's approach to hitting.  While I was all "duh, he looks different," Warne wrote this really great article that you should read.  In short, Plouffe is using the whole field instead of pulling everything.  This approach is not only helping his batting average, it's leading to much improved plate discipline.  Compared to 2013, his strikeout rate is way down and his walk rate is over twice as high.  These are the adjustments that take a hitter from "fringe regular" to "everyday player."  If these developments hold all season long, Plouffe will turn in a very nice season. 

3.  Kyle Gibson

Tuesday's rough start aside, Gibson has been the Twins' best starter and it hasn't been remotely close.  His first three starts established Gibson as one of the better ground ball pitchers in the American League and he currently ranks in the top ten in that category among qualified AL starters.  In addition, he has not allowed a home run this season and his strikeout rate has been slowly climbing as the starts go by.  Gibson should continue to be the Twins' best starter.  He actually could get better if he can get his walks under control.     

Tying Kirby Puckett's April record for RBI isn't enough to get to the number one spot?  Hitting a home run on his Mom's birthday while she's being interviewed isn't enough for the number one spot?  Slugging nearly .550 isn't enough for the number one spot?  Yep.  Colabello has been the Twins' best hitter so far but his defense leaves a lot to be desired.  The number one guy is deserving and we'll get to him in a second, but Colabello is certainly worthy of number one consideration himself.  He went 0-5 on Thursday, but everyone has a bad game.  It was probably Colabello's first bad game in 2014.  He's earned a ton of playing time and I have no idea how the Twins can keep him out of the lineup even when the whole team is healthy.  He looks legit. 

How can a guy hitting .224 lead the list of best Twins performances?  A 16.3% walk rate leading to a .356 OBP.  Six home runs that are contributing to a .447 slugging percentage.  22 runs scored, setting the table from the leadoff spot quite nicely.  Six stolen bases and generally great baserunning.  Excellent defense?  Aaaaaaaaay, you got it.  It all adds up to a player who is hitting .224 and still third in the American League in fWAR.  In addition, Dozier's BABIP is very low, so we could be discussing an even more impressive player by May.  Good thing the Twins didn't give up on him after 2012!  

There we have it, the ten best performances thus far.  You certainly noticed the lack of balance between the batters and the pitchers.  I expect there to be better balance by May, but I'm just happy to be cheering for what looks like a pretty fun team. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!


  1. Perfect ranking. Gibson dropped a couple spots with his last outing, no doubt. Dozier and Colabello have been unbelievable so far. They may not keep up this pace all season, but Mauer can't bat .264 all year either, nor will Willingham and Arcia remain on the DL forever. I feel like we can continue the offensive onslaught with a healthy roster, but I worry immensely about the team ERA. Combine slightly better pitching than we've seen so far with this offense's ability to produce runs and is a Wild Card contender.

    1. Thanks! I had Gibson ranked first before his Tuesday start, but that was quite the disaster. I wonder if both Alex Meyer and Trevor May are in the rotation by June or July. Sam Deduno might join the rotation by the end of this month.

  2. I am really bummed that Colabello isn't on the All Star Ballot! I know I'm not the only one. I wrote him in 25 times today. I'll probably do the same tomorrow.

    1. You are more committed than I am! Although, I'm generally too lazy to vote for those actually on the ballot too. If I'm at a game, I might use my keys to poke out those stupid circles, but that's about it.

    2. It's not as hard as it sounds - if you vote once, all you have to do to vote again is enter a new captcha code to cast another ballot, and you can do so with one email address up to 25 times. Not too tough.

    3. Oh, they've made it a lot easier. I remember having to re-enter everything in the past.

  3. I remember having to punch the little holes in the cards with a toothpick or a pen. That was really tedious, but kind of fun. I wonder if hanging chads ever denied anyone an All-Star spot.

  4. Maybe this guy?

  5. Perhaps so - what an Inconvenient Truth that would be!