FanPost

First Half 2008--Some things have gone well

The Twins have played 95 games and won 53 of them. That is excellent for a club with six new starters and a reworked starting rotation. In order for this kind of winning record, some things have gone very well. 1) The offense is not offensive. The Twins offense was terrible again this April, shades of both '05 and '07, but has really picked up since. Much has been made of terrific numbers with runners in scoring position and RISP with two outs, and it is legitimate that they have produced beyond what other number say they should. Beyond that, right now the Twins have pretty good hitters manning all the positions except center field. Mauer and Morneau are deserved all-stars, Young and Kubel have improved from poor starts, Harris is hitting decently and had a nice series against the Tigers. 2) The replacements have been stellar. Alexi Casilla has become the Twins second sacker. Despite a couple of bobbles in the last two games, he has been good in the field. Offensively, he is producing at a poor man's Robbie Alomar level. Though he hasn't run much, he has hit, worked counts, and driven in runs at a prodigious rate. He seldom strikes out and handles the bat well for bunts and hit-and-runs. This from a guy who failed when called up in August. Punto has been great since returning from the DL and becoming basically the regular SS, Buscher (and Macri when he was up) have been decent defensively and offensive upgrades at third. Span has been great in a short stint as a replacement for Cuddyer. 3) The rotation has been pretty good. When the Twins win, their starter usually pitches pretty well. The Twins have gotten enough well-pitched starts to be competitive. Only one original starter has washed out--Bonser--and there is something positive to be said for each of the five guys that have stayed in the rotation. There isn't really an ace, but there is a chance for a decent game from any of the starters at any time. 4) Thank goodness they signed Joe Nathan. Nathan has been an absolute rock in the 'pen. He has blown two saves and the Twins won both of those games. One of them was flukey, he came in after the inning starter and Delmon played a single/double into a game-tying inside the parker. Nathan has saved a lot of one and two run games. Not too many easy ones. The bullpen's focus then, is to get the game to the ninth with the lead. They have been pretty good, with a few notable exceptions, doing this, although sometimes it hasn't been pretty. Holding em close when behind has been another story. Juan Rincon is gone, but his stats survive and still look bad. Both Bass and Bonser have "gas-canned" a few games, which makes the Twins' run differential look pretty weak, but I guess that doesn't win any games. 5) The defense is improving, and it is strongest up the middle. After starting the season with Harris and Everett at 2B and SS respectively, the Twins have got players with better range there now. Mauer is a gold glove caliber catcher (although he's made a few more defensive mistakes this year--more innings?) and while Gomez has six errors, he has great range and a good arm in center. Third base is still a bit of a problem--Lamb has limited range and a suspect arm. Buscher has replaced Lamb and while he has gloved most everything, his arm is not that accurate. Despite having good speed, Young doesn't show great range in the outfield and he has dropped, boxed, or bobbled more balls than any left fielder I have ever seen. Numbers like team ERA, team OPS, team Fielding Average and run differential say the Twins should be closer to .500, perhaps below it, but they have done very well in the first half and promise to make 2008 more than a rebuilding year.
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