April showers bring...May deluges?

With last night's loss to Detroit, the Minnesota Twins wrapped up the first two months of the season with a dismal record of 17 wins and 36 losses, the worst season-opening record of any Twins team since 1982.

Fun fact: the 1982 Twins finished the season with just 60 wins, and remain the only 100- loss squad in Twins history.

A month ago, as the calendar flipped from April to May and with the Twins sitting on a .346 winning percentage, Ron Gardenhire was still expressing cautious optimism about the season. One bad month was not the end of the season, Gardenhire correctly noted. The team was focused on righting the ship, getting back to .500, and then setting their sights on capturing another division crown.

One wonders if we'll hear the same confidence today as the calendar flips to June.

Now that we have two complete months in the book, I thought we could step back and compare the teams brutal April with our horrendous May, and at least look for some rays of hope - or at least some signs of improvement from this disappointing squad.

Let's start with the team's win-loss record for the first two months:

W

L

Win%

April

9

17

.346

May

8

19

.296

Judging by their win-loss record, the team was equally poor in April and May. But let's dig a little deeper, and look at the team's run differential and expected win-loss percentage:

Run Diff.

Exp. W%

April

-57

.277

May

-33

.375

Still nothing to smile about, although the team was outscored by a significantly smaller amount in May. Yeah, I know, that's a pretty worthless fact when you consider a .375 winning percentage would still amount to a 61-win season.

Now let's look across the diamond at some key players.

Catcher

In all honesty, the only number that really matters is this:

Games Played

April

May

Joe Mauer

9

0

And then there's this:

OPS

April

May

Drew Butera

0.311

0.346

There is no sugar-coating those numbers - beyond Mauer, the Twins do not have a legitimate Major League catcher in the organization.

First Base

April

May

HR

OPS

HR

OPS

Justin Morneau

0

0.592

4

0.723

Granted, these numbers are skewed by yesterday's two homer performance, but for Twins fans desperate for some good news - and hope for 2012 - seeing Justin knock two out of the park last night provided a huge sigh of relief. It's impossible to suggest that last night was some sort of turning point for Morneau, but any sign of progress is welcome at this point.

Middle Infield

In April, Twins second basemen hit 203/248/258. In May, they hit 247/317/366.

In April, Twins shortstops hit 171/207/229. In May, they hit 229/317/369.

Believe it or not, the Twins middle infield was actually fairly productive in May, with both Plouffe and Casilla going through hot streaks at different ends of the month. In all honestly, those May slash stats are not that far short of what the Twins got out of Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy last season.

Third Base

Valencia's poor 2011 continued through May, although his biggest problem remains an extraordinarily low BABIP.

April

May

OPS

BABIP

OPS

BABIP

Danny Valencia

0.609

0.234

0.689

0.262

There was some good news in Danny's May - his ISO jumped from .098 to .178. For sake of argument, let's assume his low BABIP is due to some bad luck. Giving him an extra 30 points in BABIP would have changed his May slash stats to 273/321/428. That alone would make him one of the ten or twelve best third basemen in the game.

Outfield

Denard Span's bounce back season continued through May - he's now hitting 297/369/382 on the year, ranking as, arguably, the Twins' best player in 2011.

Jason Kubel - widely considered the best hitter on the team this season - cooled considerably in April: after posting a 903 OPS in April, Jason hit 746 in May.

Delmon...well, Delmon's horrible season just got worse in May. He finished the month with a .211 batting average, and just one extra-base hit. He currently holds the 6th-lowest OPS among hitters with 100 plate appearances. The lowest? Drew Butera.

Starting Pitchers

Given how few appearances a pitcher makes in a month, I won't break this out player-by-player. But here is how the starting staff pitched in April and May:

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April

4.97

4.61

4.34

5.79

3.27

1.23

May

4.17

4.09

4.01

5.79

2.92

0.97

After suffering through the worst pitching staff in baseball in April, Twins fans got to cheer for the ninth-worst squad in May. Improvement!

Relievers

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

April

4.68

4.60

4.77

6.16

4.32

0.99

May

6.45

4.87

4.86

6.08

4.74

1.09

There's not much to say about those numbers. Whatever improvement we say from the starting staff in May, it was given back by the relief corps several times over.

Conclusion

If we were looking for hope for the current season, we certainly didn't find much looking through these numbers. Even with the small improvement we saw at certain positions in May, this team is still playing very much like a 90 or 100-loss team.

However, if we're thinking about the pieces that will be in place in 2012, the news isn't all bad. Morneau hit four homers in May, Valencia played a little better, and we got a decent amount of production out of the middle infielders. Even the starting staff, while not great, was at least closer to average.

Turning the calendar to May certainly didn't save this team, and it's hard to imagine flipping the calendar to June will make much difference either. Without Mauer, a fully-recovered Morneau, and better pitching, this team has no hope of competing in 2011. Right now, I think most Twins fans are holding their breath and hoping to see signs that the core of the 2012 club turn their seasons around and position themselves for a big rebound next year.

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