Another month, another boat load of losses. We said after the trainwreck that was April that they couldn't really be this bad. And in fact May was not as bad: 12-16 is merely run of the mill lousy as opposed to an epic catastrophe.
What went well? What went poorly? Let's go over the jump to find out.
Pitching/Defense: 5.40 R/G (14th in the AL, league average is 4.36).
Those numbers are year to date (we'll look at May below), and remain lousy. The run scoring was actually slightly worse in May than in April, and they now are only outscoring two teams. The pitching improved from the standpoint of runs per game, but they are now alone on the island of terrible, the Red Sox having immigrated to the island of pretty bad when it comes to run prevention.
In April, the offense struggled to score runs, but their component numbers were roughly league average. In May, the offense struggled to score runs (3.89/G), and their component numbers tell us why. Their batting average and OBP plummeted in May. Both were significantly below league average, and their lousy slugging continued to limp along. A big problem for them in May was that their BABIP dropped to a (hopefully) unsustainable .256, after posting a much more reasonable .308 in April.
We noted in April that they only had 4 guys with above league average OPS+. (Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, and Span), leaving massive holes in the lineup. That remains true, though a couple of guys (Doumit, Revere) have elevated themselves above league average.
Inevitably, when things are this bad, changes come. Danny Valencia and Chris Parmelee have notably been excused for the time being. Jamey Carroll lost the shortstop job, but is still playing more or less daily at third in place of Valencia. I took some flak for calling Carroll out in last month's report, but things have really not improved much for him. His average has gone up a bit, but his OBP remains the same (league average), and of course he still has no power. And now he's playing third base.
Brian Dozier came up to play shortstop when Valencia was demoted. Overall, things have not gone well for him, at least offensively. He looks like he can hold his own defensively. With the bat, he's shown a little pop, but is boasting a 61 OPS+, driven by an execrable .247 OBP and only 3 walks in nearly 100 PAs. Still, it's early. He doesn't exactly look overmatched (at least to me) most of the time.
Ben Revere also returned after the Twins demoted Parmelee and sifted through the detritus of waiver claims. For reasons that continue to baffle, he's seen most of his time in right field, where his embarrassing arm is more on display. Still, good on him. He's gotten the bat going and now has a 110 OPS+. Not exactly who you want in an outfield corner, but he's helping. I'm not a believer, particularly, but I wonder whether, if he keeps hitting, the Twins will be more amenable to trading Span at the deadline and moving Revere to center.
The Twins, being among the league leaders in walks (yay, but still a league average OBP), and fewest strikeouts, still pace the circuit in double plays. They remain last in home runs, experiencing only a marginal improvement in May (from .63 HR/G in April to .78 HR/G in May). Still, after 2 months, and despite May being worse than April, it looks like they have a few things sorted now, with Doumit returning to his normal level, and Revere helping, they aren't quite as bereft after the first 4 spots in the lineup as they were earlier. Although the run scoring as compared to the other teams in the league is not good, you can still squint and see a league average offense in there, waiting to emerge.
Last month, the pitching was historically awful. This month, it's been merely lousy. They managed to shave .4 runs per game in May as compared to April, but that still means they gave up 5.2 R/G. The improvement from the starters came not from the guys they were counting on to start the season (Marquis was awful and cut, Blackburn was awful and is now on the DL, Pavano was even worse in May than in April, and Liriano was demoted to the pen until his triumphant return to the rotation on Wednesday), but rather from the unexpected success of Scott Diamond and PJ Walters.
Those two have combined to make 9 starts and post roughly a 2.60 ERA. I doubt their success (particularly Walters, who has been very lucky) is sustainable, but it helped in May and we should enjoy it while we can.
They are still giving up way too many homers (though not quite the historic numbers from April), and they walked more in May, though they still lead the league in walks allowed. They improved their strikeout rate as well. This remains a poor pitching staff, but it inevitably was not as bad as it was in April.
The bullpen remained consistently mediocre over the first 2 months of the season, with the bulk of the action going to the firm of Capps, Burnett, Perkins, Duensing, Gray, and Burton. Those guys have all hung in there with, to greater and lesser degrees, smoke and mirrors. This is the one area of the team that I fear could collapse in the coming month(s). The offense and starting pitching can't really be worse, but the pen certainly can. Alex Burnett has a 2.63 ERA but an 11:8 K:BB ratio in 27 innings. Something has to give. Their relievers do not miss enough bats, and I fear that.
Overall, my sense is that May was much more representative of the Twins than April. They are merely a bad team, not the 1962 Mets. In some ways, that's less interesting, but wins are always better than losses. I expect more of the same .400-.450 ball in June and beyond.
What did you think of May?