Whether or not this hot streak continues, we need to relish what's happening right now. This team is as good as it's been since 2010 which, as you're remember, was the last time the Twins were any good.
- As you wake up this morning, Minnesota is 18-13 and a game and a half out of first place.
- The Twins have scored 149 runs, the fifth-most in all of baseball. They've also scored the most runs in baseball dating back to last August.
- As a team, the Twins are hitting .266/.321/.388. That makes them fourth in the American League in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, and tenth in slugging percentage.
- Minnesota pitching owns a 3.93 ERA as a whole, good for 13th in baseball and sixth in the American League.
- Trevor May, since his rough first start this year, owns a 3.05 ERA in his last four outings. That includes 16 strikeouts in 20.2 innings and just four walks. Opponents have managed a .588 OPS against.
- Mike Pelfrey has a 2.62 ERA. I don't get it. Ignoring his first start, he owns a 1.84 ERA in his last five outings. I really don't get it. Like May, nobody has homered off of Pelfrey since his first start. Hitters also aren't making great contact, somewhat mitigating the fact that he's only managed 14 strikeouts while issuing 12 walks.
- Minnesota relievers have a 3.28 ERA. That's 11th-best in baseball; fourth-best in the American League.
- A list of Twins relievers who are stranding runners at a rate higher than league average: Ryan Pressly, Michael Tonkin, Aaron Thompson, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, J.R. Graham, and Blaine Boyer. Other stats might not be so hot, but it doesn't matter if they're not scoring.
We always knew that if Hunter was going to provide a net gain in wins for the Twins, it was going to be because of his bat. On the season he's accumulated 0.7 fWAR through 28 games, including a 128 wRC+. Essentially: he's creating offense at 28% better than the league average.
After a slow start in April, Hunter has been on fire in May. He's collected six multi-hit games this month already (he managed two multi-hit games in April), has hit four home runs, and is seeing the ball as well as anyone in baseball. In nine May games he's batted .462/.500/.821, raising his 2015 triple slash to an impressive .295/.333/.491.
Hunter's age (he turns 40 in July) was always the gamble here. The defense is still bad, but he hasn't cost the Twins as many runs as we might have expected. For those worrying that he can't catch up to a fastball, two of his five home runs this season have some off of a four-seamer - most recently in the first game of the Oakland series at Target Field.
It's a long summer, and there's no telling how age might affect Hunter's production or durability as the days get warmer, or how the toils of playing five or six days a week might wear him down. But right now he's not just an energizing presence in the clubhouse or the dugout, he's an energizing presence on the field.
It took a while, but it looks like Escobar might finally be heating up. His .275/.315/.406 campaign in 2014 was a pleasant surprise, but with Danny Santana entrenched as Paul Molitor's starting shortstop Escobar's playing time was determined by how Molitor could squeeze him into the lineup versus lefties.
Escobar's outstanding splits versus southpaws (.877 OPS in 2014) hasn't continued so far this year, but over his last five games he's been rewarding Molitor's attempts to get him more regular playing time. He's 10-for-24 (including three doubles and a home run) since the start of the Oakland series, raising his OPS .226 points.
Like Santana, Escobar seems allergic to taking a walk. That's going to have an impact on how good of a player he can be in the long-term, as one walk in 83 plate appearances isn't going to get it done. But, also like Santana, Escobar also provides value on defense.
Since the start of the four-game sweep of the White Sox, Dozier has shaken off his slow start. In that time frame (ten games) he's hit .310/.383/.595 with four doubles, a triple, and a pair of big home runs. Molitor did experiment with his lineup in April, which meant that Dozier spent most of the first month of the 2015 season hitting second or fourth, but during the Seattle series Dozier ended up back in the leadoff spot. And he's been there since.
It's hard to see why a hitter's spot in the batting order should affect how they perform, but much like a reliever's role in the bullpen it seems like mentality is one of the bigger factors. Perhaps Dozier prefers leading off, or perhaps it's just a hot streak, but in his last ten games the Twins are 9-1. There's no other good candidate to lead off for the time being either, so for in the near term it's hard to see anyone but Brian leading off the game.
The Mauer-haters will continue to write him off, regardless of how well he does. Reality is, of course, a different matter: since April 21 (17 games), Joe is hitting .314/.377/.443 with seven doubles, a triple, and 11 runs batted in. He's striking out more than we're used to, but he's also looking to be more aggressive early in the count. He continues to beat the shift, which typically means dropping a line drive between the left and center fielders.
It's easy to overlook Mauer because he doesn't hit home runs. But the truth is that we haven't even seen him at his best this season. When that happens he might hit a couple out of the park, but more impressively he'll just continue to be who he is: he'll get hits, he'll collect doubles and walks, and he'll be productive in the ways he's always been when he's healthy.
Late in April, Paul Molitor benched Vargas for a few games. We discussed it at the time, and the common belief was that sitting for a few days was the right action to take for Vargas even though Danny Santana was struggling and continued to start. Vargas was pressing, and pitchers were feasting on his aggression. Essentially, Vargas was a big dude with big power who wasn't in control while he was in the batter's box.
Molitor's handling of both players seems to have paid off. Santana has been more consistent, although he's been blanked the last three games, and Vargas...well, he's discovered just how effective he can be when he's patient enough to wait for his pitch.
In Vargas' ten games since his benching, he's hit .378/.410/.541 with two home runs and six runs driven in. Pitchers attack him early, but he's found a mix of aggression and patience and he's shown that he's capable of producing in two-strike counts instead of falling prey to a ball in the dirt.
Trevor wasn't failing in April, like some of the others on this list. He was off to a slow start, but it wasn't quite as rough as it was for Vargas or Hunter. Still, since the start of the Chicago series, Trevor has - like so many of his teammates - found his stride.
In the nine games starting with game one of the set against the White Sox, Plouffe is hitting .313/.450/.563 with two home runs and eight walks versus nine strikeouts. He's been the best version of himself, producing not just with a bat in his hands but with the glove as well. The whole package means Plouffe has already accumulated 1.0 fWAR this season. The list of third baseman with better marks at this early juncture is short: Matt Carpenter, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, and Evan Longoria.
Are you sure you still want to trade Trevor Plouffe when Miguel Sano is ready? I'm not. If Plouffe finishes with a good season, his age 26-29 years will look very similar to Michael Cuddyer's.