Warne: Evaluating current state of the Twins as season nears midpoint
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Friday night's game was number 76 for the Minnesota Twins in the 2013 season, leaving Wednesday evening's upcoming tilt versus the New York Yankees as the mathematical halfway point of the campaign.
To that end, it makes for a good spot to evaluate the team and make some observations on what has taken place.
Kevin Correia has lived up to his contract -- so far
Based on some rough calculations and depending on who is asked, a win on the free agent market -- read: +1.0 WAR (wins over replacement player) -- will typically cost in the neighborhood of $5-7 million. With one more start before the halfway point, Correia currently checks in at +0.5 WAR (Fangraphs version). Slated to make $4.5 million this year and $5.5 next season, the math adds up.
And if raw numbers are one's preference, it's hard to find many qualms with Correia's 6-5 record, 3.82 ERA, and a 1.4 walks per nine innings rate that is less than half his career mark. He's still not overpowering (4.8 strikeouts per 9), and he's out of whack in terms of home run and strand rates (percentage of runners stranded on base), but all in all he's got to have given Terry Ryan and company exactly what they expected.
So has Joe Mauer
With +3.5 fWAR, Mauer's on pace to be a seven-win player for just the second time in his career. The other time? When he hit 28 home runs and generally made a mockery of opposing pitchers by hitting .365/.444/.587. Mauer's played in all but four games, is on pace to hit 15-20 home runs, and is top-20 in runs scored, which is a huge testament to how much he has gotten on base with how poorly those behind him have hit. Mauer entered play Friday fifth in all of baseball in on-base percentage at .412.
The bullpen has been rock-solid
The Twins entered play Friday second in bullpen ERA, with a sterling 2.86 mark. And what's sort of odd is that the bullpen unit couldn't be much more disparate than the starters. The bullpen relies much less on grounders (38.4%) than the rotation does (47.4%), but also racks up strikeouts in a much more nasty fashion (7.8 per 9 innings) than its counterparts (4.7 per 9).
In fact, so valuable have the Twins top relievers been that they've actually outperformed most of the starters. Glen Perkins paces all Twins pitchers in WAR at +1.1, with Mike Pelfrey and Anthony Swarzak tied at +0.8, and Casey Fien and Samuel Deduno tied at 0.6. So three of the Twins' four most valuable pitchers this season have come out of left-center. That's almost incomprehensible.
Swarzak leads all relievers in innings thrown, and has been a revelation as a long guy. Similarly, Rule-5 pickup Ryan Pressly has looked anything but like a rookie, pumping 93-mph fastballs while posting a 2.27 ERA with respectable peripherals. Even Caleb Thielbar has been solid, having not allowed a single earned run in his first 13 big league appearances, spanning 14.2 innings pitched.
And at the back end, Perkins has been downright suffocating. Perkins' fastball has been reaching near 95 mph while mixing in a filthy 84-mph slider, both of which have afforded him an otherworldly 12.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. In a bullpen full of reliever who have risen to the occasion, Perkins stands alone. If not for Mauer, he'd be the Twins All Star representative. He still could end up at Citi Field.
Even with Morneau and Willingham struggling, the offense has been oddly average
Both Willingham (.393) and Morneau (.391) came into Friday night's action not only slugging 100-plus points lower than Mauer (.498), but slugging well below Mauer's on-base percentage (.412).
And regardless if these two are to heat up to retain some modicum of trade value, or just simply to make this a better all-around team, the Twins need more out of these two.
It's been a true team effort out there
The Twins entered Friday with a team wOBA of .311, just under the league mark of .313. In other words, the offense has been flat out average. So in spite of slow starts from Willingham, Morneau, and even guys like Chris Parmelee, Ryan Doumit, and Brian Dozier, a lot of credit has to go to the improved play of Trevor Plouffe, and a rookie who just might be the first Twin to take home Rookie of the Year honors since Marty Cordova in 1995.
Oswaldo Arcia is the real deal
In a season where the incumbents at the corners have struggled, it certainly has been easy for skipper Ron Gardenhire to be able to pencil Arcia's name in the lineup for more than half of the team's games to this point. Arcia started out hot, peaking at a .900 OPS on May 9 after his first 18 big league games. Then, from that point until his demotion, he hit .147/.256/.265 with just two extra base hits in 34 at bats. Now since his promotion, Arcia has absolutely raked to the tune of a .346/.414/.558 batting line with seven extra base hits in just 52 at bats.
But even looking outside of the numbers, it's obvious Arcia is comfortable at the plate, as he continues to show the development that helped propel him through the Twins system at a blistering pace. Now it's worth wondering if he's the next No. 3 hitter Gardenhire turns to.
Kyle Gibson is here, now what?
Gibson's status was the subject of much hand-wringing, but in the end he's making his big league debut in the month of June, which seemed like the likely scenario all along. And whether he tossed most of the rumored 130-150 innings in Rochester seems to be a moot point, as the Twins will keep a cautious eye on him and do what's best for him in the long-term. And that's what a team in the Twins' position has to be worried about at this point in their re-tooling curve.
The jury is still out on who won both big trades of the offseason
...and that's quite telling considering Alex Meyer is on the disabled list with a shoulder, Trevor May is not markedly better despite repeating Double-A, and Vance Worley was banished to Triple-A after a ghastly first 50 innings with the Twins.
Ben Revere has shocked Philadelphia onlookers with his lack of a throwing arm, and while his bat has come on stronger in recent weeks, he's still only hitting .278/.316/.310 (.280 wOBA) with just six extra-base hits in a home ballpark that's much more accommodating for offense. Based on media reports, it's completely fair to say he's not very popular in the city of Brotherly Love.
Denard Span has hardly been better, hitting .256/.308/.341 which has resulted in a wOBA of .288, far worse than even his two 'down' years in Minneapolis.
Depending on who one chooses to believe, both have played at least passable defense in their new digs, but that was something the Twins expected from Aaron Hicks, Darin Mastroianni, or whoever else was going to roam in Span or Revere's stead.
In short, maybe no one has won either of these two trades. But in deals made with the long-term in mind, it doesn't really matter to the Twins who wins in the short-term.