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Two Weeks In: Who Is This Team?

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This post was originally published at knuckleballsblog.com.

I swear if thereís one thing Iíve grown more tired of than people using small sample sizes to ďproveĒ how good or bad a player is, at this still-early point in the season, itís people who do so while even admitting that theyíre using small sample sizes. Letís be brutally honest here, statheads, stats over a single two week period, even if itís the first two weeks of the season, are almost completely worthless.

Thatís one reason that, despite the disadvantage I have of living in blacked out Iowa, Iíve made considerable efforts to hang out in the local Cedar Rapids sports bars as often as possible this month. This allows me to actually watch the Twins, rather than just look at the box scores, to judge whoís doing well and who isnít. Naturally, it also gives me the opportunity to purchase overpriced beer and fried food, but thatís just a sacrifice Iím willing to make for my team and our readers.

One thing about having a blog like this is that you eventually feel compelled to write something, even if almost everything you have to say has most likely been expressed elsewhere. With that said, hereís what I think about what Iíve seen of the 2012 Minnesota Twins:

I donít know what to think.

Are they the team that might just as well have been using toothpicks for bats in their opening series sweep at the hands of the mighty Baltimore Orioles? (Thatís the American League East Division LEADING Baltimore Orioles to you, Mack!) Or are they the team that took two of three games from Albert Pujolsí Angels? Or the one that got swept by Joe Nathanís new buddies from Texas? Or the guys that have taken two out of the first three games from the Evil Empire in Yankee Stadium, no less?

Itís probably just stating the obvious, but since thatís one of the things I do best, hereís a rundown of a few things we probably have found out about this seasonís edition of the Twins:

Spring Training numbers mean zip, zilch, nada, not a frigginí thing.

  • Remember all those good vibrations we were getting in March from Francisco Liriano? Three starts in to the season and heís the same head case he was last year. Maybe heíll turn things around yet, but man has he looked bad after being pretty much unhittable in Ft. Myers.
  • For the second season in a row, Luke Hughes put up very impressive numbers in Spring Training. The same Luke Hughes whoís now been Designated for Assignment because the team needed his roster spot for Jason Marquis on Wednesday and Hughes is out of options. I suppose he COULD pass through waivers, but expectations are that some team will claim him and heíll get a chance to join another organizationís Big League roster. Best of luck to Luke (unless he ends up with the Fíing Yankees or White Sox, of course).
  • There was a lot of hand-wringing in Spring Training over Justin Morneau with many people pretty much writing off his career. Heís attacking the ball at the plate with an intensity we havenít seen since before his head came in to contact with a Blue Jay knee at second base almost two years ago. Three home runs in the two games heís played at Yankee Stadium so far this week isnít too shabby.

Josh Willingham can hit baseballs really, really well. Yes, defensively, balls hit in his direction can turn in to an adventure, but this is a fan base thatís been watching Delmon Young in LF for a couple of yearsÖ we can deal with Willingham. Especially if he keeps hitting the ball consistently. You canít get much more consistent than starting the season with a 12 game hitting streak.

Reports of the demise of Joe Mauer and Denard Span were a tad premature. Both are still really good at baseball. Mauer still hits in to too many 4-6-3 double plays, but as is the case with Morneau, weíre seeing a version of Mauer we havenít seen on the field in far too long. Span looks poised to reclaim his spot atop the rankings of AL lead-off center fielders.

Jamey Carroll is pretty much exactly what we thought he was
Ö a solid shortstop that will field the balls hit near him and make good throws to first base. If the position hadnít been such a disaster last year, that might not be big news, but I enjoy not having to hold my breath every time a ground ball gets hit that direction.

Alexi Casilla is really badÖ or really good
Ö face it, none of us have figured that out for sure ever since the Twins got him in return for JC Romero. We still donít know, but I like the Lexi thatís been playing in Yankee Stadium this week.

The bullpen hasnít sucked.
Again, faint praise, perhaps. But given the angst most of us felt about the situation and the fact that a couple of guys that were counted on to fortify the pen have either been injured or pushed to the rotation, things could be much worse out there. Iím a bit nervous about Glen Perkins, though.

So with all of this stuff going well, why the hell have the Twins lost twice as many games as theyíve

The answer, of course, is a familiar one. This team has a rotation that simply is not very good and the pitchers are being backed up by a defense thatís not much better. I donít need two weeks worth of statistics to tell me thatís a dangerous combination.

Liam Hendriks and Anthony Swarzak have looked marginally promising. Carl Pavano looks to be what we all know he isÖ a marginal, but gutsy, innings-eater. Maybe Jason Marquis will be something similar. Nick Blackburn hasnít been awful, but his ceiling isnít terribly high, not to mention this ďmystery shoulder tightnessĒ thing he came down with this week.

The bottom line is that we still really donít know what to expect from this team after two weeks. The rest of April will continue to be a challenge, due to the brutal scheduling this month and the iffy pitching situation, but thereís nothing like a couple of wins against the Fíing Yankees at their place to raise spirits a bit. - JC
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  1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    Yeah, this is pretty much exactly the case.
  2. Thrylos's Avatar
    JC, you cannot talk about "Small Sample Sizes" and false conclusions made based on those, and then dish Liriano in the same breath because has has underperformed in a small sample size
  3. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    Sure I can, thrylos... I just did
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