Twins springing some surprises in April
Who are these guys and what did they do with the Minnesota Twins?
The Twins started the last full week of April ranked first in the major leagues in on base percentage (.354). For a team that has one of the worst team earned run averages in baseball (4.90), the stat is a huge one. It means the Twins have been able to hide their crummy pitching - especially in the starting ranks where only No. 5 starter Kyle Gibson has been impressive - with a lot of time on the bases.
The Twins were third in the majors in runs scored (98) and leadoff hitter Brian Dozier, had the distinction of scoring a major league-leading 19 runs.
Outfielder Chris Colabello started the week as the majors' top run producer with 20 RBIs.
Colabello has continued to swing the same hot bat he showed the Twins in spring training. His .353 batting average was the 10th best mark in the majors.
What is so remarkable about Colabello is how he won himself a spot over Chris Parmelee, a starter on last year's squad who the Twins were planning to hand the job to when spring training began. To his credit, Colabello has continued to play like a guy headed for Rochester even after the Twins sent Parmelee down.
Jason Kubel has been a streaky-type of hitter in his big league career. He also looked like a long shot when camp opened after hitting a lousy .220 for Arizona last year. Kubel was way off on his timing when camp opened but the Twins decided to keep him anyway. It was a great decision because Kubel was carrying a .328 average when the week started and was second on the team in on-base percentage with a .418 mark.
You have to hand it to Trevor Plouffe too. The third baseman was hitting .313 after a .254 season last year and his .420 on base percentage leads the team. Plouffe was one of Minnesota's
top strikeout guys last year when he fanned 112 times in 477 at bats.
Josmil Pinto has swung a weak .233 bat but his on base average has been fantastic (.411) for a backup catcher.
Kurt Suzuki has been doing well at the plate after taking over the catching duties. Suzuki has struck out only four times and was hitting .294 with a .393 on base percentage.
The Twins have really been fortunate to have so many guys coming through at the plate because some of their stars have not been producing much. Josh Willingham only played in six games before he took one of the wrist and went on the disabled list. Joe Mauer was hitting .257 when the week started - rather weak for a guy pulling down $23 million a year.
Speaking of being overpaid, you have a four starters - Kevin Correia, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfry - with two victories amongst them. These four guys were supposed to be our best. The combined salaries of these four players is $31 million.
Gibson, like so many of Minnesota's hitters, is playing like he might be cut or sent down. Once considered the gem of Minnesota's farm prospects, Gibson had to scramble to win his spot at Minnesota's No. 5 starter after a dismal 2013 season. Now look at him. He went into the Tampa Bay series with victories in all three of the games he has started. His 0.93 ERA was second only to reliever Brian Duensing's 0.00 ERA.
The Twins were 11-12 when their April schedule ended last year so the story them will write from now on is the one that will be the one that really counts. They have seen two of the best pitching teams in the American League already - Oakland and Kansas City - but the true measure of this year's team cannot be taken until they face some more.