Three Twins to Watch in the Second Half

Can Trevor Plouffe put together a healthy second half?

Despite winning a series in New York against the Yankees for basically the first time since, you know, ever… the Twins still had a brutal first half… again. The team finds itself 14 games below .500 and 12 games behind the Tigers for first place in the A.L. Central, so the remainder of the year is not about the playoffs. It’s about finishing with some semblance of respectability, which has been tougher than it sounds in recent years.

In order to gain that respectability and to set themselves up for a run at .500 in 2014, the Twins will need several players to step up. Here are some of those players, although the list could honestly include everyone on the 40-man roster.

Trevor Plouffe

Plouffe is secretly having a good season for the Twins. The 27-year-old sits third in average at .265 (yes, that is the third highest average on the team – bwaaaaah), fourth in on-base percentage at .323, and and second in slugging at .445, beating out even Justin Morneau in that category and trailing only Joe Mauer.

Plouffe missed a decent chunk of time in May and June due to separate concussion and quad issues, so his raw numbers are projected to be down from last year. Plouffe has seen some serious increases elsewhere, though, starting with his line drive percentage. His rate sat at 18.5 percent last year; that has increased to 24.6 this year, leading to an elevated BABIP of .291.

In the second half, if Plouffe can increase his extra-base totals (11 doubles and 10 home runs in 238 at-bats) and increase his 0.35 walk/strikeout ratio, that will provide some solid coverage behind Mauer and Morneau in the absence of Josh Willingham.

Scott Diamond

Wherefore art thou, 2012 Scott Diamond??? Diamond showed so much promise in his first full season with the team, and then 2013 happened. Sure, he has been dealing with several different injuries ever since the beginning of the season, but still… Jim sad.

Diamond’s K/9 has gone down to 4.24 from 4.68 (meaning he is probably still leading the Twins in that category). At the same time, his BB/9 has increased to 2.36 from 1.61, his HR/9 is up to 1.48, and his groundball percentage has gone down to 47.8 percent from 53.4.

Diamond actually showed signs of a return to his old form in his most recent start against the Yankees before rain ended his day prematurely. Despite three walks in only 3.1 innings, Diamond allowed no runs on one hit while inducing eight groundballs to only two fly balls. That’s the Diamond the Twins need in the second half if they want to make a valiant attempt to appear semi-competent. You know, without the walks, or he will assuredly descend into a hell fire ignited by Rick Anderson, who will be laughing maniacally and hurling poison darts at a Joe Mays cardboard cutout.

Jared Burton

It’s often safe to ignore the win-loss record of a reliever. However, when your set-up guy is 1-6 on the season, you might want to rethink that strategy. Burton has already allowed multiple earned runs in four appearances this year, equaling his total from last year. The second-year Twin has also already walked more batters this year (18) than all of last year (16) through 20.1 less innings on the bump. Again, walks bad… outs good.

Burton has showed some progress since reaching his low point on June 30th and July 1st where he allowed a total of four runs in 1.1 innings and received the loss both days. In his six subsequent appearances, Burton has allowed zero runs on two hits through six innings with two walks and three strikeouts. The Twins don’t get a lot of leads, so when they do get them, they need to find a way to hang on.

If these three can find a way to up their play and excel from here on out, the Twins still won’t contend. They will be able to play at a level that commands respect, though, and that may be the level that is necessary to save Ron Gardenhire’s job.