The Twins have returned from the land of the dead (winners of nine of their past twelve games) and are feasting on the perennial basement dwellers of the MLB. Optimism is at a season high in Twins Territory as everyone wonders if this team can replicate the magic of the 2006 season where the Twins rattled off wins left and right after starting 25-33. Hey, it could happen, just as long as Trevor Plouffe stays hot.
That’s right; the fate of the Twins season rests on the shoulders of a man that has produced nothing but frustration since joining the team in 2010. Before you brush this off as pure insanity hear me out first.
Since May 16th the Twins have gone 14-8 after starting the year 10-26. A few things have changed between the start of the season and the recent hot streak; Jason Marquis has been replaced by Scott Diamond, Justin Morneau is healthy and Trevor Plouffe is starting to hit.
In the span of 22 games Plouffe has become one of the most productive players in the Twins lineup, hitting .281 with 8 HR’s and 14 RBI’s. Compare that to the first 36 games of the 2012 season (.109, 1, 3) and you can see just how much of an improvement he has made.
A big contribution to those numbers has been Plouffe’s increased plate discipline. His strikeout rate has lowered (22.2% in 2011, 19.4% in 2012) and his walk rate has increased (7.8% in 2011, 10.4% in 2012) which were two things he has consistently struggled with since joining the big leagues. Neither of those numbers seems impressive but for the amount of power that Plouffe has been producing they are actually rather solid. Both Morneau (20.3%) and WIllingham (22.4%) have higher strikeout rates and only Mauer (14.5%) and Willingham (13.5%) have a higher walk rate than Plouffe this season.
Of course the big question is can Plouffe continue to produce these kinds of numbers for the rest of the season? The answer is yes and no. The power numbers are indicative of the poor pitchers that the Twins have faced recently so they will likely drop off, but not to the point where he was at the beginning of the season. If his newfound plate discipline continues to improve then you can expect his batting average to swell to a number that is more bearable than his current .217 average.
Of course I realize that Trevor Plouffe is not going to carry the Twins on his back and into the post season. There are a number of factors that would have to happen or continue to happen for something as miraculous as a playoff run to occur, but Plouffe will play a pivotal role in how the Twins second half of the season plays out. If he can continue to produce at the bottom of the lineup and give a sense of balance to the organization then it will help the Twins take a step forward towards being a competitive team once again.
It’s finally time to embrace the Plouffe.