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Cuddyer, Casilla, and shifting expectations | June

Cuddyer and Casilla didn't factor into the Twins' long-term plans a few months ago. Now, they're two of the only things keeping the team from collapsing.

With 15 victories in their last 19 games, the Twins have been able to piece together some serious momentum this month.

The biggest reason for this winning stretch has been phenomenal pitching. While the lineup lacked the bats of Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, and Joe Mauer, the starting rotation and bullpen have combined for a league-best 2.08 ERA. The batting order may be producing at a mediocre level, but it seems the only thing holding the Twins's offense from disastrous levels are the bats of Michael Cuddyer and Alexi Casilla.

To say these two are unlikely heroes would be under-selling how little both Cuddyer and Casilla factored into the season's plans back in March.

At the beginning of the year, Cuddyer was viewed as an aging outfielder on his way out of the league; Casilla as a stalled prospect with little hope of sticking with the major-league club. Back in early April, fans were of the opinion that if the Twins had an opportunity to replace either Cuddyer or Casilla, they should take it.

Can two months really change someone's opinion about a player? Absolutely.

'Hot streaks' rarely impact the future performance of any given player, and there are any number of studies to support this. If someone pulls off an 8-10 streak, or even collects 20 hits in 25 consecutive at-bats, they're unlikely to hit significantly better than they were before.

You can look back on a season and distinguish hot and cold periods, but while in the midst of a streak it's impossible to predict the immediate future. It's like flipping a coin: tossing five 'heads' in a row doesn't make the the sixth toss more any more likely to be a 'tails,' or even another 'heads.'

But we're not talking about simple 10 or 25-at bat streaks. Cuddyer and Casilla have been knocking the cover off the ball for nearly two months. Since May 1, Casilla has hit .310/.369/.451 with 13 extra-base hits. During that same stretch, Cuddyer has hit .317/.380/.509 with 17 extra-base hits.

Over the last 30 days, both players have been among the 25 best batters in the league. This isn't any regular hot streak; this is a consistent pattern of performance, and certainly changes our valuations of these two players. Maybe Cuddyer still has some power left in his swing, and deserves some more playing time once Thome comes back. Maybe Casilla has finally found his swing, and could help the Twins form a very solid middle infield duo.

These shifts in perception hardly influence our decision on who should take the field for the next game. But two months of excellent play can't be chalked up to simply 'good luck.'

Thanks to two incredible months, you can't think of either Cuddyer or Casilla the way you thought of them two months ago.