Monday, September 03, 2007

Sign of the Times

August. That month in which the baseballwheat is separated from the baseballchaff, leaving a few interesting teams that could-just-get-it-together-in-time (see: Tigers, Detroit).

The Other Favorite AL Central Team of the Bourgeois Burglars (see: Twins, Minnesota) has both less hope to pull it together (at 69-68), and less to pull together anyway. This is, in general, ok with yours truly. The Twins have made it to the playoffs four of the last six years (counting this one), and though they always seem to get derailed by America's Favorite Team (The Yankees), the Kansas City Royals are a good reminder of how sweet it is to root for a perennial competitor.

On the other hand, it is hard to let go of that playoff rush, once experienced. You know its truly over when your team's website offers video highlights titled, not: "Stunning late inning comeback lifts Twins over reeling Yankees" or "Santana dominates Angels, striking out 15" but rather: "The Twins use small ball to get a run home Sunday Afternoon." Note, that we were playing the Kansas City Royals.

A couple weeks after the all star break,'s resident stathead, Rob Neyer, commented on how high he had ranked the Twins and how lowly they have performed (can't find the link) saying: "I did not conceive of how poorly their lineup would be managed." This was not Neyer coping out, it is something that Twins fans have been whining about increasingly all season long. The banner player for this phenomenon has been Nick Punto, the banner incident his multiple pop-up bunt attempts.

For documentary evidence of how pathetic a season Mr. Punto has had (and I wish him no ill, he is by all reports a fine, well-liked, hard working fellow ... just not a good major league infielder) the statistically WORST SEASON of all major league batters. The best measure of his performance is the new-fangled (not really) stat VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). The very basic definition of VORP explains that this is a calculation of "the number of runs contributed beyond what a replacement-level player at the same position would contribute if given the same percentage of team plate appearances. VORP scores do not consider the quality of a player's defense." Alex Rodriquez leads all major league batters with something ridiculous like an 82. Tori Hunter leads all Twins with a very respectable 39.2.

Mr. Punto, with his 128 games played and 467 plate appearances, leads all major leaguers with the line of -26.3. That means that Mr. Punto has taken away over 26 runs on the season that an absolutely league-average replacement level guy would not (see Jose Valentin, 2b, NY Mets). Punto is famed for his defense (which is, admittedly, very good and sometimes incredibly spectacular), but despite what Kelly Theiser argues in this article, even if you are Ozzie Smith you can't make up that many offensive miscues and bat .199. Seriously. Mr. Gardenhire, please stop putting Mr. Punto in the lineup.

In short, see you next season. Over the next month, Twins fans will enjoy previews of the incredible pitching rotation that is shaping up for next year, wring their hands at the idea of who will replace Hunter in CF now that he seems to be planning on hitting the big time free agent market, and hope God drops a decent Third Baseman into our laps.

Oh, and Go Tigers (Do you want to borrow a closer? We apparently have two, again, despite what this says).

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