Monday, May 14, 2007

Twins Vent Frustration on Rookie

On the same day the Twins took out their offensive frustrations on a pitcher making his major-league debut, they also took out their frustrations with Sidney Ponson's horrible performance up to this point by designating the righthanded pitcher for assignment. Ponson had two straight terrible starts and it was finally enough for Terry Ryan to admit that Ponson may have been a mistake.

In light of Mr. Nelson's Sunday prophecy, the Twins not only released Ponson, but also shuffled the lineup. Jason Bartlett hit second, Michael Cuddyer moved up to the third spot, Justin Morneau batted cleanup in front of Torii Hunter, Jason Kubel hit in the sixth spot, and Nick Punto dropped to the number nine spot.

Was this the reason for the Twins 22-hit, 16-run outburst? It may have had something to do with it. Moving Bartlett up has always seemed reasonably, as he makes for a solid number two hitter. Moving Punto down isn't a bad move, as he is struggling with his average while he maintains the best discipline of active Twins. (Joe Mauer has shown better plate discipline, but by numbers, Punto has more walks and a higher Isolated Discipline of .094, just a tick above Mauer's .093).

However, moving Cuddyer to the third spot was most interesting and it seemed to play out well. Torii Hunter needs to be in a spot where he can swing away and drive in some runs and the fifth spot is a good position for that. Though Cuddyer doesn't have the patience or power of Mauer or Morneau, he is well suited to replace Mauer while he is out. The Twins do best having Morneau's big bat in the cleanup spot, so this might be a move Ron Gardenhire wants to stick with for the time being.

After all, the 3-4-5 of Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter 9-for-16 with 11 RBI and seven runs scored. Of course, Hunter himself had seven RBI on two home runs and a two-run double all by himself. That gives Hunter 29 RBI and a .618 slugging percentage on the year, both impressive feats for him given that he often struggles to start the season.

The best news for the Twins lately, which has gone relatively unnoticed, is that Mike Redmond has been on fire since replacing Mauer as starting catcher. Redmond has hit .500 (13-for-26) in his past seven games and with his first home run since 2005 last night, he's now hitting .307/.351/.409 with 12 RBI. Once again, Redmond is looking like the best backup catcher in baseball. If he can keep up the production in the seventh spot while Mauer remains on the disabled list, Redmond can at least help keep the ship afloat.

Of course, offense was the big story, but not the only story (besides ditching Sir Sid). Boof Bonser wasn't fantastic, as he gave up four runs in five innings while walking three, but he did strike out six to give him 45 on the year while also picking up his first win. It also didn't hurt that after a shaky past couple games, the bullpen pitched four scoreless innings, with Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, and Joe Nathan giving up two hits and striking out six in those four frames.

With an off day today, the Twins prepare to start a series with the Indians tomorrow night. Hopefully, the 16 runs they scored against the Tigers can serve as a catalyst as they go up against another good offense with a sloppy bullpen (Joe Borowski anyone?).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Talk about looking on the sunny side of life. Punto -- the most disciplined hitter on the team. A pessimist or a cynic would have said -- Punto, among players with at least 50 at bats has the lowest slugging percentage (.290!), lowest OPS+ (67), lowest batting average (.218), and 3rd lowest OBP (.312, despite that discipline).

--SBG

Nick M. said...

Well, SBG, I was trying to lose some of that cynicism after a big win for the Twins. So, in light of that, I tried to dwell on what Punto has done good this year. Yeah, the .312 OBP really isn't that good, but I guess the point is that if he finally starts getting that average up, he'll be pretty solid with that OBP.

Of course, no surprise that you were badmouthing Punto. Too bad Nelson didn't make this post.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was just slinging it his way... :)

--SBG

Nick M. said...

In that case, I have no objections.

Nick N. said...

There's no denying that Punto's numbers are ugly this year, but the underlying trends aren't overly alarming. He's been the recipient of some bad luck, in part. His BABIP is just .265, compared to .339 last year. If had five more singles, he'd be batting .258/.347/.331, which would be sufficient I think for a stopgap third baseman batting ninth in the lineup, especially considering that his defense has been outstanding. His strikeout rate is at about 18%, which is a little higher than I'd like but not horrible. And he's drawn more walks than anyone on the team other than Morneau while seeing 3.84 pitches per plate appearance, so his plate approach hasn't been overly frustrating.

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