Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Slowey Sizzles; Punto Starting in '08?

I was very happy to see Kevin Slowey piece together a terrific outing last night. Granted, he was going against a punchless Texas lineup (one which did not include Hank Blalock, Ian Kinsler, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Sammy Sosa), but it was nonetheless encouraging to see Slowey rack up seven strikeouts (a personal high in his young major-league career) while holding the Rangers to one run on four hits and zero walks over six innings.

Unfortunately, Slowey did not earn a win in spite of his outstanding effort, as another poor relief outing from Juan Rincon put the Rangers in front just one inning after Slowey had left with a 2-1 lead. The Twins later ended up winning when Kinsler (who had entered as a sub) dropped a Jason Bartlett fly ball and allowed Lew Ford to score and seal a 5-4 victory for the Twins.

Now, to change course a bit. According to La Velle E. Neal III, Ron Gardenhire announced yesterday that Nick Punto is currently slated to be the Twins' starting second baseman at the outset of the 2008 season. Here's what the Twins' manager had to say:

“ We already know what we’ve got with Nick,'’ Gardy said. “We know we’ve got a player. And (Alexi Casilla) has all the tools in the world. Nothing’s a given. You have to go out and play. But if we were to start right now I would say Nick would have a head up on him, believe me there. I know what he can do, catch the ball and make all the plays. So he’s got a lead going into spring training, as far as I’m concerned.

“I hope he comes out and has a good spring. I like him in my lineup, somewhere. He makes things exciting. But he’s got to play. Got to come back and rebound, we all know that.'’

Considering my constant ranting lately about Casilla being held out of the lineup, you might think that I'd be furious about this development. But, to be honest, I'm not.

Casilla has been absolutely terrible this year, and there's no masking that fact. He didn't have a particularly good year in Rochester, where he hit just .269/.354/.345, and he's looked completely overmatched in the majors, hitting just .241/.274/.282. In 184 plate appearances with the Twins this year, Casilla has struck out 25 times while managing just eight walks, and in the meantime he has committed countless mistakes in the field and on the basepaths.

At 23, Casilla is young and still boasts plenty of upside, which is why I continue to believe that he should be playing almost every day for the remainder of the season in these meaningless September games. However, once we move on to the beginning of the 2008 season and the games matter again, the manager needs to put the best players on the field, and at this point in time, Punto looks like a better overall option at second base than Casilla. That could very well change between now and next April, and if it does, I hope that Gardy will adjust his plans accordingly.

Punto's 2007 season has been historically bad from an offensive standpoint, and it seems odd that he would be rewarded for such a feat with a starting job next season. Yet, if it comes down to him and Casilla, right now Punto has to be considered the better player solely on the merits of his defensive ability.

Many would no doubt argue that a guy who hits the way Punto has this season is a liability at any position -- that's true. But is it really fair to expect him to keep hitting this way? Punto has hit rock bottom this year, and I certainly expect him to get his numbers back up toward respectability next season. Does that mean I think he's an ideal starter? By no means, and I'd love it if Casilla could step up and establish himself as this team's starting second baseman of the future. Unfortunately, he hasn't done that, and nothing that he's done this season has really indicated to me that he's going to be ready to take over at the beginning of the 2008 season.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's No Way that Nick Punto is the Twins starting second baseman next year. This is all just an attempt to get to Casilla and ensure that he puts in the effort. There is no way that even Gardy would subject Twins fans to another year of regular playing time.

I HOPE that's all this is!

SethSpeaks.net

Nibbish said...

Interesting comments... I almost have to agree with them, though I REALLY hope Casilla can get things figured out. He's such an electrifying player when he's not making young, dumb mistakes.

Anonymous said...

ugh

Anonymous said...

Nick Punto starting in '08. Who didn't see this coming?

SBG

Anonymous said...

anyone know of a "fire ron gardenhire" website, or do i have to start my own?

CycloScooter said...

To the previous commenter:
http://firerongardenhire.com/default.aspx

Nick N. said...

I'm hearing a lot of complaining over Gardenhire's proposed move, but I'm not really hearing any reasoning as to why it's such a bad idea. Does anyone really believe that Casilla provides a dramatic upgrade over Punto at second right now? What is it about the season that Casilla has had in 2007 that leads people to believe he's going to be ready to step in and produce at the beginning of next season?

I don't mean to put Casilla down, because I still like him as a player and I still have faith in him to eventually pull things together. All I'm saying is that with things standing as they currently do, the Twins starting the season with Punto at second would not be the worst thing in the world.

Anonymous said...

casilla has upside, punto has none. punto makes a lot of bonehead mistakes on the bases, but never ends up in the doghouse. if they want casilla to eventually take over and they want him to learn from his mistakes, why not have him out there right now? how can you work on your game when you aren't playing? you can watch all the baseball you want, but the best way to learn is to play every day. it seems to me like gardy wants to keep casilla from proving himself so that he can have his little sex pet nick punto start at 2nd next year.

John said...

Nick,

Great post. I just spent an hour writing tomorrow's entry and I now realize it's going to be reiterating exactly what you have already said. Ugh.

John

Nick N. said...

casilla has upside, punto has none. punto makes a lot of bonehead mistakes on the bases, but never ends up in the doghouse. if they want casilla to eventually take over and they want him to learn from his mistakes, why not have him out there right now? how can you work on your game when you aren't playing? you can watch all the baseball you want, but the best way to learn is to play every day. it seems to me like gardy wants to keep casilla from proving himself so that he can have his little sex pet nick punto start at 2nd next year.

Basically, you are listing reasons why Casilla should be getting playing time for the rest of this season. That's a viewpoint that I agree with 100 percent. The issue here is the idea of Punto starting at second over Casilla next year. Right now, Casilla does not look like he belongs in the big leagues. He's not playing the field or running the bases well enough to make up for his extremely poor performance at the plate. Unless some things change, Punto probably gives the Twins a better chance to win at the beginning of the 2008 campaign.

Great post. I just spent an hour writing tomorrow's entry and I now realize it's going to be reiterating exactly what you have already said. Ugh.

Sorry buddy!

brianS said...

Nick:

a very reasonable post. Except. Except that Casilla is not being given the opportunity to really demonstrate that he's not ready.

During August (beginning with game 106 on July 31) he had PA in 28 games, going 24 for 105. 229/274/276. that is ugly. Of course, Punto went 127/210/155 in August.

Since the start of September, Casilla has seen PA in only 6 of the last 15 (plus two appearances as a late defensive sub w/o PA). While I'm sure we're all thrilled by Nicky's 293/341/341 in those 15 games, Casilla line has been 308/357/346.

so turn it around. The Twins gain nothing by playing Nick down the stretch, while losing developmental opportunities with Casilla and/or Buscher.

brianS said...

as for next year, I suspect there is a lot of sympathy for having Nick around as a utility guy. Not so much for having him penciled in as the 2b starter. We've been through these experiments the last two seasons with vastly inadequate players being installed as starters. Isn't two years in a row enough?

Nick N. said...

so turn it around. The Twins gain nothing by playing Nick down the stretch, while losing developmental opportunities with Casilla and/or Buscher.

Completely true. Which is why I made sure to explicitly state the following in today's post: "At 23, Casilla is young and still boasts plenty of upside, which is why I continue to believe that he should be playing almost every day for the remainder of the season in these meaningless September games."

In fact, I've been complaining pretty steadily about Gardenhire's tendency to hold Casilla out of the lineup. See my comments here and here and here.

Make no mistake, I'm not thrilled about the idea of Punto starting next season. But there are a few reasons why I find the notion tolerable: 1) 2B is a more important defensive position than 3B, and as such Punto's defensive skills are emphasized and his offensive inadequacy is a little less damaging; 2) Punto is going to hit better next season; 3) Casilla has not proven himself to be a superior option, and he's really the only other candidate the Twins have for the position.

BD said...

Casilla has "potential." Problem is, in this context "potential" is "faith that a player will perform better in the future than he has to date."

It's been clear for a while now - Gardy saying it helped - that Punto's getting playing time in the hope that he'll have a good September & be "ready" to come back and contribute in 2008. While it's only 41 plate appearances, .293 / .341 / .341 is better than we've seen all year.

That's not to say I like the idea - I don't. If we're going to contend in 2008, I'd prefer more hitting from 3B & 2B than we're going to get having Nick Punto man either of them.

But if we were starting 2008 TODAY, Punto at 2B could be defended.

Karleeee said...

Let me just say one thing.

The past 10 games Puntos avg is .310

The past 10 games Morneaus avg is .205


That just puts a huge smile on my face. I'm sorry. It really really does.

Jeff said...

I don't understand why you'd want Punto starting at 2b. Despite having much more experience, his avg/ob/ops are all worse than the 23 year old Casilla's. Casilla is only going to improve, while how much improvement is the 29 year old Punto going to show? Punto seems like a perfect candidate for a utility roll. The Twins gotta score more runs next year, and Casilla gives them that possibility.

Josh's Thoughts said...

Great post, Nick.

As much as I'd like to say that I'm surprised by this, I'm really not. Nick's definitely a "Gardy guy" and Gardy does see a lot of "something" in him.

I like Nick as a backup utility player, and I guess it's better to have him at 2nd with filling in for him at 3rd base. What I mean by that is that having him AND Casilla in the lineup would be worse then having him and say Brian Buscher in the lineup.

But I will also add that I like Nick's hustle on every play, as much as I'd like to see him not start, I can't help but hope he improves in '08.

Another intriguing thought is that Matt Moses was playing a bit of 2nd base at the end of the season. Could he be a candidate to play 2nd someday? I like having the thought that the Twins could have a potential "big bat" at 2nd base. Although he has a lot to prove next year if he wants to keep that title of "big bat".

Nick N. said...

Another intriguing thought is that Matt Moses was playing a bit of 2nd base at the end of the season. Could he be a candidate to play 2nd someday? I like having the thought that the Twins could have a potential "big bat" at 2nd base. Although he has a lot to prove next year if he wants to keep that title of "big bat".

"Keep" the title of big bat? I don't think he ever gained that title in the first place. In my mind, Moses is a bona fide bust.

Skippy tastes better than Jiff said...

As a matter of fact, I do indeed expect Punto to continue to hit this way. A simple check of his minor league numbers would make one draw the conclusion that 2006 was the aberration and 2007 much more close to reality. I would think that Punto will hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .230 next year, possibly worse, but not much higher. He will be fortunate to have a slugging percentage of .300. He runs the bases surprisingly poorly for a guy with his speed (check tonight's game for any doubters). With those numbers plus his slightly above average defensive skills, I'm afraid that if Punto has indeed been handed the starting job for 2008, it will be another year whereby heavy-duty hand wringing trumps common sense.

Anonymous said...

Skippy tastes better than Jiff - I agree 100%!

Nick N. said...

.230 is still better than .200, isn't it? I said he'd be better, I didn't say he'd be good. He still wouldn't have a tough time hitting better than Casilla has hit this year.

菲梵 said...

酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店經紀,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店工作,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,

,

be said...

酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,
酒店經紀,
酒店工作,
酒店上班,
酒店打工,
禮服酒店,
禮服公關,
酒店領檯,
華麗幻想,
夢世界,