Tuesday, October 02, 2007

2007 Grades: The Hitters

I racked my brain trying to come up with some original and innovative method of evaluating the 2007 performances of the individual Twins players, but in the end I've decided to take the cliche route of handing out grades. Lame, I know. Today I'll take a look at the hitters, and tomorrow I'll move on to the pitching staff.

Below I have come up with a grade for each position player that had any type of significant role on the 2007 Minnesota Twins (for the purposes of this article, the cut-off will be 50+ AB), with the players listed in order of 2007 at-bats. The grades are adjusted somewhat based on expectations and age, but I tried to make my scale as absolute as possible so that every player is graded on the same criteria.

***

JOE MAUER: B
.293/.382/.426, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 62 R, 7/8 SB
It's tough to analyze Mauer's '07 campaign. On the one hand, you want to give him credit for putting up very solid numbers, ones which are well above average for a major-league catcher. On the other hand, you can't help but be disappointed by the major decline from his astonishing 2006 campaign and the total lack of power. Mauer was limited to only 109 games and 406 at-bats due to various injuries; that may not have been something he really had control over, but it definitely inhibited his ability to help the team win.

JUSTIN MORNEAU: B
.271/.343/.492, 31 HR, 111 RBI, 84 R, 1/2 SB
Like Mauer, Morneau is tough to grade. You look at his overall hitting line and think, "Nice season"; but then you start to contemplate the fact that he was hitting .295/.364/.581 with 24 home runs at the All-Star break, and you can't help but feel that those overall numbers are a big let-down. Morneau hit only seven home runs after the break and saw his slugging percentage fall by nearly 200 points from the first half. In the final 63 games of the season, he hit a total of three balls over the fence. Overall, Morneau had a solid season, but thanks to a rather miserable second half in which he could never seem to really get going, it was a far cry from his MVP campaign in 2006.

TORII HUNTER: A-
.287/.334/.505. 28 HR, 107 RBI, 94 R, 18/27 SB
Playing for a big contract in what was likely his final year with the Twins, Hunter put up bigtime numbers, setting career highs in several offensive categories. Like Morneau, Hunter's power numbers tailed off in the second half, but he was still a solid contributor. Hunter was durable, appearing in all but two of the Twins' games this season, and he was solid defensively. He ranked fourth in the AL in doubles with 45.

LUIS CASTILLO: C+
.304/.356/.352, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 54 R, 9/13 SB
When you look at his batting average, it would appear that Castillo was a very solid contributor for the Twins in the leadoff spot. Yet, when you look further into his peripherals, you find that he simply wasn't a great player with the Twins this season. Castillo hit for almost zero power, managing just 14 extra-base hits in 85 games. His lack of patience was also disappointing, as he managed just 29 walks in 384 plate appearances with the Twins, and posted a .356 on-base percentage that would have ranked as his lowest since 2001. Though he still able to find his way on base thanks to his ability to constantly beat the ball into the ground and frequently scamper to first before the throw for an infield hit, Castillo was a declining defensive second baseman with no power and diminishing speed.

NICK PUNTO: D
.210/.291/.271, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 53 R, 16/22 SB
Only a late-season offensive surge saved Punto from finishing with a batting average below .200. He was a complete mess at the plate, reaching base less than 30 percent of the time while frequently failing to execute simple fundamental plays like sacrifice bunts. Fortunately, Punto was very good defensively, and he turned in several highlight-reel gems at each infield position. There's no denying that Punto's horrendous offensive performance hurt the team more than probably any other individual this season, but I tend to place that burden on the manager rather than the player. Punto's brutal offensive numbers in 2007 would not have been nearly as damaging to the team had he been used as a part-time player and utility man, as he should have been the moment a better option arose.


BRIAN BUSCHER: C+
.244/.323/.329, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, 1/1 SB
Buscher, called up from Triple-A in July after posting great numbers at two levels of the minors, was that better option. In his first 21 games with the Twins, Buscher batted .294/.357/.412, but despite his offensive proficiency, he never found himself in the lineup on a consistent basis. Buscher managed just five hits in his final 31 at-bats (.161), which caused his overall numbers to take a dive, but the overall effort was a decent one from the 26-year-old rookie. He showed some flashes of power and plate discipline, and should be in the mix to start at third next year unless the Twins bring in someone from outside the organization.

ALEXI CASILLA: D-
.222/.256/.259, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 15 R, 11/12 SB
There are very few positives to be drawn from Casilla's performance over 56 games with the Twins this year. The 23-year-old put up even worse offensive numbers than Punto while playing shoddy defense and making countless mistakes in almost every aspect of the game. His poor plate discipline was tremendously disappointing, as he managed just nine walks in 204 plate appearances while striking out 29 times. Casilla showed some good speed on the basepaths, but outside of that, the young infielder took a step back in his progression in 2007 by showing that he couldn't hold his own in the big leagues.

JASON BARTLETT: B-
.265/.339/.361, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 75 R, 23/26 SB
Certainly, Bartlett's 2007 season was a step back from what he was able to do after being called up in 2006, but the shortstop recovered nicely after a horrific start to put up some decent numbers overall. Bartlett was a fixture at shortstop, coming to the plate 570 times over the course of the season, and he got on base at a decent clip while running the bases well. His defense was suspect at times, but overall he showed good range and made some nice plays. The area most in need of improvement is power; I don't care much that he only hit five home runs, but I'd certainly expect more than 20 doubles over 140 games considering the excellent gap power he showed in the minors.

LEW FORD: D+
.233/.315/.362, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 13 R, 3/4 SB

Ford showed some improvement from the hideous numbers he put up in 2006, but not a whole lot. He appeared in only 55 games and didn't do a whole lot when he was in the lineup.

JEFF CIRILLO: C-
.261/.327/.386, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 18 R, 2/2 SB

The Twins brought in Cirillo during the offseason with the hopes that he could be a reliable backup and perhaps even part-time starter at third base and DH while mashing lefties. He really wasn't able to accomplish either of those tasks. Cirillo posted a .750 OPS against left-handers this season, and seemingly couldn't play more than once or twice a week due to nagging injuries. He was traded in August, and it didn't make a whole lot of difference.

MIKE REDMOND: B+
.294/.346/.353, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 23 R, 0/0 SB
Redmond's offensive contributions were somewhat similar to those of Castillo -- good average with very little patience or power. That's a pretty acceptable hitting line for a backup catcher, though, and Redmond posted it while playing good defense and being likable in the clubhouse. Redmond was excellent against lefties (.330/.410/.443), which made him the perfect complement to Mauer.

JASON KUBEL: B-
.273/.335/.450, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 49 R, 5/5 SB
Kubel recovered from a horrible first half to finish the season with a very respectable hitting line. We can't ignore that brutal first half, which is why his grade isn't as high as it could have been, but Kubel showed good power and increasingly solid plate discipline throughout the season, which sparks hope that the 25-year-old could be poised for a big season in '08.

RONDELL WHITE: F
.174/.235/.321, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 8 R, 0/0 SB

White was hurt for much of the year, and when he wasn't, he hit incredibly poorly while playing offensive positions.

GARRETT JONES: D-
.208/.262/.338, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 1/2 SB

In his relatively brief time with the Twins, Jones showed glimmers of power, but overall he was a bad hitter who didn't look to belong in the major leagues. He struck out 20 times in 77 at-bats, and went 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts against lefties.

JASON TYNER: C
.286/.331/.355, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 42 R, 8/11 SB
While getting far more at-bats (304) than he rightfully should have and ridiculously appearing in 70 percent of the team's games, Tyner did what he always does: posted a solid average while essentially hitting nothing but singles and playing mediocre defense.

LUIS RODRIGUEZ: F
.219/.281/.303, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 18 R, 1/1 SB

Rodriguez had his worst offensive season as a major leaguer, and didn't do much in the field or on the basepaths to offset that.

CHRIS HEINTZ: A+
.250/.288/.250, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB

My darkhorse candidate for team MVP.

14 comments:

Sean Schulte said...

Cuddyer?

Anonymous said...

The lack of a Cuddyer analysis appears to be a Freudian slip.

J. Lichty said...

I think that Kubel's "brutal" first half is a little overblown.

He for the first few months of the campaign was leading the league in line drive percentage. Those started to become base hits in the second half.

While he is certainly deserving of some criticism for the first half, I think his numbers do not do justice to the fact that he was generally taking good at-bats, despite being yanked around by Gardy, in the first half.

Curveball said...

Well, Heintz was a step above LeCroy for throwing out base runners.

How could one forget Cuddyer?

And Josh Rabe?

Nick M. said...

To weigh in on this, if I was going to give Cuddyer a grade, I'd give him a C+. Most of that stems from some disappointment with Cuddyer. Cuddyer seemed to improve a lot last year, but he may have showed that last year was a fluke in some sense. He has improve over his career averages in some weighs, but he lost significant power this year. Cuddyer's VORP of 18.4 is pretty good and it was high enough to rank fourth on the team for offensive players behind Hunter, Mauer, and Morneau, which isn't all that surprising. However, if Jason Kubel was given a full season of at-bats, he would like have an equal or higher VORP. Regardless, Cuddyer had a higher average (.276) than his career average of .270 and he had the best year in terms of patience, improving slightly over 2006. However, the 49 extra-base hits show that Cuddyer might not be the power hitter we thought we had. A .276/.356/.433 line from a right fielder is decent enough, but being just above is basically what a C+ is anyways.

Nick N. said...

Oops! Can't believe I missed Cuddyer. Freudian slip... right...

I'd agree with Nick M. that Cuddyer would be deserving of a C+. He was decent enough, but the lack of power was very disappointing, especially from a right fielder being counted on to bat cleanup.


I think that Kubel's "brutal" first half is a little overblown.

He for the first few months of the campaign was leading the league in line drive percentage. Those started to become base hits in the second half.

While he is certainly deserving of some criticism for the first half, I think his numbers do not do justice to the fact that he was generally taking good at-bats, despite being yanked around by Gardy, in the first half.


I'd agree that Kubel showed signs in the first half that he was hitting the ball better than the results would indicate, you can't ignore the fact that he posted a .293 on-base percentage over the first two months of the season, which is just brutal. He also struck out three times as often as he walked during that span, which would seem to indicate that he wasn't necessarily taking good at-bats a lot of the time.

From the beginning of June to the end of September, Kubel hit .292/.359/.502, which is obviously excellent and deserving of an high grade. Unfortunately, these grades are comprehensive, so those ugly first two months cannot be ignored.

Nick N. said...

And Josh Rabe?

Unfortunately, Rabe did not make the 50-AB cutoff, so I was unable to slam an F on him.

Andersklasen said...

Kubel is my MVP.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second. Cuddyer is a C+ and Tyner is a C? Are you grading on the same curve? True, his numbers are down from last year, but he also led the league in outfield assists and his powerful arm stopped a lot of players from advancing. Only a little bit better than Tyner? Come on.

-SBG

fro said...

this list had so much potential, how disappointing...

Nick N. said...

Wait a second. Cuddyer is a C+ and Tyner is a C? Are you grading on the same curve? True, his numbers are down from last year, but he also led the league in outfield assists and his powerful arm stopped a lot of players from advancing. Only a little bit better than Tyner? Come on.

Like I said in the disclaimer, the grades are altered a bit based on expectations. I tried to reduce that as much as possible to keep the curve relatively absolute.

Here's the thing: Tyner did pretty much exactly what I expected; Cuddyer was considerably worse than I expected. And while Tyner's numbers were sufficient for a backup outfielder, Cuddyer's were not sufficient for a starting right fielder batting cleanup.

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