June Twin of the Month: Brendan Harris
Image courtesy of Keith Allison
Diving toward necessity
Unbeknownst to most (myself included until yesterday), last week, Twins' shortstop Brendan Harris became the all-time MLB games played leader among William & Mary grads, the nation's second-oldest college. But prior to Harris' recent string of near-superb play, the journeyman infielder was considered more Mary than William.
Before arriving in Minnesota last year as an also-ran in the oft-bemoaned trade that brought Delmon Young to the Twins, the throw-in has now become an integral part of the club's lineup while the throw-up (Young) is tied for the fewest home runs among A.L. left fielders and looks, again, like trade bait.
Since taking over as our starting shortstop in late May, Harris has strung together a career-best 12-game hit streak, and raised his batting average and on-base percentage a combined 28-points. After said steak was snapped on June 8th, he proceeded to accrue 8 more knocks over the course of his next four games.
Among MLB shortstops for the month of June, Harris ranks in the top-10 for batting average, hits, RBI, walks, and on-base percentage. Defensively, he's also proved both dependable (an acceptable 4 errors in 38 games) and elastic, the latter evidenced by a very sound Zone Rating of 5.769, good 5th in the A.L. for those with at least 35 games at the position.
Harris' presence at short has solidified a Twin middle infield beset with both injury (Punto) and ill-fated production (Casilla, Tolbert). Employing hindsight at the closure of the season, Gardy's wisest display of lineup jockeying may well appear to be the whipping of Punto over to second (when healthy) while keeping Harris and his hot bat at short. The shift has buoyed a Twin defense now boasting the second-fewest errors in baseball.
When Harris took over at short on May 28th, he had played in 72 percent of the Twins' ballgames; he's now played in 83 percent. Entering Monday eve's first of a three-game set against the Royals, Harris led the club in both June games played and official June at-bats. Not bad for a fella that played in just 189 ballgames for four different ballclubs from 2004-07 (hell, the guy even played for the Expos).
Even though June is Harris' hottest career batting month (.291), don't look for any lineup changes for the rest of the season even should his production dip slightly. Harris is batting 40-points higher as a starter than as a sub in '09, a stat more than mirrored by the 49-point rise in said numbers over the course of his career.
Many kudos to Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, and Nick Blackburn for their own studly June's; yet my own nod goes to Harris for adhesing a Twin infield that, to date, still considers Michael Cuddyer a candidate to play second base. In recognition of the award, Brendan will receive an honorary doctorate from Cardinal Stritch University to place on the mantle beside his Poli Sci degree from William & Mary.