Secretary of Defense: Michael Cuddyer
This second entrant into the 2008 Minnesota Twins cabinet may have been more aptly timed a few weeks back when Obama captured the DFL nomination in St. Paul. Timing, however, can become a harrowing thing when pushing these appointments through, as they involve several late nights, poor candle-lighting, and the constant refilling of quills. Furthermore, our first appointment, Mr. Livan Hernandez as the Secretary of Agriculture, has been redefining the connotation of "meat" since obtaining his seat in this circle, as readily evidenced by his 0-2 record and 11.10 ERA in the last 28 days.
But we press on. And without additional pause, we hereby name our second appointee to our 2008 Twins Cabinet: Mr. Michael Cuddyer as the Secretary of Defense.
With Juan Rincon's recent departure, Cuddyer became the longest tenured Twin, having been with the Big Club since 2001. Drafted as a high school shortstop before being groomed through our minor league system as a third baseman, it wasn't until 2006 that Cuddyer played at least 25 games in his now-cemented post of right field. In fact, Cuddy has played nearly as many career games at myriad other position (265, including DH) as he has in right (394).
And while he's struggled at the plate over curious stretches of time, his prowess in right field has fast gained him a national reputation as a possessor of one of the game's most exacting and explosive outfield arms. In a terrific article from the Hardball Times' John Walsh back in January, the writer formulates "The Best Outfield Arms" from the 2007 season in which the complex fielding formula, in short, aims to designate which outfielders save their teams the most runs per 200 opportunities. Here's the top of Mr. Walsh's list (note, most importantly, Cuddyer's "14.6" at the closure of the column):
Name Opps Kill+ Hold+ Runs Runs/200
Cuddyer, Mike 164 245 110 12.0 14.6
Francoeur, Jeff 177 241 112 11.9 13.4
Victorino, Shane 135 170 128 8.2 12.2
Young, Delmon 171 168 121 9.2 10.8
Rios, Alexis 160 124 112 4.5 5.6
Teahen, Mark 183 172 95 4.8 5.3
Abreu, Bobby 177 59 116 3.2 3.6
Hermida, Jeremy 146 114 102 2.1 2.8
Markakis, Nick 203 112 104 1.9 1.9
Guerrero, Vladimir 121 92 113 1.1 1.8
Guillen, Jose 212 83 107 1.2 1.1
As per 2008, Cuddyer continues to shine statistically. He's has committed just a single error in his 49 games out in right, and leads the American League with 5 doubles plays from said position. In addition, for regular right fielders, Cuddyer, at 2.35, has the strongest range factor (putouts + assists / innings) and the 6th best zone rating at .808 (qualifying the % of balls fielded by a player in his defensive "zone," via STATS, Inc.)
But what I believe to be most important among Cuddyer's numbers specifically is the assist totals. In 2006, he led the A.L. with 11, and then followed that up last year with a whopping 19 (tied for best in MLB). Currently, he's second in the A.L. and tied for fourth in the majors with 7. For me, those numbers signify that last year, base runners were still learning what we here in the Bread Basket already knew about the shotgun posing as an appendage along the right-hand side of Michael Cuddyer's body. If they didn't know then, they know now. Look for those numbers to perhaps see continued to decrease, if only because learned base runners and base coaches don't want to cost their teams runs, or runners in scoring position.
For keeping the clubhouse loose with his well-documented magic act, for playing the baggie with same confidence and clout with which Jim Rice worked the Green Monster, and for his continued service of turning doubles into singles, we hereby name Michael Cuddyer the Secretary of Defense in the 2008 Minnesota Twins Cabinet. Here's how the chairs line up thus far: