Twins' Mid-Season Player Rater
Gardy appeared on ESPN’s PTI program Tuesday afternoon and said that the Twins’ recent successes could largely be attributed to a self-policing policy that he discussed before the club played Milwaukee back in mid-June. In baseball, like in life, there truly is no substitute for self-accountability. It’s a philosophy for which much of the club’s success under both Gardy and Tom Kelly can and should be attributed. It’s also probably why the club has eschewed prima donna-types over the years as well.
As Independence Day dawns, and we’ve moved past the halfway mark of the season with a 47-38 mark that few could have spotted (myself included), let’s take a look at how the boys account for themselves with this Mid-Season Player Rater which gauges by the following key:
Stats collected while Wednesday's nooner against Detroit was in progress
2008 Salaries included where applicable
Brian Bass- $390,000
There were moments early in the season where it appeared that “B” should be removed from the front of his surname, quickly reminding skeptics that the Royals didn’t hold onto this dude. But Bass has really proven to be versatile, going long at times, and putting together a sound June (just 5 earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched).
Boof Bonser- $432,500
This guy has come a long way since his stellar 2006 ALDS performance against Oakland. Should Boof desire to add further alliteration to his name, "Brutal" may be a sound choice. His bullpen ERA (7.71) is markedly worse than his starting mark (5.97), and although he's tied with Scott Baker for the team lead in strikeouts with 57, I'd rather see him gone. To me, a bullpen Liriano in the bigs is better than a guy whose flailing talent may never be truly harnessed.
Craig Breslow- $392,000
For the most anonymous Twin (which can be saying something in the Bread Basket), this guy has been flat-out spectacular since coming to Minnesota via Cleveland in late May. In short: of the 10.2 innings he's tossed in a Twins uniform, Breslow has given up just 3 hits, 2 walks, and no runs. Great find.
Jesse Crain- $1,050,000
Kudos go to Crain for coming back from an injury-lost 2007. But returns on his quick recovery have been mixed. His ERA has gone down every month, although of the 17 inherited runners he has taken on this year, 6 have scored.
Matt Guerrier- $950,000
With Pat Neshek lost for the season, Guerrier has both earned and inherited the markedly important role of Joe Nathan-fluffer. His 3.27 ERA is a little high for a guy hat we now generally ask for three outs. Furthermore, his WHIP of 1.43 needs to go down as games become more important after the All-Star break.
Joe Nathan- $6,000,000
The leviathan contract extension he signed in the offseason has been well earned. His 23 saves are fourth best in all of baseball. His numbers away from the Dome (3 home runs allowed in 11.2 innings pitched) have been a little shaky, but hell, this guy gives every fan, writer, player, coach near-unparalleled piece of mind. He'll go down as one of the great Twins.
Dennys Reyes- $1,000,000
His 2.25 ERA is acceptable, but for a fella that has accrued single-digit pitch counts in 22 of his 39 appearances, that 0.89 ERA from back in '06 obviously looks more attractive. 26% of his inherited runners have scored. As per Guerrier, the numbers need to trend downward come August.
Scott Baker- $422,500
Likely the most talented of the Twins young staff, as evidenced by his 57 K's in less than 70 innings pitched. He's struck out at least five in six straight starts, and while his 5-2 record is sound, the club is 8-4 for games in which Baker has started.
Nick Blackburn- $390,000
After following up a stellar minor league career with a brief September flop in 2007, Blackburn has now solidified himself as a trusted young gun in the Twins rotation. Prior to his poor 6/27 start versus Milwaukee, his ERA had been sub-4 the entire season. He has given up 11 home runs in less than 100 innings pitched thus far, however long balls will occur when you keep the ball over the plate. Blackburn has allowed just 15 walks all year. Plus, dude got hit in the face and didn’t miss his next start.
Livan Hernandez- $5,000,000
His May (3-1, 4.20 ERA) was surely better than his June (2-3, 6.62), however he still leads the team with 8 wins. Many will view his season as mediocre, but the club surely needs somebody to mentor all these young arms. He’s also continued to chew up innings, as evidenced by his 110.1 innings pitched, 7th best in the A.L.
Glen Perkins- $N/A
Perkins has quieted debate about his being worthy of a roster spot, as opposed to bringing Francisco Liriano back up. Glen has gone at least 5 innings and given up 3 runs or fewer in five straight starts. He doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be a superstar, but he gives the club a sound lefty starter, and his control has been solid, having never issued more than 3 walks in a game. Perkins does need to work out some issues versus lefty batters, who are hitting at a loud .315 clip for the season.
Kevin Slowey- $395,000
Among our cache of young stud hurlers (all, sans Livan, are 26 or younger), this guy is my personal favorite. He’s economic with his pitches and always seems to be ahead of hitters, the latter being evidenced by the fact that of all potential pitch counts hitters face against him, 0-1 occurs most often. His ERA has gown down in four straight starts, and he now leads the club with a 3.47 mark. In over 72 innings, he’s walked just 9. Nearly 70% of his pitches this season have been thrown for strikes.
Joe Mauer- $6,250,000
Heading in Wednesday, Mauer is second in the A.L. in batting at .323 (just .001 behind Ian Kinsler of Texas) and second in on base percentage at .410. His batting average has ascended every month and he's thrown out nearly 35% of would-be base stealers. The bulky power totals may never come, but who cares when you've got the best all-around catcher in baseball.
Mike Redmond- $950,000
After starting just 8 of the Twins first 49 games, Red Dog then started 8 of the next 34. He's again at the .300 mark, and never has an untoward word be said about the guy. He's positive, he takes naked b.p. when spirits are down, and, at age 37, he continues to perform when called upon.
Brian Buscher- $N/A
Buscher has been a great surprise through his first 17 games of ‘08. While he’s struggled against lefties (.167), he’s been an absolute monster against righthanders, hitting at a .391 clip. His .345 average is more than 100 points higher than his 33-game total from ‘07. Furthermore, he’s been incredibly clutch, batting .471 with runners in scoring position. In scenarios in the 7th inning or later with the Twins tied, ahead by one or with the tying run at least on deck, Buscher is an impressive 7-for-12.
Alexi Casilla- $N/A
In brief: the guy has been outstanding. The 2006 Twins Minor Leaguer of the Year, he flopped in '07 and then didn't make the Opening Day roster this season. However, since his call-up in mid-May, Casilla has proven an absolute lightening rod for the front of the Twins' lineup. He's hitting .327 with 31 RBI in 40 games started. His .979 fielding percentage is sound, although, at 5-9', he's shown the ability to extend and make some really athletic plays. He and Carlos Gomez seem to have a fine rapport, and combine for an electric pair at the top of the order. In less than 3 month's time, Casilla has gone from afterthought, to needed afterburner.
Brendan Harris- $431,100
Something of an enigmatic player who has proven prone to streaks. He hit .277 in April, .217 in May, and .242 in June. Although his starts at second have found him hitting more than 20-points higher than his starts a shortstop, Harris has solidified the position defensively, committing just 3 errors there and fielding at a .983 clip. We'll take that over a revolving door.
Mike Lamb- $3,500,000
Lamb has proven lame this year in what has otherwise been a season of upstarts. A career .277 hitter, Lamb is currently in the dregs at .223. After starting 23 games in March/April, he started just 9 times in June as Matt Macri and Brian Buscher found far more success at third. At 2-for-26 versus lefties, he gives Gardy few options late in the game.
Justin Morneau- $8,400,000
The only reason Justin wouldn't qualify for quadruplet level is that, at 12 bombs, his home run total is a little low. Having hit at least 31 the past two years, he'll need a serious push to get back there in '08. Still, the dude is hitting .314 with 63 RBI, the latter number good for second best in the A.L. Morneau may also be the most underrated defensive first baseman in the American League. He's currently fourth in fielding at .997 (just .001 behind the tri-leaders), having made just two errors all year.
Nick Punto- $2,400,000
I've vouched for Punto in the space before, but said backing is becoming tougher to do. With young studs suddenly usurping his usefulness at myriad infield spots, Punto is starting to look like a perennially banged-up vet with a forgettable .261 average, no home runs and 4 steals. His .290 batting clip from '06 is starting to look farther and farther away.
Michael Cuddyer- $5,916,666
Multiple trips to the D.L. have somewhat derailed Cuddy’s season, which serves as an untimely bummer as he was just finding his stroke. Having hit just .212 for May, he battled back with a strong .291 June. We all know how automatic he is with the glove/arm, however his poor homer total of 3 is alarming. After bombing 24 in ‘06, he left the yard just 16 times last year. It appears that ‘08 will find that power outage trending downward.
Carlos Gomez- $395,000
There seems to be no shortage of adjectives to define this guy which, all told, is a good thing in my mind. He's had his share of base-running blunders and daisy-picker moments in the outfield, but his unique ability to accrue infield hits is beyond fun for us and above frightening for everyone else. His 21 steals are still good for 6th best in the A.L., however he swiped just 4 in June. Time and experience should continue to fuel his progression in all areas. He's just 22, but anyone who has watched can tell he's the real deal.
Jason Kubel- $1,300,000
Probably their most polarizing Twin. He's tied with Morneau for the team home run lead at 12, so he'll clearly usurp his career-high 13 from last year. And at .263, I think we're starting to reap some semi-dependable benefits for our patience. Will Kubel ever hit 30 bombs? Probably not. Will he ever become a .300 hitter? I'd say no, although the guy still has a devoted legion of followers that would disagree. The Twins truly need his bat this year. Should he prove more plight than flight, Kubel detractors will continue to voice with increasing volume that he's a guy who never came back from a most unfortunate knee injury.
Craig Monroe- $3,820,000
I'm tempted to grade Monroe out lower, but the fact that he's got 8 home runs in just 47 games played works in his favor beyond the crummy .218 average. Hell, the guy hit at least 18 bombs from 2003-'06, so his penchant for power is proven. When rubber meets road in August, he may become a key figure in our need for runs.
Delmon Young- $1,440,000
The fact that Matt Garza has been surging for upstart Tampa has, in my mind, made Delmon's year look worse than it truly is. Of course, his sad 2 home runs is vexing, just as his love-affair with swinging at everything and inability to pull much of anything raises eyebrows. But the fact that his hitting .314 when swinging at the first pitch says he has some bearing of plate strategy, just as his .278 average, 4 triples and 9 steals is actually pretty damn good. Once Garza spits himself out of energy, Delmon will start looking better by the week.
A very happy and safe Independence Day to all. Don't blow off your thumb!