Thursday, October 4, 2007

Yearly Summary: Position Players

Now that the season has ended, it is inevitably time to rate how well each player performed individually. First up are the position players. Each player with a significant amount of playing time this year has been given a grade along with a comparison to their previous year. The grades are totally independent of expectations, which is to say two players with the same statistics would get the same mark, even if they were Justin Morneau and Nick Punto. They also are not based heavily on playing time, meaning that, for example, a .300/.400/.500 line would be only slightly downgraded if it was in 100 at bats versus 600 at bats. So, without further ado, I present my grades for the 2007 Minnesota Twins.

Torii Hunter: B+
Compared to 2006: Better
Hunter was, obviously, very good in his contract year. He was the only hitter who produced for the entire year, which is surprising given how streaky he usually is. While Joe Mauer was injured, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer struggled, and Jason Kubel rotted away on the bench (Gardy!), Hunter steadily chugged along in setting career highs in numerous categories. His mark of 45 doubles was good enough to tie for fourth in the American League and to tie for ninth in the majors, while his 28 homers tied him for seventh in the AL.
2007: 160 G, 94 R, 28 HR, 107 RBI, 18 SB, .287/.334/.505

Justin Morneau: B+
Compared to 2006: Worse
Morneau's season was cruising along beautifully before the All-Star break, as he was on pace to outdo his totals from last year, but it came crashing down shortly afterwards. His splits tell the tale pretty darn well: .295/.364/.581 with 24 homers and 74 RBIs before, and .243/.318/.384 with 7 homers and 37 RBIs after. His first half was basically identical to his pre-All Star break performance in 2006, when he hit .300/.352/.587 with 23 homers and 73 RBIs. And last year, he also hit significantly fewer home runs in the second half, but he batted .342 which enabled him to have a slugging percentage of .531. Still, he finished this year with over thirty homers and 100 RBIs, a feat that, before his MVP season, would have been applauded.
2007: 157 G, 84 R, 31 HR, 111 RBI, 1 SB, .271/.343/.492

Jason Kubel: B-
Compared to 2006: Better
For the first few months of the season, Kubel was doing a decent job but was not showing anything special. In August and September, however, Kubel exploded, batting .341 and slugging .553. Although those numbers are too high for Kubel to sustain over the course of the season, I think it is reasonable to expect something much closer to that than what we've seen in previous seasons. I'm also ready to pencil him into Left Field for next year, even though Gardy seems reluctant to do so, despite his willingness to give Punto a leg up for the second base job.
2007: 128 G, 49 R, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB, .273/.335/.450

Joe Mauer: B-
Compared to 2006: Worse
Mauer suffered through many injuries this year, and now news has surfaced that he may have had a hernia too. He missed a month in May and then another two weeks at the end of August due to injuries and was still not healthy at the end of the year. He capped the year nicely with a 3-4 game that included a home run on September 29th, but otherwise the season was a bit of a disappointment. Although it was probably unreasonable to expect him to hit .340 again, that doesn't mean I wasn't hoping for it. Hopefully next year he will be able to avoid injuries and show off the form that won him the batting title in 2006.
2007: 109 G, 62 R, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 7 SB, .293/.382/.426

Michael Cuddyer: C+
Compared to 2006: Worse
After Cuddyer's breakout 2006 season, I expected him to improve even more or at least maintain his play this year. Instead, however, he regressed, making me think that it was possible for last year to have been a career year for him. Not that this year he was terrible, but I think this might be what we should expect from him in the future. He was still a threat to go deep more than anyone excluding Morneau and Hunter, and in the Twins' lineup, he added some much-needed pop.
2007: 144 G, 87 R, 16 HR, 81 RBI, 5 SB, .276/.356/.433

Jason Bartlett: C
Compared to 2006: Worse
Bartlett was another player who showed a lot of promise in 2006, but this year went backwards, albeit not all that much. Obviously, he is still young and you have to expect him to stumble a little, so I'm not too concerned about him. After starting the campaign one for his first twenty and hitting .239 in April, he steadily moved up until September. He seemed to hit a road block here, as he was coming off an August where he batted .349, yet barely made it over the Mendoza Line in September. Perhaps it was fatigue from playing through his first big league season as a starter, or perhaps it was just a slump for a young player bound to experience some trouble.
2007: 140 G, 75 R, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 23 SB, .265/.339/.361

Jason Tyner: C
Compared to 2006: Similar
Tyner played in a career high 114 games this year, although, as per his typical season, that did not result in all that many at bats. He often came in as a pinch runner or as a defensive replacement, and even once or twice as a pinch hitter. Clearly, Tyner is not an everyday-caliber player, but he is an adequate speed option off the bench, despite his lack of stolen bases. He also, in my opinion, is good enough to be on the team as a backup outfielder. I sincerely hope, however, he does not cut into Jason Kubel's playing time in future seasons as much as he did this year. Of course, I am obligated to mention that Tyner hit his first major league home run, which just might be the highlight of the Twins season (okay, maybe not).
2007: 114 G, 42 R, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB, .286/.331/.355

Mike Redmond: C
Compared to 2006: Worse
Mike Redmond again filled the backup catcher position very well this season. I'm not looking for a lot of offense out of him, and he provided just about what I expected from him, while teaming up with Joe Mauer to present an imposing force for potential base stealers. He was on the field a lot more this year than last, and had to battle injuries of his own, eventually succumbing to a thumb injury and missing the last few weeks of the season. Still, as he did in 2006, he kept his average right with Mauer's and had a decent on base percentage.
2007: 82 G, 23 R, 1 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, .294/.346/.353

Brian Buscher: D+
Compared to 2006: --
For all the excitement surrounding Buscher, two things surprised me when I reviewed his statistics: 1) that he ended up with only 82 at bats on this season and 2) his final line (.244/.323/.339) was not very good. Of course, one can't make too much out of his stat line because of his lack of playing time, which I thought was the more surprising of the two. I knew he hadn't been playing as much as I (or pretty much any Twins fans) would have liked, but not even cracking the 100 at bat barrier is a pretty small amount of time on the field. Depending on what the Twins do in the offseason, he may get another chance to claim the third base job next year.
2007: 33 G, 8 R, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, .244/.323/.339

Lew Ford: D+
Compared to 2006: Similar
Ford's playing time has continuously decreased since his breakout campaign of 2004 when he was on the final man ballot for the All-Star Game. That trend wasn't broken this year, as he amassed only 116 at bats, in part due to an injury that kept him out until mid-May, but also because of a demotion to AAA Rochester for the month of August. That being said, it evidently wasn't a good year for Ford. He had an excellent July, batting .326/.383/.535, which alone made this not an awful year. Over his other 76 at bats in the season, Ford managed only 13 hits, a .171 average, with just four extra base hits.
2007: 55 G, 13 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 3 SB, .233/.315/.362

Garrett Jones: D
Compared to 2006: --
Jones, who is out of options now, and must make the big league roster, was okay in his rookie year. At the beginning of his stretch with the Twins, he looked pretty bad, putting up some bad swings and seemingly was unable to lay off breaking pitches. But as he played more, it looked like he became more and more comfortable, and did not look as bad, concluding the month of September hitting .291/.341/.486. This is not to say that I necessarily think Jones is a good option for designated hitter (or starting anywhere) next year, because I don't, but it indicates that he wouldn't be as bad as his first month or so showed.
2007: 31 G, 7 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .208/.262/.338

Luis Rodriguez: D
Compared to 2006: Similar
L-Rod was certainly no A-Rod. I became puzzled, though, as the year wore on and he received no extra playing time. If Gardenhire wasn't going to play the young guys over the awful Nick Punto, I thought he would at least give Luis some time at third base. But he only got a few starts (37), and most of them were not in place of Punto; rather, they would be in the lineup at the same time. And that was just not good.
2007: 68 G, 18 R, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .219/.281/.303

Alexi Casilla: D-
Compared to 2006: --
With all the hooplah surrounding Punto's unthinkably bad year, Casilla's ineffectiveness was lost in translation. And, yes, I am being kinder to Casilla by calling it "ineffectiveness" because he is a rookie and, as Gardy would quickly point out, is prone to mistakes. As much as I dislike Punto, he was at least equivalent to Casilla this year, and probably better. Of course, Casilla did not kill the Twins for 150 games, but rather only 56. That, along with his base stealing success (11 for 12), saves him from the F rank.
2007: 56 G, 15 R, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 11 SB, .222/.256/.259

Rondell White: D-
Compared to 2006: Worse
It was not a good farewell tour for White, as he did not pick up where he left off at the end of 2006, as was hoped. Instead, he repeated his first half of 2006 by hitting just .174. Battling numerous injuries, White was never entirely healthy and only got in to 38 games (which was probably a good thing for the Twins). He was able, however, to keep some pop in his bat, hitting four home runs to lift his slugging percentage to .321. After a fifteen year career spanning seven teams, White has said that this was his last, which mercifully will keep the Twins from re-signing him.
2007: 38 G, 8 R, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB, .174/.235/.321

Chris Heintz: F
Compared to 2006: --
Chris Heintz. For three years now, he's been the third catcher, and each year I've thought that there's had to be somebody better. Finally, it seemed, there was somebody who could take his spot, and after getting called up in September, Jose Morales lasted one game before being lost for the season due to injury. With Mike Redmond out and Mauer not catching much, Heintz got some playing time. But that was only until the Twins brought up Matthew LeCroy to play a few games over the last two weeks. In all, the story of the Twins' catchers was much more interesting than Heintz's statistics, which included no extra base hits, an OBP of .288, and a 1-14 in throwing out opposing base stealers.
2007: 24 G, 0 R, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, .250/.288/.250

Nick Punto: F
Compared to 2006: Worse
Of course, last, and least, is Nick Punto. I don't have much to say regarding his year, as it has been well documented how poorly he has performed. No quality of defense can make up for his putrid offensive contributions, and Punto wasn't even that great on defense. What epitomised his season best were the numerous times when he failed to get down sacrifice bunts, popping many of them straight up.
2007: 150 G, 53 R, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 16 SB, .210/.291/.271

Anddd that's all for position players. Tomorrow, Twin #2 will cover the pitchers, and then over the next few days we'll take a look at offseason moves and other statistics from the 2007 season. I'll be watching the MLB playoffs and rooting hard against the Yankees, and once we finish yearly wrap-up entries, we'll start covering the playoffs.

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