June 1, 2005

How's the Hitting? (Part 1)

I examined the Twins' defense yesterday, so today I thought it would make sense to look at how the hitters are doing after two months of the season. I'll examine the catchers and infielders now, and cover the outfielders and designated hitters tomorrow (so Torii Hunter catches a break and gets looked at after his career night).

And away we go ...

CATCHER         AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
Twins .284 .355 .384 .739 .256
League .247 .304 .380 .684 .232

BREAKDOWN: 70% Joe Mauer, 25% Mike Redmond, 5% Corky Miller

While Corky Miller barely got off the bench before being sent back down to Triple-A, his 0-for-11 performance at the plate drags the Twins' collective batting average at catcher down from .302 to .284. Despite that, the Twins' catchers have been about 10% better than the American League average for the position. Joe Mauer has been fantastic, hitting .318/.387/.447 in about 70% of the playing time, and Mike Redmond's solid .340 on-base percentage makes up for the fact that he's slugging just .298.

One note before we move on to the first basemen: It is important to remember just how little offensive production catchers typically provide. The fact that AL catchers as a group are hitting .247/.304/.380 this season is exactly why the Twins were smart not to panic with Mauer's injury situation and immediately start prepping him for another position. At catcher, he's an absolute stud at the plate and gives the Twins a huge edge relative to the rest of the league.

FIRST BASE      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
Twins .287 .355 .503 .857 .286
League .266 .339 .442 .781 .263

BREAKDOWN: 65% Justin Morneau, 20% Matthew LeCroy, 15% Terry Tiffee

Just like the catchers, the Twins' first basemen have been about 10% better than league average, producing a better-than-average batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. And that is despite Justin Morneau getting only 65% of the playing time because of an early stint on the disabled list. Minnesota first basemen are on pace to combine for 30 homers and 120 RBIs this year, after hitting .255 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs last season.

SECOND BASE     AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
Twins .254 .300 .322 .622 .216
League .266 .322 .402 .724 .245

BREAKDOWN: 60% Nick Punto, 40% Luis Rivas

Despite finally switching from Luis Rivas to Nick Punto this year, second base continues to be a spot where the Twins are well behind the pack offensively. Punto has done his part to change that, with a .291/.330/.408 performance in 60% of the playing time that actually beats the AL average at the position, but Rivas drags the overall numbers down by stinking it up to the tune of .203/.253/.203 in 40% of the playing time.

SHORTSTOP       AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
Twins .259 .317 .397 .714 .242
League .265 .321 .400 .721 .244

BREAKDOWN: 50% Jason Bartlett, 40% Juan Castro, 10% Nick Punto

Despite playing at Triple-A Rochester for the past couple weeks, Jason Bartlett has had about half the playing time at shortstop, hitting .242/.310/.374, while Juan Castro has hit .272/.306/.432 playing 40% of the time. Add in Punto's .286/.412/.357 in about 10% of the playing time, and the Twins' shortstops have been almost exactly average offensively this year.

Considering the team began the season with a rookie starter, sent him down to Triple-A when he struggled at the plate, and then replaced him with one of the worst hitters of the past 10 years, league-average is a pretty nice place to be. I expect the team's collective stats at the position to go down the longer Castro starts, but if they can stay within shouting distance of the AL average it should be considered a relative success.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, last year's shortstops (almost entirely Cristian Guzman) were about 7% worse than league-average offensively.

THIRD BASE      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA
Twins .257 .307 .361 .668 .228
League .259 .324 .409 .733 .248

BREAKDOWN: 85% Michael Cuddyer, 15% Terry Tiffee

While at first glance the Twins' combined .257/.307/.361 performance from third basemen this year looks absolutely horrible, it's not so bad when you actually compare it to the AL average. This has been a down year for third basemen across the league, so the Twins are only about 8% behind the league average. That's not good, of course, but it's not as bad as the 11% worse than average the second baseman are at.

Michael Cuddyer has had about 85% of the playing time at third base, and his .266/.330/.373 line there is actually just 2% below average. What has dragged the team's collective numbers at the position down is Terry Tiffee hitting just .158/.190/.211 in about 15% of the playing time. With all that said, when you add in some shoddy defense, third base (and by extension, Cuddyer) has been a major weakness this year.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Some Graphs About the Padres (by Studes)

Today's Picks (41-37, +$425):
New York (Pavano) -200 over Kansas City (Jensen)

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