May 8, 2007
Twins 7, White Sox 4
For all the overly hysterical talk of Morneau's disappointing start, one MVP-like performance has him hitting .274/.357/.524. That doesn't look as pretty as last season's .321/.375/.559, but it's equally as effective once the league-wide drop in offense is taken into account. Plus, with eight homers and 21 RBIs through 32 games, he's on a 40-homer, 110-RBI pace. Morneau has hit those eight homers in 124 at-bats, while the rest of the team has combined for 10 homers in 984 at-bats.
I've been beating this drum since last season, but given the current state of the Twins' lineup it's clear that Bartlett shouldn't be hitting in the No. 9 spot at this point. Since being called up from Triple-A last June, Bartlett has hit .300/.360/.378 with 14 steals over a 129-game stretch, which is almost exactly the kind of production you'd expect from someone who batted .326/.395/.462 while spending three years at Rochester. In other words, he can hit.
Just as importantly, he's also back to playing good defense. Not only did Bartlett begin the season 1-for-20 at the plate, those first seven games also included four errors at shortstop. He's mishandled just two plays in 23 games since then, all while showing solid range and turning a number of difficult double plays. In case you're wondering, Juan Castro is hitting a very Juan Castro-like .115/.179/.154 for Wayne Krivsky's Reds.
Torii Hunter bailed him out moments later with a game-tying single up the middle, but it was an awful at-bat for Kubel in a huge spot. His next at-bat was even worse. With the game-winning run on second base in the form of Luis Castillo, Kubel bunted Andrew Sisco's first pitch foul after Castillo took off on a steal attempt and could have walked into third base safely. He then failed on another bunt attempt before striking out swinging on a 3-2 pitch right over the plate.
Kubel deserves patience after having two straight seasons ruined by significant knee problems, but I had high hopes for him this year and he's been horrible. He's hitting .239/.290/.305 with zero homers in 98 plate appearances and his at-bats have looked every bit as bad as the .595 OPS. The good news is that his defense in left field has improved dramatically since early in the season, so there's hope that he can show similar improvement at the plate as the injuries disappear into the rear-view mirror.
He coughed up an early one-run lead by serving up a homer to Joe Crede in the third inning, but it was a solo shot and giving up long balls is always going to be a part of Bonser's game. He recovered to strike out five of the next 10 hitters following Crede's homer, ending the night with seven strikeouts in seven innings. For the year, Bonser has racked up 39 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. That works out to 22.4 percent of Bonser's plate appearances ending in a strikeout, which is up 12 percent from last year.
Hunter has never been much for walking, but came into the season with 6.1 percent of his career plate appearances ending in a non-intentional free pass. That number has dropped to 3.3 percent so far this year, but Hunter's extreme hacking actually started down the stretch last season. After showing the most plate discipline of his career by drawing 37 non-intentional walks in the first half last year, Hunter drew just a half-dozen in 254 second-half trips to the plate.
Of course, he also hit .296 with a .551 slugging percentage, 17 homers, and 49 RBIs during that nearly walk-less 62-game stretch. Add it all up and Hunter has drawn a grand total of 11 non-intentional walks (while striking out 72 times) in his last 376 plate appearances. Those hacktastic ways can probably be forgiven though, because he's hit .311 with a .577 slugging percentage, 23 homers, 24 doubles, 71 RBIs, 57 runs, and 13 steals over those 93 games.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.