Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Monday Musings

We all know that Nick Punto is not a good player, and have really no idea why he is allowed to particpate in a major league baseball game.  Gardy seems to be in love with him because “he can catch the ball”.  At most, that is 50% of the game.  Punto is a terrible hitter, that includes bunting, getting on base, moving runners over, etc.  Since he lacks the ability to get on base, he is not an effective baserunner.  How many times have we had a runner (or runners) on base and Punto failed to not only get himself on base, but also failed to move any of the runners up a base? The answer seems to be a lot.  He is basically a free out.  I will concede that he probably isn’t as bad as his nearly .200 batting average was last year, but he is closer to that than to the .290 he hit in 2006.  I have yet to hear a reason, other than “he catches the ball pretty good”, for playing Punto on a regular basis.  On Gardy’s appearance on KFAN the other day, one of the reasons he gave was that Punto was annoying on the bench, so gardy didn’t want to have to deal with that.  That is a terrible reason, and probably a joke.  Although looking at Punto its pretty obvious that one would get very annoyed very fast after spending very little time with him.  So if anyone has a legitimate reason for Nick Punto get regular ABs I would like to hear them.  The following have already been covered and cannot be used again:

1) He “catches the ball pretty good”. This is not a good enough reason because Punto is so bad at the plate that his above average defense does not make up for it.  Some players prevent enough runs playing defense that if they are below average at hitting, its ok. Punto is not one of them.

2)I have heard no other real reasons for Punto getting ABs.  When there is only one decent reason for a guy to get ABs you know you are in trouble. Unless its A-Rod and that one reason is “there are almost no flaws in his all around game”


7 Comments so far

  1. sirsean January 28th, 2008 10:32 am

    I think his baserunning is largely overlooked due to his general crappiness, but I’d like to mention it here.

    Running the bases might be the WORST part of his game. Which is really saying something.

    There was a 2 week stretch in 2007 where he only got on base three times. And all three of those times, he was thrown out on the bases. Once, he rounded first base too far and was thrown out. Once, he was thrown out trying to steal, and once he tried to stretch an extra base and was about 60 feet too short.

    On one level, aggressiveness on the base paths is a good thing. On another, a 100% failure rate probably means you shouldn’t try to be aggressive.

    In short, it is inexplicable that Punto gets consistent ABs. My only thought is that Gardenhire would rather keep young guys with potential (at least SOME), like Buscher, on the bench while utility players get time as a starter. This … doesn’t make sense to me.

  2. FunBobby January 28th, 2008 10:49 am

    All good points. I think defense, especially infield defense, is very important. Especially for the twins. However, I think the twins overrate it a bit. Back in the 70s teams would draft track stars so they could steal a ton of bases. This is similar to what the twins do with defense. I don’t think we will never know why Punto gets regular playing time. I hope he breaks down defensively this season so Gardy will have no reason to play him. Although I’m sure he still will…

  3. sirsean January 28th, 2008 11:03 am

    Defensively, he makes the occasional great play, but overall isn’t even that good. His range rates as below average on every advanced defensive metric. My main criticism is that he makes the easy plays look hard, the good plays look ridiculous, and the hard plays just look like hits.

    And I think people would realize that if he were able to hit. (The oft-mentioned inverse relationship between “ability to hit a baseball” and “perception of your ability to field.”)

    Regardless, I’m not rooting for Punto to get worse in any way. 1) That would suck for everyone. 2) Gardy would still play him. 3) We actually do need a utility infielder who can step in for a day when someone else needs a rest.

    (Note to Gardy: I said “a day,” not “a week,” or “a season.” Just wanted to clarify.)

  4. FunBobby January 28th, 2008 11:11 am

    I do think that having a utility guy is really important, I just don’t know what it would take for Gardy to realize that’s what Punto is. He can shift between second, third and short pretty seamlessly, he plays all three positions at the same level. So having him on the bench to come in in the 9th so sub for Lamb or Harris is a nice crutch to have. Lets say he starts a game at thid, and its a close game so Gardy lifts him for pinch hitter Mike Lamb, lamb gets a hit to give us the lead going into the bottom of the 9th (road game). Lamb then is playing third and since he has been sitting on the bench all game, he isn’t loose and makes a costly error. If Lamb had started he would have warmed up properly, played the whole game, still been in for the key hit late in the game, and is then lifted for Punto who steps in to play third. I think the second situation is better, and it really isn’t all that far fetched.

  5. sirsean January 28th, 2008 11:21 am

    That situation assumes, of course, that in the first three ABs of the game, Punto and Lamb had an equal offensive impact on the game. I don’t think I’d make that assumption. Lamb might have driven in a run earlier in the game, preventing extra innings in the first place. Punto, on the other hand, would have been 0-3.

    I’ve never been that big on defensive replacements late in the game. What if nobody scores for a few innings and the defensive replacement has to hit? Maybe that prejudice comes from the fact that I grew up watching a team that could field but not hit, so the concept of a “defensive replacement” is laughable. Having imported Lamb and Harris, however, that’s no longer the case for the Twins.

  6. FunBobby January 28th, 2008 1:33 pm

    Good point. Punto could very well have stranded a small village on the basepaths. Also, you are right about defensive replacements, for the most part the best defender at any position on the roster usually started so there was no need to replace him. However, with Lamb and Harris most likely getting most of the time at 3rd and 2nd, there is at least one person on the bench who is a better defender than both of them. However, I do not put enough of a premium on defense to make it the only requirement to be a full time player, like Gardy and to an extent TK before him.

  7. sirsean January 28th, 2008 2:09 pm

    I agree with your “premium on defense” comment. I think defense is pretty important, but if you’re not hitting the ball, you’re dragging down the team and shouldn’t be a starter. That’s all there is to it.

    You often hear coaches say “I just can’t take his bat out of the lineup.” When they say that, they’re talking about someone like David Ortiz or Ryan Braun. (Or Joe Mauer, but for a different reason — his legs occasionally need a rest.)

    Occasionally, you hear a coach say “I can’t take his glove off the field, he’s just that good!” When they say that, they’re usually talking about someone like Nick Punto or David Eckstein. (Note that Gardy says this constantly, and has another such player now in Everett.)

    Honestly, which class of player would you rather have? Did Braun cost the Brewers any games with his glove last season? How many games did he win with his bat?

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