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Nick Punto Day

So apparently today is Nick Punto day in the Twins blogosphere.  As most of you know, I am not a fan of Lil’ Nicky Punto.  Mainly because I don’t like baseball players who aren’t good at baseball. Actually that’s the only reason I don’t like him.  So here is my rambling rant, that is bound to piss people off because they like Punto for some idiotic reason.

I’m sure Punto is a very nice guy, but why in the hell does everyone love him so much? He tries hard. So what.  So do a lot of people.  It doesn’t mean we should cheer for them  This isn’t little league where everyone gets a trophy.  He is an adequate defender at 3 infield positions.  So what? It doesn’t mean I should be cheering for him. I think the biggest problem is Gardy’s inability to gauge his actual value. Which is that of a utility infielder.  Not a starter on a contender.

So is this Nick Punto obsession based in his halfway decent 2006 season (which wasn’t really all that good when you factor in he was playing third base) where he was one of the sparkplugs to a team that won the division on the last day of the season? If it is that is BS.  Not only has be done very little to help the team since then, I would argue that he has had two seasons that really hurt the team.  Everyone has bemoaned our general badness at the infield positions lately.  If we simple had league average, or even replacement level production instead of the stinkers Punto put up in 07 and 09 who knows what might have happened.  He was a complete black hole offensively, a free out if you will.  There is no level of defense that would make Puno 07 or Punto 09 an acceptable major leaguer.  I understand the importance of defense, but I also understand that it is half the game. 

So can someone  explain to me why people love Punto so much?  Are there several no talent players who try hard that have a irrational fanbase?  Overall I think he is a useful player to have on the team, shouldn’t be starting nor should he be making 4 million dollars a year.  I also don’t get why we have him AND Tolbert.  Seems like overkill.


20 Comments so far

  1. rghrbek February 12th, 2010 10:42 am

    Agreed! Christ, all the other people blogging on LNP day, are saying, sure he had some bad seasons, but last year wasn’t that bad???

    Really? Really? What is wrong with these people. As soon as he sucks again, they will all be pissed off, but for now they are happy and optimistic, cause everyone is giddy the twins went out and spent money this offseason.

    Tough shit. Punto was terrible last year. Yes he walked, who cares. When not walking he was an auto out for most of the year, and it is tough to move a guy from first to 3rd, or from 2nd to home by walking.

    As you pointed out he made 4 MILLION DOLLARS LAST YEAR!

    In an 08-09 offseason where people were being signed for cheap, we spent 8.5 million over two years on a guy who had one ok year, never started for a full season, and as you point out, it was at 3rd base! Which means we lose, cause he doesn’t produce like a 3rd basement. You need doubles, homers, and a decent on base out of your 3rd baseman.

    I hate this day, cause normally good bloggers are going out of their way to tell people who read their blogs to not rant, or to be realistic. Horseshit!

    LNP as anything but a utility guy is bad baseball. he will be bad again this year, as gardy works him into 450 at bats.

    Lastly it’s not all Nicky’s fault. Gardy is the one with a crush on him, and wants to prove everyone else they are wrong, cause Gardy is so clever.

    I don’t hate nicky, and have never ranted on him before, mostly just made fun of him, but after reading a ton of blogs on LNP day, I am more than fired up how people make excuses for a bad everyday player, making too much money.

  2. Ragstoriches February 12th, 2010 11:40 am

    People love Punto because seeing him start for a major league team makes them feel good about themselves. He’s not built like an athlete, he doesn’t look like an athlete, but he runs really hard, so people like to believe that anyone with a little hard work and gumption can make it to the majors, or to be president, or whatever. He’s an underdog, and people love underdogs.

    But what people fail to realize is that he’s an underdog because everyone else is better than him. There’s a reason why he’s an underdog: he can’t hit for average, he can’t hit for power, he can’t sacrifice, he can’t situationally hit, he is an adequate fielder, an adequate baserunner, and he constantly tries to do things he’s not capable of doing, i.e. he’s a David who thinks he’s a Goliath.

    Basically, Nick Punto is the definition of a utility infielder. He happens to start on this team, and people feel the need to defend his starting status because that’s the happy ending, the underdog “winning.” Relegated to the bench he’s just another guy who isn’t good enough.

    I get frustrated at Gardy for insisting on starting him, and I get frustrated at Punto for trying (and failing) to drag bunt when a sac is required, or swing out of his shoes when contact is required, or ignoring a base coach because he thinks he’s smart enough to determine the proper play by his intuition. The biggest myth about Punto is that he “does the little things right.” He doesn’t.

    But I’ll give him his due credit: even when he does the little (and big) things wrong, he runs hard doing them.

  3. FunBobby February 12th, 2010 12:47 pm

    I like the point about Punto getting credit for doing the little things right when he doesn’t. I think it applied to the Twins as a whole. Everyone says they do the little things right and win with pitching and defense. That certainly wasn’t true last year, and it hasn’t really been true for a few years. My guess is we are stuck with that lable for years to come. For better or worse.

  4. TT February 12th, 2010 1:05 pm

    People like Nick Punto because he plays three positions with well-above average defense, he gets on base and he scores when he gets on base. So lets see, he does a good job of stopping the other team from scoring and he helps the Twins score. What is not to like?

    Well, if he is on your rotary roster, there is a lot not to like. Or if you have Brendan Harris on your rotary roster. And if you are a Tiger, White Sox, Royal or Cleveland fan, there is a lot not to like. But if you are a Twins fan, or just a baseball fan, Punto is a decent major league player who has helped make the Twins one of the more successful teams over that last decade.

  5. FunBobby February 12th, 2010 1:11 pm

    He scored 56 runs in 2009 with a 337 OBP (not to mention a 286 SLG) all while making 4 million dollars. Why don’t we just have Tolbert play the same role for significantly less.

  6. sirsean February 12th, 2010 1:16 pm

    “Well above average defense” is a common misconception. His defense, at 2B and SS and 3B, is just a little bit better than average. 2B has historically been his worst position, but he’s improved that over the last couple of years with increased playing time. His defensive versatility is valuable, but not really his defensive quality.

    And FunBobby’s right about those on-base/run-scoring numbers. He’s not good at getting on base, and scored just 56 runs despite his 440 PA. He is not an offensive weapon, at all.

    The only reason our divisional opponents fear Nick Punto is because, to them, he represents why the Twins always beat them; ie, the Twins somehow have a good team despite having someone with Punto’s skillset playing a substantial role on the team, and that simply makes no sense. But their misunderstanding is no reason for us to continue trotting Punto out there.

  7. Ragstoriches February 12th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Yeah I love the Web Gem faction of Punto apologists who believe he’s the greatest defensive player of our generation because he makes a highlight reel play every now and then. They’d never acknowledge that he makes his fair share of errors too. By no means is he terrible defensively, but as sirsean points out, he’s slightly above average.

    Which puts him on par with about 500 minor league players.

  8. sirsean February 12th, 2010 1:48 pm

    Yeah, that’s exactly the thing.

    The “anti-Punto” crowd can get a little bit overzealous, perhaps, but at the same time, the “pro-Punto” crowd is missing the fact that this is a guy who is virtually interchangeable with any number of career minor leaguers, available for the league minimum. Look no further than Tolbert for an example of an interchangeable player.

    The Punto-hate, I think, has built up to this point because of Gardy’s continuous claims that Punto is a valued member of the team, and that we couldn’t do it without him — obviously, we could, because the team succeeds thanks to the good players, like Mauer/Morneau/Span/Kubel/Cuddyer, and now perhaps also Hardy/Hudson.

  9. Ragstoriches February 12th, 2010 2:16 pm

    Yeah Jeff Reboulet was defensively versitile and offensively inept too, but I don’t recall any “Jeff Reboulet Days” taking place.

  10. FunBobby February 12th, 2010 2:23 pm

    I’ve been reading a few of these “Nick Punto Day” entries on various blogs and so far I haven’t read one that mentioned his salary. That is a VERY important factor. If Punto was making close to league minimum, I’d have no problem with him. But his particular skillset is not worth $4 million. Why has nobody else mentioned this?

  11. sirsean February 12th, 2010 2:49 pm

    Jeff Reboulet.

    I have the feeling that if there’d been a Twins blogosphere in the 90s, people would have ripped him a lot like Punto … along with a whole host of other inept “baseball players” on those teams.

    It’s hard to remember what things were like before we were all on the internet. How did anyone survive?

  12. jpike February 12th, 2010 9:19 pm

    Let’s look at the facts I rarely read the blog comments, because so many of them are uninformed. What we remember tends to be vivid (he struck out with the winning run at third, or he popped up a bunt attempt on a squeeze) but not an accurate picture of the whole. Please look at fangraphs or baseball prospectus. The stats suggest Punto is a below average hitter, an above average baserunner and defender, overall an above average player whose overall contributions (measured statistically) to his teams win probability are positive, and given the value of wins to a team, is worth more than he is being paid. Fangraphs value vs. pay 2006 $11.4M vs $700,000, 2007 $3.0M vs $1.8M 2008 $11.4m vs $2.4M 2009 $5.8M vs $4M

  13. Alan February 13th, 2010 8:56 am

    If that pattern follows he’s going to be worth exactly $11.4M this year. Hooray!

  14. FunBobby February 13th, 2010 10:57 am

    What people fail to realize is that we can get that exact same production for LESS than 4 million. Just because he pays like a “$5.8 million dollar” player doesn’t mean we should be paying him 4. We can get someone to do the same thing for around league minimum.

  15. sirsean February 13th, 2010 12:49 pm

    Yeah, the problem isn’t Punto’s actual value, it’s that we need to be paying less than market value for as many of our players as possible — a midmarket team like the Twins simply can’t afford to pay market value across the board and still field a competitive team.

    Since you generally pay around market value on the free agent market, you need to take advantage of far-below-market rates for the players coming out of your farm system. For example, assuming Tolbert and Punto are interchangeable players, the Twins would be much better served getting $5M worth of production from Tolbert for $0.4M than they would be getting $5M of production from Punto for $4M.

  16. jpike February 13th, 2010 1:13 pm

    But that is a pretty big assumption without looking at the stats. Fangraphs would say that Tolbert was worth about 1/6 of Punto’s value last year – 1.0M. If you want to claim that we could get Punto’s value for less, tell me who and back it up with statistics or some kind of metric beyond “I think they’re worth about the same.”

  17. sirsean February 13th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Alright then, let’s not assume that they’re interchangeable players despite the fact that they appear to be so similar.

    The WAR values on Fangraphs are heavily influenced by playing time, and the position(s) they actually played, rather than the ones they’re capable of playing. This is important to consider when you’re comparing the production of two players who had dissimilar playing time.

    In 2009, Punto produced a total of 13 runs above replacement (1.3 WAR). Of those 13 runs, 14.7 of them came from “replacement level,” which comes simply from the innings you played. He got a positional adjustment of 3.7 runs because when he played, he was at 2B or SS almost exclusively.

    Meanwhile, Tolbert played very little at SS; his minimal time was split between 2B and 3B, which gave him a positional adjustment of just 1 run; he also played a whole lot less than Punto did: he got just 7.7 runs from his replacement category. (About half the playing time.)

    According to an extremely small sample size, Tolbert produced -1.7 runs for his fielding; his numbers for 3B are good, and his numbers for 2B are bad. But neither is even worth trusting yet, since they’re just for a few dozen games.

    There isn’t enough of a statistical record for Tolbert to really measure his value, but the early indications are that he’s basically a poor man’s Punto: not quite as good at hitting, and not quite as good at fielding, and not quite as versatile. So right now, they’re probably not interchangeable.

    You wouldn’t be getting as much production with Tolbert, but you’d have to balance that against a few factors; namely, if it’s more important to you to get value or production, and that depends on where you are on the win curve.

    Right now, the Twins are high on the win curve, and it’s worth paying a little more for Punto rather than going for better value with Tolbert. For a team that isn’t as close to contending, the opposite decision would likely be the correct one. (For example, the Pirates would much rather have Tolbert than Punto in our example, because the minimal difference between them wouldn’t mean anything to them in the standings. Meanwhile, the minimal difference between them very well could be the difference between going to the playoffs and going home — the Twins have won or lost the division by 1 game in 3 of the last 4 years.)

    But just because Tolbert isn’t as good as Punto doesn’t mean Punto should be a starting third baseman, nor does it mean that one team needs both of them. At this point, though, it seems clear that if the choice is to be limited to between Punto and Tolbert, then the correct answer for the Twins, in 2010, is Punto.

  18. Ragstoriches February 15th, 2010 8:28 am

    How about Punto vs. Harris? Isn’t that the real question here? I mean, Gardy’s love affairs clearly have a powerful effect on starting lineups, but there’s got to be a line in the sand somewhere, and I can’t imagine Tolbert is being considered a candidate for 3B, is he?

  19. FunBobby February 15th, 2010 8:54 am

    I certainly hope not. But I’m sure he will get some reps there at third. The job is Puntos to lose at this point, I would think.

  20. Myjah May 2nd, 2010 9:41 am

    I am a Nick Punto fan–and I also have 81 game season tickets to the Twins. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I really think the Nick Punto haters are more casual baseball fans who just look at stats watch games on TV, and don’t understand how baseball is really played. You have no idea how many games I’ve seen Punto save.

    Nick Punto is not just adequate at defense, he is phenomenal. Just look at how the infield shifts with Punto is playing third. Both Hardy and Hudson were amazed with how much ground Punto can cover when they joined the team; it allows both Hardy and Hudson to play even better defense themselves. It allows our infield to provide much more coverage, and that has a dramatic affect on then number of hits the other team gets. It helps out the pitchers a lot. Really, Punto adds a lot to the infield defensively–and it is just laughable to say he could be replaced by any number of minor leaguers. That is not true.

    Punto is not the best player in the world, but he is way better than any other option the Twins have, and he is very valuable defensively. Anyone who thinks defense isn’t valuable clearly doesn’t understand the game and is not a real Twins fan.

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