Swinging Bunts: 2007 So Far

I haven’t written much on this year’s version of the Twins. Part of that has been for lack of time to write “timely” articles (whereas I have several historical posts waiting to go each week); though part of it is due to how well the rest of the Twins’ blogosphere covers the team. I haven’t had much to add that hasn’t already been said, but here’s my two cents on the season so far.

The biggest outcry out of spring training was the decision to send Matt Garza to Rochester while bringing a starting rotation that included Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson north with the team. That decision has worked out better than most have expected, but there is reason to believe that the results achieved so far may not continue.

Carlos Silva has been a pleasant surprise so far in 2007, and there are hopes that we might be watching the 2005 version of Silva in 2007. I have given up trying to read anything onto Silva’s performances, much less to project future performances. While he has been effective so far, who knows what to expect in the coming months?

While Ramon Ortiz may be statistically the best Twins’ pitcher the first few times through the rotation, there are reasons to believe that he success will not continue. He has been the recipient of some incredible luck, as pointed out by several Twins bloggers. He has a very low strikeout rate so far, and has left an unusually high number of men on base. Before Sunday’s start, the defense behind him has turned 80% of balls put in play into outs, a ridiculous number that won’t continue. He has pitched well, but the peripherals suggest that his ERA is unlikely to remain as low as it has been so far.

Sidney Ponson, on the other hand, has delivered as expected. A 9.39 ERA over three starts, including four home runs and a 2.28 WHIP means that he ought to be on a short leash (if he wasn’t already). He and Boof Bonser have been the worst of the Twins starters so far in 2007, which may provide a non-injury excuse to bring Garza up early in the season.

Offensively, the story has been the middle of the lineup. Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter provided most of the run-scoring through the first several weeks of the season, and, as of Saturday, have accounted for eight of the team’s nine home runs and 46 of the 74 RBI. The famous “piranhas” have gotten off to a slow start, including a .200/.286/.320 line for through 13 games for Nick Punto, while Jason Bartlett has made almost every fielding chance at short stop into an adventure in the young season.

Punto’s numbers are more in line with the rest of his career than his 2006 season was, though he seems to have started to take some better at-bats in the last few days. Bartlett is also showing signs of coming out of his offensive funk, but still seems tentative on defense. As injuries start to pile up, it will be even more important to get some production from one of the five other line up spots, particularly considering the lack of infield depth in the organization.

It was extremely frustrating to watch the organization lose another player to make room for a third catcher on the 25-man roster. At this point, it doesn’t seem that the loss of J.D. Durbin is a major one, but the fact remains that, for the second time in recent memory, the Twins let a prospect get away with no compensation to carry a sub-replacement level catcher whose job was simply to serve as an emergency back up in the event that either Redmond or Mauer was the DH. Chris Heintz appeared in one game before returning to Rochester, making the move look even more foolish.

Overall, the team is 11-7 through the first three weeks of the season. That’s a pretty good start to the season considering all of the injuries and question marks in the rotation. They have averaged five runs a game, a very good mark in an early season that has been dominated by pitching so far (the AL is batting through Saturday was .254/.325/.402 this season, down from .275/.339/.437 in 2006).

Around the league, I am happy to see that Alex Rodriguez has gotten off to such a good start, even if he is wearing pinstripes. The pace he is setting is amazing, though not particularly surprising considering that he is one of the best ever to play the game. The only regret is that the same people who have spent the last three seasons questioning his Yankee-hood are the ones who are benefiting from seeing him play day in and day out.

Since he is not a true Yankee, the runs he has produced should not count for the Yankees. I propose that his runs be distributed to other, more deserving teams (the Twins come immediately to mind). Lets see, take away his 12 HR, 20 R, 31 RBI, and his .379/.434/.1.030 line; that would put the “true” Yankees record at 0-16, maybe 1-15. Enjoy your team of true Yankees, New York.

By the way, I love that Baseball Reference now compiles the updated stats daily. It is essentially now the one-stop shop for baseball statistics, meaning that I haven’t had to visit MLB.com or ESPN.com yet this season (though I do use MLB.com to for gameday audio).

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