Posted at 9:54 AM on June 6, 2007
by Steve Rudolph
Joe Mauer is rehabbing his strained left quadriceps muscle in Florida and could return to the Twins lineup this Friday. When he rejoins the team, all indications are that he’ll reclaim the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
The move makes absolutely no sense!
If Ron Gardenhire wants to give his team the best chance to score runs each night, he won’t get hung up on tradition, will take my advice and that of columnists and blogeers, and bat Mauer second instead.
1. Batting Mauer second actually gets him more at-bats, which isn’t a bad thing for a guy who led the league in hitting last season and was hitting .353 with a .446 OBP this season before getting hurt.
2. Nick Punto is not the same hitter he was in 2006. He’s not even close. He’s batting a paltry .226 and strikes out once in every six plate appearances. (I could go on and on about his failed bunt attempts, swings at balls in the dirt and overall offensive futility, but I’ll save that rant for a future post.)
3. Jeff Cirillo isn’t much better than Nick Punto. Gardy tried Cirillo in this spot on the road trip with a measure of success. He can put down a bunt and doesn’t strike out that often. But that’s virtually all he’s contributed. Cirillo’s batting average is starting to make Nick Punto look like the second-coming of Lou Gehrig.
4. Please don’t hate me St. Paul, but Joe Mauer doesn’t hit for power. As much as everyone in baseball believes he’ll eventually become more of a power hitter, he isn’t one now nor has he even been one in his professional career. He does put the ball in play and can spray it to all fields, characteristics of a good No. 2 hitter. Having him bat second would allow Gardenhire to put more plays on when Luis Castillo leads off the game with a hit or walk. And that dovetails into my next item.
5. I’d much rather see Justin Morneau come to the plate with a runner on base and two outs in the first inning, while batting cleanup, than see him lead off the following inning as the Twins No. 5 hitter. Morneau was among the league leaders in 2-out RBIs last year. Batting Mauer second only gives the A.L. MVP more swings in the first inning to stake his team, and young pitching staff, to a lead.
6. Joe Mauer is far more like Rod Carew than Kirby Puckett. Although nearly as popular as Puckett was at his peak, Joe Mauer doesn’t drive in runs the way Kirby did when he anchored the third spot in the lineup all those years. Instead Mauer’s hitting is much more like another Twins great and former batting champ, Rod Carew. And where in the order did Carew get most of his ABs? This might come as a shock, but Carew hit second in 1149 games throughout his career, compared to only 679 in the No. 3 spot, and somehow managed to find his way to the hall of fame.
7. Batting second doesn’t mean a batter has to give himself up at the plate. Rod Carew didn’t amass 3053 hits by squaring around to bunt every game. He did put the ball in play and got a lot of singles and doubles. As it stands now, Mauer probably bunts more than any No. 3 hitter in the game.
I never said this was a top ten list and since seven is a lucky number, and Mauer’s jersey number, I’ll stop and leave it to you to add any more reasons why Gardy should take our advice.
Posted at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2007
by David Zingler
In 2001, Cristian Guzman looked like a budding superstar. The lightening fast triple machine was the catalyst of the resurgent Twins offense and in the midst of an All Star season. By 2004 however, his triples total had fallen from 20 to 4 and his command of the strike zone seemed to regress as the years went on. When the Dominican singed a lucrative free agent contract with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2005 season, the collective reply from Twins Territory was “Good Riddance!”
If his fall from grace in Minnesota wasn’t dramatic enough, Guzman really bottomed out in Washington. In 2005, he hit .219/.260/.314 in 142 games before missing all of the 2006 season with a shoulder injury. But, just when you thought the enigmatic shortstop had gone the way of Luis Rivas or Joe Mays, he made comeback.
After missing much of April with a hamstring injury, Guzman returned on May 7 and looks to have re-gained his old form (or at least something close to it). In 27 games, the erstwhile Twin is hitting .324/.368/.472 with 5 triples. It’s perfect timing for the 29-year-old; the Nats come to town this weekend. It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to his first visit to the Dome as an opponent. Will they remember the young, exciting Guzman streaking across the mold-green Metrodome turf or the sluggish underachiever who played his way out of town?