...as Twins drop the series to the South Siders.
That was one hell of a streak. Here are the final numbers before we delve any deeper.
G AB R H 2B HR RBI Avg Obp Slg
23 94 17 35 12 5 19 .372 .404 .660
I don't want to pretend that Hunter has been a different hitter than he's been in the past. He's hacktastic, he still will shock you with some amazingly frustrating at-bats and he really likes that first pitch fastball. Still, what's been evidenced over the last four weeks has been Torii Hunter's ability to rip the tarnation out of the ball for stretches at a time. When he steps into the box and the pitcher goes into his windup, these are the moments when you can literally feel the contact coming. When Torii is hot, Torii is HOT.
Of course Torii's talent is the catalyst for this streak, but don't fool yourself into thinking that no luck was involved. When you're as aggressive at the plate as Hunter sometimes luck is going to bite you in the ass, and sometimes luck is going to give you all the bounces.
The Twins are 21% through 2007. Hunter has hit into only three double plays so far, putting him on pace for roughly fourteen...or his least since 2001 (excluding the injury-shortened '05). During his hitting streak, he took only three non-intentional walks. For the first time in his career, he's collecting more air outs than ground outs. Torii Hunter is on pace for 100 extra-base hits.
I'm not trying to diminish what Hunter has done, simply trying to point out that in addition to his strengths as an athlete, Lady Luck had been blowing on his dice. We've known for years that 48 is a streaky hitter, and just because this streak is longer than the rest doesn't mean that trends are being bucked.
It's the results of the trends that are being bucked. As aggressive as Hunter has been in the past, he's being even more aggressive this year. And it's actually WORKING. His success has nothing to do with it being a "contract year"--he's still the player he's always been, just more so, and he's been lucky enough that it's worked out about as well as it possibly could.
Left Center Right
1B 8 6 5
2B 7 2 6
HR 4 1 1
Spray 47.5% 22.5% 30.0%
Hunter has done well spraying the ball to all fields. He still pulls a majority of the time, especially for power, but he's been showing the ability to hit the ball to the gaps as well as simply being able to find the holes going the other way. If there's one primary thing I can point to that Hunter is clearly doing much better with, it's making contact. He's been hitting the ball hard, in spite of being so aggressive; if this continues, he could have a chance to post a career year. If not, cool periods at the plate will bring the statistical line back toward the mean very quickly.
It's a shame the streak had to come to an end. Torii Hunter is my favorite baseball player, for any number of reasons, and I will always want to see him succeed. Hopefully, his results will continue to buck trends the rest of the season. It was fun being able to cheer for a hit to extend the streak to seventeen games, eighteen games, twenty games, twenty-three games...maybe he can start one again tonight against the Tigers.