Welcome back for part two of my look into the Twins shot at the playoffs. In part 1, I took a look at the team's overll numbers, as well as a quick look at the two biggest power bats on teh team, Hunter and Morneau.
Since I wrote the article, the Twins have finished off a sweep of the A's and put themselves in somewhat better position to make the playoffs. By the time I post the third and final piece of this series, the Twins will have had SOME kind of significant event in their series against the Tigers. Please remember, all of these numbers have NOT been updated since the writing through Saturday night. To this point, it's only been one game anyway.
Also, please make sure not to miss the great entry below on keeping Santana or Hunter.
Mauer and Cuddyer
Both Mauer and Cuddyer are great players who have hit well this year, but both haven't done all they can in their own ways. Cuddyer has hit for an average nearly identical to last years (.284 last year to .287 this year) and has actually raised his OBP a few points, but his power has fallen of drastically. Dipping from .504 last season to .453 this season, Cuddyer hasn't been nearly the middle of the order run producer he was last year.
Nobody expected Joe Mauer to repeat his .347 BA he made history with last year, but he has fallen off a bit farther than most of us expected. A 43-point drop in average, aiding a 31-point drop in OBP, has hurt his production. An even greater dip has occurred in power, an area we expected him to improve in, with a 58-point drop in SLG. Hopefully, much of this can be attributed to his injury. Mauer hit very well in April, actually exceeding his BA and ISo numbers of last year, before getting hurt in may and seeing his numbers dip upon his return in June. There is hope for the future though, for while Mauer's power has yet to return, Mauer has rebounded to put forth a .333 BA with a .440 OBP in July. Mauer's BABIP has dropped to .292 from last year's .320, coinciding with his drop in line drive percentage from 24.9& to 20.7%. My guess is Mauer is very close to being fully back on track after his injury and his numbers will continue to rise as the season goes on, but that is no sure bet.
Nick Punto. Not much needs to be said about what has been going wrong here, his batting line will be quite enough. Sporting a pathetic .210/.307/.272 line, Punto is one pace to have one of the worst offensive seasons EVER for a third baseman. Good defense isn't enough, the Twins need more production from this spot.
It's completely beating a dead horse (into the ground, with the entire obvious tree), but the average Twins who is not Nick Punto sports a .276/.337/.413 line. Counting in plate appearances, it could be said that the effect of trading Nick Punto for an average hitting non-Punto Twin would have the same affect as trading a player who hits like Louis Castillo for a player who hits like Joe Mauer. It could also be said that Nick Punto's below average has completely negated the above average efforts of Torii Hunter so far this year. Trading Punto for an average Twin at the same time as trading Justin Morneau or Mark Teahen would have a neutral overall affect on the Twins offense.
If the Twins are going to make the playoffs, somebody else is going to have to get the at bats at third base. until that happens, the team shows no signs of giving anyone else the job, as only 4 other Twins have more plate appearances than nick Punto.
Help Me RonDL?
Twins DH's this year have produced a .670 OPS, good for 13th in the AL. Much like the backend of the rotation, a remarkable performance wouldn't be needed for dramatic improvement. If Rondell White could simply return to play a majority of the Twins remaining games, and he was able to hit relatively well, this lineup spot could change into the source of production it ought to be. His career .286/.338/.465 line would be like trading Jason Tyner for Miguel Tejada. Even a conservative .740 OPS would be a major boost for the team and put the Twins in 9th place for DH OPS production.
Of course, the problem with White has always been the part about "playing the majority of games." Already out sine the third day of the season after hurting himself skipping around on the field, White was trying to be ready to be activated this weekend until he had his sixth setback so far this season and had his timetable pushed back indefinitely. After being out so long, it didn't seem unreasonable to expect White to be able to get healthy enough to play, say, 60 of the Twins' 74 second half games, but now it looks like the team isn't even going to get that. Still, even if he got back and managed 545 or 50 games, and hit okay, the Twins would get a big boost. Don't hold your breath, but keep a finger (or two) crossed.