Courtesy of Andrew Kneeland from Twins Target, February 12th is officially Nick Punto Day. You probably will see very similar posts among my peers in Twins Blogitory, but I decided to put a little spin on my post. You see, I figured it wouldn’t be very hard to write about my opinion of Punto, so I felt like giving a little extra to you, just like Punto always gives a little extra on the field. Therefore, I went to my buddies in the Facebook group “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!” and some other people I know to give me their opinions on Punto as well. As a result, this is what you will read here, the posts sent to me from people around the state of Minnesota that don’t always get their opinions heard. Each post will be proceeded by the author’s name and my connection to them.
Sam C., “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!”
Punto is a great bottom of the order guy . . . he gets on base about a third of the time, which is at least once a game,works the count, plays excellent defense and does the small things that are needed to win games. I think he will have a decent year, hit about .270, OBP .350 ,and about a one to one K/BB ratio. I would like to see the Twins to get rid of him switch hitting and just have him hit from the ride side. He normally won’t make any mistakes that cost you game, except for Game 3 of the playoffs with the base running incident but I think that was just your average accident, shit like that happens, just sucks that it happened when it did. Plus I think Punto’s lack of a bat this year won’t show up as much since of the hitters we have around him and minus Gomez so he can be where he truly belongs and that’s 9th in the order. With all of that being said I’m a Punto fan boy, one of my favorite Twins and think he helps the team more than he hurts it.
Now I think he would probably start on half of the teams in the league, defense is too valuable to sit on the bench. Would I prefer him to be in the utility role? Of course, but that’s not what we’re able to do. He does what Gardy asks him to do. I expect Punto to hit in the .240-.260 range and have a OBP of .333 or higher. As long as he gets on base at least once a game and doesn’t mess up on defense I’m happy with a subpar BA. He also is good at having good at bats, not something that shows up in the box score but he’ll usually make the pitchers throw at least 4 or 5 pitches every at-bat. Now I would like to see him swing a little earlier in the count because during his career on the first pitch he hits .339, 1-0 count he is .277, 2-0 he is .378, 0-1 he is .338 and 1-1 he is .295.
I have been saying this for a while but I want him to start working with Carew again on his swing because when he did that in ’06, he had a career year. As Steven said a while ago, I think his problem is how he approaches his at-bats, I think he tends to settle every now and then.
Austin V., “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!”
I’ll try not saying the same thing as Sam because Sam said about everything true about Punto. All of last year everyone didn’t like Punto and as you all know I stuck up for him. Once again I will do the same thing. This guy does about anything a manager will tell him to do—bunt, steal, move the baserunner into scoring position, work the count, and other small things. He’s a guy who doesn’t get on base a lot but he never takes his frustration back on the field when he plays defense. He is a very underrated player in baseball when it comes to defense. Wherever he plays in the field, 2nd or 3rd base, ain’t going to matter because Punto is a team player who will play wherever Gardy tells him too.
Just as a note, Austin posted that prior to the Twins signing Orlando Hudson, which is why he said “Wherever he plays in the field, 2nd or 3rd base…”
Ryan F., “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!”
Enough said, lol.
Jake R., “1,000,000 MINNESOTA TWINS FANS!!!”
Punto is simply a super utility player….and that’s all he should be! Any other major league team would laugh at a guy like him playing every day. Now I agree he isn’t a bad #9 hitter, but he should not be starting every day! He’s a valuable guy to have due to the fact that he can play almost anywhere, other than that he just really frustrates me! He kinda embodies the attitude of “settle for less”….if no other team would have him as an everyday player, we shouldn’t either!
Josh W., My girlfriend’s brother
To me, Nick Punto is Pinocchio and Ron Gardenhire, Geppetto. Thus, my love or disdain is based upon how the puppetmaster plays with the strings. Punto, for all his faults, has qualities that are needed on a winning ballclub. I appreciate his strong fielding ability at multiple positions, the fact he can switch-hit, his improved walk rate, his above-average speed and the fact that he’s a gritty player. Punto is not an all-star and never was going to be. Despite his switch-hitting ability, he’s a below average hitter. He pops up way too much and has never really figured out the ability to pound the ball into the ground and outrun the defense. However, placed in the right position he can not only succeed, but be a worthwhile player.
Nick Punto is not a starter; he is a utility player. Whether other players performing poorly, or management not finding a reasonable starter, Nick Punto has received way too many plate appearances as a Twin. I do not fault Gardenhire for this, however my greatest issue is that Gardy has constantly misused Punto. Under no circumstances, should Nick Punto bat second in any lineup. The second spot should be reserved for one of your best hitters and Punto is certainly not that player. He isn’t the most adept at bunting and his ability to hit behind the runner lacks as well, making him fairly inaqequate. There was nothing more irritating than seeing Punto make an out before Mauer and Morneau came up to the plate in the 2006 playoffs, other than of course, seeing Nick squander an all-important at bat against Mariano Rivera or another closer who clearly overpowers him.
Batting 9th, however, Punto becomes more of an asset. There is less pressure to move a runner over and he should technically see better pitches. He need not focus on power-hitting, but just getting on base for the top of the order. From the 9th spot, all of a sudden his ability to get on base 33% of the time and play above-average defense with a little speed thrown in is a alright quality. For these very reasons, I think we will appreciate Nick Punto more in 2010. As long as the puppetmaster plugs Punto into the 9th slot of the lineup and platoons him with Harris (.785 OPS against lefties, poor against righties), Nick will be an asset to the team.
And you know what… I like that he slides headfirst to beat the throw at first. As a former umpire, I can’t tell you how different a play looks when you slide headfirst, versus just running to beat out a play. It makes the “bang-bang” play a lot more difficult to decipher. Here’s to Nick Punto… he’ll make you pull your hair out after popping up a bunt and then make a brilliant play defensively the next inning. There are plenty of faults, but gosh darn it… he plays the game the right way and I’m happy he’s a Twin.