The word “left” comes from ‘lyft’ which means worthless in Old English. The left side of the Buddhist yin and yang symbol represents darkness. The German word linkisch means left, but can also be translated as awkward, clumsy, or socially inferior. Likewise, mancino means both left and dishonest in the Italian language. In a similar vein, the Latin word ‘sinister’ initially meant left, but eventually changed to mean evil or unlucky. The Twins, being one of the most etymologically aware teams in Major League Baseball, have done their best to adhere to these principles, and indeed, the left side (3B, SS, LF) has been by far the weakest link in the Twins offense in the 2007 season.
Here are the Twins who have appeared in at least 10 games at one of the positions named above, and their stats in those games. (All stats accurate through Monday 6/25)
Cirillo has been doing very well when he has been in as Punto’s replacement at third base. His numbers bring the Twins 3B up to league average in BA and OBP, but Punto’s numbers lag behind in two of the three rate categories (on base % being the exception), and as a whole the largest discrepancy is in slugging percentage, but that isn’t much of a surprise. Even in Punto’s breakout 2006 season, his SLG was at .373, still well below third basemen league wide.
The bad news is that, after a bit of rebound in May (.364 OBP with a .639 OPS overall), Punto has struggled mightily in June (.175/.268/.254, .522 OPS) doing very little to improve the standing of the left side in the Twins lineup.
Again, there is a noticeable lack of power from this position as Bartlett and Punto have managed to slug .113 points less than American League shortstops as a whole. The on base percentage is very close to average, and Bartlett’s is a little above.
I’m a Bartlett fan, so I feel duty-bound to point out that his average has come up each month to the point where he has hit .270/.338/.333 thus far in June. Although the power numbers still aren’t there for Jason, he’s getting on base at an above average clip compared to other AL shortstops.
Finally, we see some league average power! Well, almost. This position looks the bleakest of three at first glance as the Twins threesome of Ford, Kubel, and Tyner combined to hit .017 points below AL left-fielders in BA, get on base at a rate that’s .034 points below and slug .035 points worse. Kubel has taken over the lion’s share of the playing time and, unsurprisingly, he has shown the most power of these three, although saying anyone has more power than Ford and Tyner isn’t too much of a statement.
Kubel also got off to a slow start, but has seen his numbers improve (SLG – .348 in April, .366 in May, and .500 in June). Kubel’s .814 OPS in June is actually higher than average (.735) for an AL left-fielder, and he probably represents the Twins best chance to put up above average offense from one of these three positions going forward.
To sum everything up, the AL average for these three positions are .266/.337/.411 while the Twins are getting .245/.316/.334 from these six players for an OPS that is almost a full .100 points below league average. Kubel is the only player mentioned here who has shown some signs of power, and he has started to come on as the season has progressed. I didn’t include Cirillo in that sentence, because I don’t think anybody is convinced that Cirillo could continue to slug .571 with meaningful playing time. As far as on-base percentage goes, Bartlett and Punto are the highest in this group, but neither has an OBP above .340, and neither has any power to speak of. And that’s the main story here, the left side of the Twins so far this season has been populated with players who are serviceable at times as far as getting on base, but the power outage from these positions is what has frustrated most Twins fans.