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Patience Is A Virtue

Posted by thephilomath , 17 May 2019 · 668 views

byron buxton leadoff batting order apocalypse
Byron Buxton is breaking out. Again. And it's got Twins' Territory looking for more. Many have suggested the batting order as the perfect opportunity. The case against: not enough patience, too many strikeouts, lack of capacity for joy.

The case for is complicated and in the big scheme of things not that important, as it's been demonstrated that the actual batting order doesn't matter that much and is more just the talking point that is latched onto. And also, because global climate change and our impending doom as a species. But since we're not all dead yet (as of writing), let's for fun latch onto a talking point...

This year Buxton has batted 8th (4 times) or 9th (33 times). The 4 times in the 8-spot he was slotted ahead of the pitcher in interleague play. Buxton (.278/.336/.500) is having a good year back there. Many, who have been waiting for this good year for more than a few years, aren't eager to see him move up in the lineup - don't fix what isn't broken, they're saying. I'm as superstitious as the next guy. More so. Clinically, probably. But even a guy with undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder can see that Buxton oughta be batting higher in the lineup than he is. And it's been my go-to stupid-Twins rant for a few years that lead-off is where he belongs. Hear me out.

There's this notion that this is working and that it's working specifically because he is 'hiding' at the bottom of the order. But that logic seems to imply that this is different than before. Which isn't the case, because for his entire career the Twins have put a no-pressure-hex upon him. It's been the most infuriating self-fulfilling prophecy I have ever witnessed. Buxton has batted 9th in 61.3% of the games he's played in. Add in how many he's batted 8th and that number will go up. By how much? Don't know, too lazy to look it up. Sorry.

From day one the Twins have essentially said he's going to struggle, so we're going to let him hide in obscurity at the back of the order until he figures things out. Expect for the infinitesimally small item that for one of baseball's biggest, most hyped prospects, there's no such thing as hiding. There never has been.

Some think he's been given the chance in the past and it just hasn't worked, but that's not really the case. Last year, in an injury-wrecked slash service-time suppressed mess of a year Buxton got his big opportunity to impress. He batted 5th! … once. Then in the 7 to 9 spots in the lineup 25 times. That was a digression from the norm. A chance I believe he earned by batting so well at the end of 2017.

In that year (2017) he started a miserable 1-18 (.056) at the plate out of the 3-hole and then promptly spent 88 games in the 7 through 9 spot in the lineup. But as he discovered his swing toward the end of the year he would work his way into 30 starts slotted 5 or 6 in the order and even another handful of games batting 3rd. But never lead-off. Which made me sad, because in 2016, after struggling all season in 80 games batting 9th, and 7 games batting 5 through 6 near the end of the year. He finally did get a chance at the top of the order. In game 162 of the 2016 season, Buxton batted 1st in the order going 2-4 with a double and a home run off Chris Sale.

Then again, going all the way back to his 1st taste of big league action in 2015 he went 12-51 (.235) batting 1st, not anything incredible. Does any of this matter? Aren't we bound to get hit by a meteor at some point anyway? Eventually you just have to hit. Regardless of whether you're in your ideal spot in the lineup. But Buxton is doing that now.

If I could wave a magic wand or presto-chango the past few years I'd give Buxton the opportunity to prove himself at the top of order right away, especially because the Twins were never going to do much in the past few years anyway. Why not get him as many at bats as possible? Why not let him struggle until he finds it? Is it because plastic remnants in our ocean are threatening to kill off the bacteria that produce 10 percent of Earth's oxygen? Is that why?

Earlier in his career something got in the way. After hitting almost exclusively lead-off his entire minor league career (a fact I can't cite, but I'm believe to be true from monitoring box-scores religiously), he ran into a different kind of wall than usual: Brian Dozier at the beginning of a 3 year period that would see him hit 104 home runs and as many doubles with an OPS of .831. But Dozier is old, crotchety, and importantly not on Minnesota Twins roster anymore. This isn't a to knock Kepler who has held his own, but now could be Buxton's chance. Every player wants to hit in the 1st inning. He's waited and never complained. I've waited and constantly complained.

I want to see as much of Byron Buxton as possible. At the plate, in the field, on the bases. I always have. Now, I should. We all should. Before infinite nothingness envelopes us eternally.

We waited for this.

  • nclahammer likes this

May 19 2019 10:24 AM
I'm not sure what he will become, but what he is basically is a run producing dangerous guy that can fly and hit for some pop. If they wanna move him why not to 3rd while Cruz is out. He could hit in front of Rosario and behind Polanco for a spell.