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WARNE: Trying to Make Sense of the Buxton Decision


Brandon Warne

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This is an excerpt from an article on Zone Coverage; read it in full here.

 

Over the weekend the Minnesota Twins made waves in the baseball community by announcing that they were not bringing Byron Buxton up when the Triple-A season ends on Monday. The decision effectively ended Buxton’s 2018 season before it really got a chance to get going, and created a take-storm for one big reason.

 

By not bringing Buxton up for the last month of the season, they’ll retain his rights through the 2022 season. If he’d been with the team something like a dozen games this month, he’d eat up enough service time to reach free agency following the 2021 season; or in other words, the same winter he’d turn 28.

 

Let’s just try to talk through all the potential reasons — good, bad, otherwise — and at least get into the thought process behind it.

 

Buxton’s season was an absolute disaster. There’s no sugarcoating it. He came down with migraines in Puerto Rico in April, was put on the disabled list to allow the Twins to not operate with a short bench in Tampa and broke his big toe on his first rehab game at Fort Myers.

 

He came back too quickly — just under a month — and hit just .122/.140/.163 before the Twins again shut him down in Kansas City. They put him back on the disabled list to let the toe fully heal, and when he returned he was sent to Rochester — where he spent the rest of the season.

 

If that wasn’t enough, Buxton dealt with wrist issues in late July that again put him on the shelf.

 

The upshot was that Buxton spent three months with the Red Wings, and still got into just 35 games. Buxton hit .272/.331/.456 with the Red Wings — well below his career marks of .310/.364/.537 at the level — and even that doesn’t tell the entire story.

 

While a .787 OPS at Triple-A is certainly respectable — in Buxton’s case, doing that for a season in the big leagues with his defense and speed would make him a star — doing it in such a small sample size makes it easy for those numbers to be distorted.

 

Take a look at how Buxton’s numbers break down:

  • First 29 games with Rochester – .234/.298/.405
  • Final six games – .458/.500/.708

 

So can the case be made that he didn’t exactly play at a high enough level for long enough to merit a call-up? I mean, maybe? There isn’t really a strong enough case on either side to make this the rallying cry of torch-and-pitchfork nation.

 

In Mike Berardino’s column on the subject, he mentions that general manager Thad Levine suggested Buxton has been playing through a nagging left wrist injury, and that it — along with on-field performance beyond raw stats in the minors and a lack of playing time in the majors — were factors that led to the non-promotion.

 

Let’s look at each of those individually.

 

Well, we already looked at the numbers part of it. If the statistic is “games played,” it’s a valid argument, and a sub-.800 OPS and four strikeouts for every walk doesn’t really scream promotion either. Strikeouts aren’t the be-all, end-all argument for a lot of players, but that’s more the case in the major leagues for guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark. Buxton, a career .230/.285/.387 hitter, has struck out 31.7 percent of the time in the big leagues, and fanned 28.4 percent of the time with Rochester this season.

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