Minnesota knew what it was getting into when they signed Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. His injury history is well documented, but his positive impact on the Twins roster is undeniable. He will make $9.1 million this season, and FanGraphs pegs his total value at nearly $32 million this season. The Twins utilized multiple strategies to try and keep Buxton healthy, but injuries impacted him throughout different parts of the season. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly with Buxton’s health this season.
Buxton played in over 90 games for only the third time in his career, which helped him amass 4.0 WAR, which ranks second on the team. In two months during the season, he posted a slugging percentage north of .710 with an OPS of over 1.060. This performance helped him earn the starting center field position for the American League during the All-Star Game, and he helped the team by hitting a home run. It was one of the best portions of the season because the Twins were in first place, and they looked to be heading for the team’s third division title in four seasons.
Mixed in with the good were some sub-par performances as Buxton attempted to play through injury. His offensive production was a roller coaster ride as he’d be an otherworldly hitter for a stretch and then slump. From May 7-June 2, Buxton went 9-for-71 (.127 BA) in 19 games. This slump also included a career-worst 30 consecutive at-bats without a hit. He became a more patient hitter during the stretch as he drew eight walks compared to 16 strikeouts.
At the end of June, he had a 15-game stretch that saw him go 6-for-58 (.103 BA), but four of his six hits were home runs. In the season’s second half, it became evident that Buxton was struggling through injury to the point where the team needed to put him on the IL, and that’s when things turned ugly for the Twins.
The Twins spent 108 days in first place in the AL Central, but the month of September has been brutal. Now, Minnesota is set to finish in third place in the division with hopes of ending with a .500 record. Buxton hasn’t been in the line-up since August 22, and the Twins have gone 11-17 during that stretch, which translates to a 0.392 winning percentage. Over the course of 162-games, that translates to a 98-loss season. Minnesota has been playing some of its most important games in September without Buxton in the line-up, and the team can feel his loss. He brings an energy to the roster that has been lacking over the last.
Wins in April and May can be as important as wins in September, but the stakes are much higher in the season’s final weeks. Buxton clearly helped the Twins out of the gate to establish themselves at the top of the division, but the team’s plan to keep him on the field didn’t work. Extra off days and time at designated hitter helped Buxton provide value in just over 90 games. Buxton is Minnesota’s best player, and the club’s success is tied to him being on the field for the team’s critical moments.
Should Buxton have gone on the IL earlier in the season? Would he have been available later in the season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.