Nick Punto has been called the (or chief) goat of the Twins ALDS loss to the Yankees. Fangraphs had a post saying Punto didn’t do the little things all that well. Twins fans notoriously chide Ron Gardenhire for his insistence on playing Nick Punto every night, citing him as a big reason for the team’s early season struggles. I’m here to say this to Twins fans:
Stop. Just stop.
Nick Punto doesn’t hit for a lot of power, this is true. His career high ISO is .098 in a year when the league average was .152. Nick Punto however, makes a lot of contact. His O-Swing% (% of pitches swung at outside the zone) is below average, while his contact rates are above average. His career OBP is .322, but other than a disastrous 2007 (when his OBP was murdered by an extremely low .257 BABIP) Punto has had good numbers the past couple years. In 2006 it was .352 and in 2008 it was .344. He’s probably no better than a 7, 8 or 9 hitter, but he deserves to be in the lineup because of his penchant for having good at bats and taking pitches, something few Twins seem willing to do. [Edit: Andrew Kneeland adds some good info: Punto leads the team in pitches per plate appearance and had the team's highest walk rate.]
Defensively, Punto is phenomenal.He is a +16/150 shortstop and a +20/150 third baseman. Nick Punto is basically Adam Everett with a better bat.
Per 162 games, Nick Punto is a 2.4 WAR player. Personally I think you can count on him being a 2 WAR player for at least a couple of years, but since he is going to be 32 next year people have knocked him down to 1.5 year. Fine, I can handle that. Do you know how many players in baseball were worth 1.5 WAR or better? 182. That’s 6 per team! That Nick Punto is, at worst, a team’s 7th best player means that he should be on the bench apparently. Punto was worth 1.2 WAR this year. This seems underwhelming, until you realize that there were only 6 Red Sox position players better than Nick Punto.
Twins fans: we need to go somewhere else when assigning blame.