Baseball Cards 1 - Ben Zobrist, Twins vs Rays

During the first week of the season my brother Eric and I each went out and purchased a couple packs of baseball cards with the intention of doing player profiles on the players in our decks when the Twins play against them. The first week of the season was a blur of activity and disappointment as the Twins went 2-4 to open the season. In addition to baseball I was preparing to deploy with the Coast Guard Cutter VALIANT, and as such I didn’t get a good jump on our baseball card series. Appologies. Even while I’m out in the middle of the ocean, I’m still following the Twins, and I’ve actually had a few moments to analyze the cards in my deck. 

My deck of 32 2011 Topps baseball cards includes three cards for the Tampa Bay Rays. Today the Twins begin a three game series against the Rays and I have the following three cards: David Price (SP, 30W-15L, 3.34ERA, 1.11WHIP for his career, 1W-2L, 3.92ERA, 1.23WHIP for 2011), Ben Zobrist (.238/.346/.353, 2010, .190/.277/.357, 2011 (AVG/OBP/SLG), and a Diamond Duo card featuring David Price AND Matt Garza (who is currently pitching for the Cubs). Price (who notched his first W of the season agains the Red Sox on Tuesday) will most likely pitch Sunday for the Rays, but we’ll save his player analysis for later in the season in the hopes that Price will be on the mound again when the teams match up at Target Field either later this month or in the the teams’ July matchup. That leaves Ben Zobrist as the lone baseball card for this weekend’s series.

Ben Zobrist (6’3″, 200lbs, 29 years old, from Eureka, IL) went 3-18 with 6 strike outs in 5 games against the Twins last season (including 1 pinch-hit AB in which he struck out). Zobrist doubled twice, (once in Tampa Bay and again in Minnesota), induced four walks, and stole a base but only came home to score once (.167/.318/.278). Zobrist has struggled offensively this season with 11 strikeouts in 42AB as of Tuesday night (small sample size, I know).   Much like the Twins RF (2B/1B…) and my favorite player in basball, Michael Cuddyer, the Rays Zobrist is also a super utility man, starting 144 games for the Rays last season at 5 different positions in 2010.  In 2009 when Zobrist finished 8th in the AL MVP balloting he played seven defensive positions and put up career numbers (.297/.405/.543).  Zobrist’s 183 walks over the course of 2009-2010 led all AL hitters and his .374 OBP over that same time period put him 6th in the AL, tied with the Yankees 1B, Mark Teixeira.  During the 2010 campaign Zobrist was slotted in every slot in the batting order except for 9th. Zobrist has a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield, having never made in error in 199 games and 357 chanes, but despite his usefullness in the outfield Zobrist has spent most of the 2011 season at second base. Having a super utlitity man who can hit for power, has speed, good plate discipline and can play just about anywhere has to make things just a little bit easier for Madden as he manages the Rays through the Evan Longoria DL stint.  All-star goes down, super utility man steps up, sound familiar to anyone out there?

Zobrist, who signed a four year deal last spring that will keep him in Tampa through 2013 (with club options for 2014 and 2015) hopes to bring his AVG back up to the 2009 and early 2010 levels (Zobrist AVG peaked .315 on 09Jun last season before going 50-283 (.177) during the last 84 games of the season.  Against the probable Twins’ starters for the series, Zobrist was 2-3  with a double off Carl Pavano, 1-8 with a double off Scott Baker, and did not face either Nick Blackburn or Brian Duensing.

The Twins will need to keep Zobrist off the base paths while visiting Tropicana Field to prevent the Rays lineup, which has come alive as of late, from scoring a lot of runs.  Hopefully the Twins can put up some big numbers again this year against the Rays, whom they scored 32 runs against last year in 8 games while batting .253/.300/.401 as a team (.253/.311/.383 with 16 runs in 4 games at the Trop).

Tags: Ben Zobrist Brian Duensing Carl Pavano Michael Cuddyer Minnesota Twins Nick Blackburn Scott Baker

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