Minnesota Twins: Losing sheds light on the importance of having Byron Buxton
By Nate Palmer
The Minnesota Twins will continue to be without Byron Buxton for a while longer and his absence has been felt in the win-loss column.
The Minnesota Twins have been without Byron Buxton since they made the trip to Puerto Rico. He initially went on the disabled list due to migraines. Most recently, as Buxton was on a rehab stint with the Fort Myers Miracle he fouled a ball off of his foot and has been diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his toe.
Now it may be a little strong to say the whole blame for the eight-game losing streak that finally ended on Saturday can be placed on Buxton’s absence. There have also been short starts from starting pitchers, bullpen blowups, and non-existent offensive output to blame for that. We also can’t ignore the importance of Buxton to the Twins starting lineup.
As was discussed a lot at the beginning of last season, Buxton’s defense covers up a lot of pitching deficiencies. Some that we do not even realize because he is such a plus defender in the outfield. Just look back at Buxton’s highlight reel to be reminded of that. He catches up to fly balls that most humans have no business catching.
That is why Byron Buxton was a 2017 Rawlings Gold Glove award winner and the Platinum Glove award winner as well. In 2017 he was credited with 24 defensive runs saved and a 10.0 UZR. This season in 97.0 innings played is already credited with a 1.3 UZR. It doesn’t hurt either that he is at the top of the sprint speed leaderboard either (he is usually number one but currently behind Delino DeShields).
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As has always been the narrative of Buxton’s major league career, we are still waiting for his offensive production to fully catch up with his defensive impact. After the second half of 2017 in which he hit .300/.347/.546 with 11 home runs, 8 doubles, 5 triples, and had 13 stolen bases it seemed the package was complete.
Once again, Buxton has struggled to start the 2018 season as he was hitting .195/.233/.476 before he hit the disabled list. It is frustrating to see that from a hitter that has struggled in the past that we had all hoped had truly taken the step forward. The reality is it has only been 11 games, and 11 games at the very beginning of the season. It is possible when Buxton is healthy that he will be able to regain his end of 2017 form.
Buxton’s timeline to return is still uncertain. A more significant fracture could have had Buxton missing 4-6 weeks of time. This hairline fracture has a little more mystery to it as well as what should be a shorter recovery. On the Twins television broadcast during Saturday’s game, it was mentioned that Buxton is doing well running straight forward already, but cutting is still an issue.
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The Twins will be hoping for a speedy return for Buxton. He is certainly an important piece to the Twins winning. While his absence isn’t the full reason for the Twins failures in the past several series, the Twins are 2-9 without Buxton after starting the season 7-4 with him.