Minnesota Twins: Three Silver Linings in Recent Weeks
Minnesota Twins: The Ageless Wonder of Nelson Cruz
I mean, what else can really be said about Nelson Cruz that we haven’t heard already? The slugger is just a few months away from turning 41 years old, and still has yet to show signs of real regression at the plate.
Cruz hit his team-leading 10th home run of the year in Wednesday’s loss, and finished the game slashing .289/.338/.535, with an .873 OPS. Since becoming a member of the Twins in 2019, Cruz has recorded a 165 OPS+ in 212 games. And he was 38 years old when he first joined the team.
The underlying numbers suggest that he won’t slow down anytime soon, either. Cruz hits the ball harder than almost anyone in the game (92nd percentile in average exit velocity, 99th in maximum exit velocity, 97th in hard-hit rate, says Baseball Savant).Another encouraging sign is his improvement against breaking pitches.
During the 2020 season, Cruz slugged just .424 against breaking balls, with a 48.9% whiff rate. Through Wednesday, Cruz is slugging .681 against breaking balls, and his whiff rate has dropped to 39.5% in 2021. He already has more home runs on breaking balls this year (5) than he did last season (3), in 12 less at-bats ending with the pitch type.
It remains to be seen how many years Cruz has left. He’ll be 41 by the end of the season, and a free agent. But, if anyone can outsmart Father Time, it appears to be Cruz and his ever-consistent, ever-powerful bat.