baseball

Twins Byron Buxton ‘world’s best player’

BALTIMORE – This is a Byron Buxton experience, concentrated on a four-game series at the Camden Yards between the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles last week.

On Monday, Buxton led first base when Louis Arrage hit a ground ball to first. The Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle stepped on the bag, looked second for a double play – and gave up. No chance. Buxton was already slipping.

“It’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen,” Mount Castle said. “I was like: ‘Did he just steal there?’ I was in shock. I grabbed the ball and said, ‘Uhhh, okay, I don’t know what happened.’ But he is so fast. ”

Carlos Correa then singled to drive in Buxton with a winning run. The next night, they combined for a stylish double play: tracking a fly ball at the Buxton Center Field Alert Track and firing into Korea, turning into a second to catch a runner trying to tag. The Twins won again.

In the third game, Buxton did not play and the Twins lost. They were healthy, but the Twins would build in the days off to keep them fresh for a long time.

In the fourth game, Buxton returned to the team. The Twins lost again, but Buxton drove in all three of them. In the fifth inning, he turned in a 3-0 count and started a 452-foot home run to the back of the upper bullpen.

So there you have it: speed, protection, strength – and caution. Buxton is breathtaking to watch at best. The Twins want to see him as much as possible.

“He’s the best player in the world, there’s no doubt about it,” said Shortstop, who left Houston to sign a three-year, $ 105.3 million contract with the Twins in spring training.

“Speaking of talent, they are the best. They have to stay on the field and show it, but when I see it, I know the talent. Playing in the same division with Mike Trout, playing with the greatest players in the Astros – nobody has more talent than him. No one throws harder, nobody runs faster, so when you talk about talent and when you talk about accessories, it’s all about talent.

Buxton was the best overall hitter, Correa insisted, and he could cite the traditional stats: By Friday, Buxton hit .290 with nine homers in a major league lead. Their combined on-base and slugging percentage was 1.109.

Instead, Korea has mentioned the creation of Runs created Plus, a metric that measures the overall run of the ballpark elements. According to FanGraphs, Buxton has been in that category with 181 in the last two seasons. He has only followed Mike Trout and Juan Soto since 2020.

To find Buxton on those leaderboards, you need to adjust the limits for playing time. After making his debut in 2015 – three years after the Twins drafted him second overall, Korea – Buxton has lost time with his left thumb, groin, left thumb, left wrist, right wrist, left shoulder, right hip and injuries. The left hand. He has had time for migraines and concussions. He left Saturday’s win over Oakland with a pain in the hip.

When people call him injury prone, Buxton said, he doesn’t care. When they call him the best player in the world, it gives him some joy but the same effect.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Buxton said. “I do, I have to go out there and prove it. I know I haven’t played a lot of games, but I know I can be like that. It’s fun for me. It puts me on my toes – there is always something to worry about. It’s a challenge for me. And I like the challenges.

As a free agent last offseason, his challenge was to find a way to stay in Minnesota. Both parties hoped to continue the relationship; Baxley, Ga. When Buxton was drafted by Appling County High School in Atlanta, he told his parents he wanted to spend his entire career with a team. But his profile was riddle.

When Buxton plays, the team will be a juggernaut. From 2019 (through Friday), the Twins were 96-110 without Buxton. In the same time frame, he was 130-75 with him – .634 win percentage, better than the best team in Minnesota history, 1965 Pennant winners (.630). That kind of effect required a big pay day, but health history wanted sanity.

“We tried to find the intersection between the two, and it took years – in some ways, really at least two years,” said Derek Falvey, president of baseball operations twins. “We were looking for comparisons and we couldn’t really find anything. But he really wanted to be here, and I think that’s what makes it stand out.

Shortly before the lockout, Buxton signed a seven-year, $ 100 million contract, earning an additional $ 10.5 million per season to reach the maximum with the first five-year full trade-in clause and bonus structure: 625 plate appearances and first-place finish in the Most Valuable Player Awards. It can just happen.

“He can do everything as a great player,” said Justin Morneau, now a Twins broadcaster who won the American League MVP in 2006 as his first baseman. “When you’re on the field, you can be an athlete too. Look around and go: That guy’s better than everyone else.

Manager Rocco Baldelli battles the Buxton leadoff for a basic reason: he wants to get more chances to hit his best player. Buxton rarely steals bases because he is already in the scoring position. Since 2019, he has 116 extra-base hits and only 113 combined singles and walks, making his mark as a hitter.

“I played against him in High-A and I have never seen anyone run faster in my life,” said Twins hitting coach David Popkins. “He was a completely different hitter then, keeping it in the game and running and using his speed. But this version of him is insane.

This edition, Buxton said officially. For years he tried so hard to rejoice, diligently applying the advice from every coach who saw him. Through his first four major league seasons, he hit .230 with a .387 slugging percentage, more than happy to be on the field than at the plate.

“I was defensive-oriented where to play 27 outs for the twins and 27 for the ones we were playing,” Buxton said. “Like, I play defense rather than go to the plate, and that’s because I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have anything.”

With the help of former Twins hitting coach James Rowson, Buxton has learned to simplify his mechanical cues and trust his instincts as a hitter. They don’t take much pitches because they know that they can barrel almost everything near the strike zone.

“And it makes it really fun again, because I’m not going to get over what you’re going to do to me,” Buxton said. “I’m the aggression-first guy.”

Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who led Minnesota to its two championships in 1987 and 1991, was hit by an exaggerated leg kick. Buxton lifts his foot off the dirt, generating force from the ground and shifting it upwards with the bat. It’s a subtle skill, but Popkins said it makes Buxton the most incredible hitter he has ever seen.

“He’s always waiting for you, like, ‘Whatever you do, I’m in the ground, so good luck,'” Popkins said. “He leaves the ground a little bit for a step, but it’s early and he’s always there, and you see him grabbing both feet. His feet are like hands; he grabs the ground and twists it.

As amazing as he is in the batters’ box, Buxton said he still gets his big thrill from defense. He said eliminating the hit, changing the momentum of the game, was the way to lift the pitcher and all the fielders.

Buxton did a lot in 2017, when Wilson was named the overall defensive player he led the Twins to the playoffs. It was his only season playing 100 games, though, reminiscent of the weakness of the classics.

Some of Buckston’s later injuries were unavoidable – a midfield wall collided with a pain in his shoulder, a foul ball that broke his toe, a pitch that broke his wrist. His fate has led him to turn around, and the twins want to keep him from getting down on the field once in a while. They enjoy the show, but the running time is long.

“I think we’ve come up with a philosophy around here: appreciate it for what it is,” Mornio said. “We don’t know what the future holds. Look out there today and see him run the ball in the gap and appreciate it. See him converting a single into a double like no one else does. You hope he is healthy, but nobody knows what’s going to happen today. Watch and appreciate a more electric player.

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