Minnesota Twins infielder Nick Punto during a ...
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In case you haven’t already heard, the Cardinals signed Nick Punto.  With a team that increasingly looks to be more and more dictated by the whims of a certain sunglassed manager, why didn’t we see this one coming? Nick Punto is a classic La Russa utility infielder – he can play all over the field, and his grit factor is off the charts. He emanates scrappiness from the depths of his being. Just look at him, for crying out loud.

On with my pithy analysis. Nick Punto has a career wOBA of .293. His career high was .324 (twice), and last season his wOBA was a lowly .280. He does draw walks at a decent clip. Assuming he doesn’t go any further south than where he already is batting-wise, he’d likely cost the Cardinals 15-20 runs if, for some reason, he ended up playing almost everyday. So that means that Punto is worthless, right?

Well, no, because hitting isn’t the only thing that matters in evaluating a player. (Get with the now, man!) Punto’s teammates nicknamed him the “Human Highlight Reel” for his web-gemmy goodness. From what I gather, Punto can pick it. According to UZR, Punto rates at +6 at 2B, +19 at 3B, and +17 runs at SS, per 150 games played at each position. DRS and Total Zone like him as well, albeit to a lesser extent. Let’s just say he’s worth +6-10 runs in the field. I think that’s conservative. Punto is also known for his heady baserunning, so that’s another feather in his cap. If you give him a full season of plate appearances, you’re looking at a 1.5 WAR player or so; maybe better.

While I’m not a real fan of Punto potentially blocking younger players like Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso, for a one-year, $700,000 contract, Punto makes plenty of sense. He’s probably a fit as far as the all-important clubhouse chemistry goes, and for a team that is counting on Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and a recovering David Freese to anchor the infield, he’s nice insurance. Yes, his bat is anemic, but look around the league. 7th and 8th place hitters in the NL averaged somewhere around a .300 wOBA. I, for one feel a little better having Punto around, but if you think about it, he’s basically Brendan Ryan in a different package.

This is, in a way, another type of lateral move, but I’ll take it. Improving even modestly in what is shaping to be a tight division could prove to be crucial. I’d rather have the goofy guy, but Punto is just fine.

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Sorry other blog. I’ve neglected you. 

The Cardinals threw a bunch of crud on the wall, and none of it stuck. So they decided to sign a real brand name, bona fide LOOGY in Dennys Reyes.  Well alright. The deal is apparently for 2 years and $3M. 

The past three seasons Reyes has posted tRA+’s of 158, 106 and 107. You read the first one right. In his first season as a Twin, he was lights out. He was 2 WAR in 2006, then .4 and .6 last season, and projects to be .6 WAR again, worth a fair market value of $3M. So it’s a decent enough bargain.

Like many a LOOGY, he’s a sinker/slider pitcher. According to his Pitch F/X card at Kalk’s, his sinker comes in at 91 MPH while his slider is 85MPH. Naturally, he throws the slider to lefties nearly 50% of the time. His O-Swing% is 30.9% and batters make contact with those pitches just 40.6% of the time. He’s held LHB in check last year, to the tune of a  .202/.250/.257 line. 

TLR now has his precious two veteran lefties and everyone’s happy. Well, everyone but Royce Ring, Charlie Manning and Ian Ostlund. They’ll be disgruntled and in camp until Mexico (and Reyes) eventually gets eliminated from the WBC.

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