Sunday, May 6, 2007

Finally Healthy or Playing for a Paycheck?

Torii Hunter is off to a torrid start this season. Through this afternoon's game Torii is hitting .345 with 6 home runs, 15 doubles, and 20 RBIs. He also extended his hitting streak today to 21 games, 10 shy of the Twins record 31 game hitting streak by Ken Landreaux in 1980. These numbers are huge improvements over Torii's average and even best seasons. Hunter is a lifetime .271 hitter and his best season was way back in 2000 when he hit .280.

There are a couple of explanations for Torii's hot start. The ankle he broke crashing into the outfield wall in Boston in 2005 may finally be healed. It was still visibility bothering him in the field last season, taking away some of the speed that allowed him to make his trademark leaping and diving catches. Another explanation is that Hunter is excelling because he is playing in a contract year. Torii definitely wanted a long-term contract but the Twins but the team only picked up his 1 year, $12 million option. With all the money the club has recently shelled out for Mauer and the expected raises due to Morneau and Santana, it is unlikely Torii will be roaming centerfield at the Dome next season. His hot bat may be a showcase for other teams looking for a Gold Glove outfielder next season.

In my opinion, Hunter won't be winning his 7th consecutive Gold Glove this season if he doesn't start playing fundamental baseball. Torii has been catching a lot of balls on his hip or over his shoulder when he could easily get underneath them and put two hands on the ball. Torii, you win the Gold Gloves because you get to balls that other centerfielders don't, NOT because you make the easy catches look hard. It's only a matter of time until a ball glances off your glove and turns into an embarrassing error.

One final note: Today, Curt Schilling got his first win ever at the Metrodome. He has now won in every American League park except Comerica Park in Detroit.

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