Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Hello Nick Punto!

Mastermind Tony La Russa reclaimed the reins yesterday after his 6 game hiatus for medical reasons, and promptly baffled the masses with another gem in his ever-entertaining lineup switcharoos.  Looking back on it (hindsight, and all…) the experiment was a success.  Defensive positional tweaking resulted in an impressive infield upgrade.  Solid gloves and a pair of successful double plays behind the stellar performance of starting pitcher Jake Westbrook earned the Cardinals a W against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, easing the painful memories of last weekend’s embarrassing sweep by the Reds.

Yes, the media jumped all over the sight of Albert Pujols patrolling third base for the first time since 2002.  Highlights (if you missed them) from mlb.com:  http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14866351

However, the lesser-known Cardinal covering second base earned himself a few more brownie points last night.  Nick Punto, the off-season pick-up touted as our new utility guy has worked overtime while Cardinal infielders Skip Schumaker (2nd base) and David Freese (3rd base) are nursing prolonged injuries. Last night Punto’s defense dazzled, which got me wondering…

image by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images from Zimbio

Who is Nick Punto?

  • 33 years old
  • Switch-hitter
  • Drafted in 1998 by the Phillies
  • 2001-2003  Phillies (didn’t play much)
  • 2004-2010 Twins
  • January 2011, free agent, signed 1 year, $750,000 deal with Cardinals

While skimming the internet for back stories and tidbits on Nick Punto, it became obvious I was rereading the same commentaries over and over again.  Punto has a great glove, but…..

For example, Aaron Gleeman (MinnPost.com) wrote:

“As a diminutive, punchless infielder with a great glove and far more frenetic energy than actual talent, Punto represents everything Gardenhire looks for (and tends to significantly overrate) in a non-star. No other manager would’ve given Punto an average of 434 plate appearances per season for a six-year span in which he hit .248/.323/.325 and had a sub-.650 OPS four times. Since his Twins debut in 2005, no MLB player has more plate appearances with a lower OPS.”

Great glove, can’t hit, “frenetic energy”?  Now, why does that sound vaguely familiar to me?

Suffice it to say, the season is still early and we have a lot of baseball yet to appreciate.  However, Nick Punto has earned a mention here at Diamond Diaries.  Sure, the guy may only be batting .266 (note: Pujols is currently batting .259), but with the frustrating recent parade of errors and ailing fundamentals plaguing the Cardinals’ 2011 defense, we are all looking for a hero with a glove. So, throw in some timely extra base hits -a few doubles plus two triples – and Nick gets me smiling. Dirty uniform, quick hands, head first slides… Can you say scrappy??

Hello, Nick Punto!  So nice to meet ya!

For your viewing pleasure: some Punto highlights from mlb.com.

Punto’s 2-run double (and sweet slide)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14835551

Punto starts a double play (lovely!)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14289541

Our red-hot lefty, Jaime Garcia, takes the mound tonight at 7:15, facing Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in the final game of this short 2-game series.

Go Cards!!  😉

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