Byron Buxton Playing with Historical Greatness

Photo: @Twins - Twitter

Sunday afternoon was just another day at the ballpark for Byron Buxton. Yes, the Minnesota Twins superstar struggled against Chicago White Sox starter, Lucas Giolito, striking out in all three of his at-bats vs the former All-Star. But Buck made up for his hat trick from earlier in the day, during his next two plate appearances against an exceptional Sox’ bullpen.

In the 7th, Buxton hit a 2-run opposite field shot that tied the game, 3-3. But in the 10th, he stepped to the plate with his team trailing 4-3, and two runners on base. After a Wild pitch moved the runners up to 2nd and 3rd, the 2021 Reliever of the Year, Liam Hendriks, got cocky. Behind in the count, 3-1, with first base open and only one out in the inning, he decided not to walk Byron Buxton.

Pitch to Byron Buxton at Your Own Risk

Why did the White Sox pitch to Byron Buxton here? Nobody knows. Putting Buck on 1st base would have opened the chance at a double play and, even if on base, his run didn’t matter. The runner on 3rd was the tying run. The guy on 2nd would have won it. Once he was on base, he really wouldn’t have been a threat, given the situation.

It was the perfect excuse to walk a guy who had already hit 5 homeruns in just 10 games, leading up to that at-bat. Instead, Hendriks went after Buxton and Buxton made him pay with a walk off bomb into the upper deck at Target Field. And suddenly, the baseball world is paying attention to the Minnesota Twins.

Fans and experts across the MLB are starting to realize how good Byron Buxton really is. If you’re surfing the internet this morning, you’ll find a lot of people calling him the best player in the game/league/world. They’re right.

Buxton the GOAT

Buxton has played in just 10 games this season, thanks to an injury he suffered sliding into 2nd base earlier this month. Still, he leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, and would lead the OPS race… if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Buxton is also 1 of 8 players to achieve 1.2 WAR already this season. Nobody else has reached that mark in less than 14 games played.

Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Correa also called him the best player in the world after the game. Who would argue? Buxton is 6 for 9 with 3 HR, 7 RBI and 5 Runs in the last two games since returning from his injury scare. His numbers through the 10 games he’s played don’t even make sense. A 299 OPS+? Vlad Guerrero Jr led the league in that statistic last season with 166. The benchmark for a good player is 100.

And it’s not just about how he makes big plays. It’s about WHEN he makes them. Like today, when he hit a HR to tie the game in the 7th and another to win it in the 10th. Buxton lives for the big moment because he’s driven by lifting his team, not by individual stats. Not only is he the best player in baseball, but he’s the most humble. Buck is the perfect fit for a Minnesota superstar.

’22 STATGPABHBBHRRBIAVGSLGOPSOPS+WAR
BUXTON10371326*11.351.946*1.3612991.2
*Best in MLB (via Baseball-Reference)

Historically Great

But Byron Buxton isn’t just a great player by today’s standards. He has the potential to be a cinch Hall of Famer if he can stay healthy. Hyperbole? Sure, it’s very early in the season and we’ve already had an injury scare but Buxton is on pace to run away with the AL MVP race if he can stay on the field. If he can play 100+ games, he could have one of the best seasons in baseball history, from a WAR standing.

Wins Above Replacement is the measuring stick for baseball players today. It accounts for offense and defense. Runs added and runs taken away. Pitchers might argue, because a player needs to be on the field to run the number up, but it’s the best statistic in baseball and it means everything in winning MVP.

And Byron Buxton, with his great defense and ever improving offensive game, racks up WAR like no player in baseball history. Babe Ruth collected 14.2 WAR in 1923 and that’s the most ever recorded. He holds the #2 (12.9 – 1921) and #3 (12.6 – 1927) spots on the leaderboard, too. The Great Bambino played in over 150 games in all three of those seasons.

King of WAR

Since 2000, Barry Bonds is the only player to go for over 11.0 WAR in a season. He did it in back-to-back seasons in 2001 (11.9) and 2002 (11.8). Mookie Betts won the 2018 MVP with 10.7 WAR, the most since Bonds. If Buxton played in 150 games, at his current pace, his 18.0 WAR would re-write the record books and put him in a completely different conversation than anyone else in baseball.

Doubt him if you want but Byron Buxton has already proven that he’s the best talent in the game today. If he stays on the field, Buck can achieve things we’ve never seen in Minnesota, or anywhere. Ever.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan