StaTuesday: Buxton’s WAR puts him in elite Twins company

Minnesota Twins fans have been waiting for Byron Buxton to have a breakout season. This season, Buxton has done just that — and then some.

Buxton is having one of the best seasons this century for any Minnesota player and one of the best for a Twins center fielder in franchise history.

Entering Tuesday’s game, the 23-year-old has a slash line of .253/.316/.419 with 16 home runs, 68 runs, 50 RBI and 27 steals (with just one time caught) in 136 games. He’s also flashed his leather with several spectacular catches while leading the league in range factor and total zone runs for all outfielders.

Since 1998, Buxton will be just the sixth Twins player to post a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 5.0 or better, and just the third outfielder, joining Jacque Jones (2002) and Denard Span (2012).

(Note: you can learn more about baseball-reference’s WAR here.)

Corey Koskie 2001 6.3
Jacque Jones 2002 5.4
Joe Mauer 2006 5.8
Joe Mauer 2008 5.6
Joe Mauer 2009 7.8
Joe Mauer 2010 5.9
Denard Span 2012 5.0
Brian Dozier 2014 5.2
Brian Dozier 2016 6.5
Byron Buxton 2017 5.1

When it comes to center fielders, only two have had better seasons in Minnesota history than Buxton. Kirby Puckett had three seasons with a WAR of 5.7 or better while in 1977 Lyman Bostock had a 5.8 WAR.

Kirby Puckett 1988 7.7
Kirby Puckett 1992 7.1
Lyman Bostock 1977 5.8
Kirby Puckett 1986 5.7
Byron Buxton 2017 5.1
Denard Span 2012 5.0

When it comes to defense, Buxton is proving himself to be among the game’s best. Only one player has a better dWAR than the Twins center fielder’s 2.8 this season — Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons — while Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart also has a 2.8. Only Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier and Boston’s Mookie Betts, both outfielders, have a dWAR of 2.5 or higher this season, both at 2.6 as we enter baseball’s final week of the regular season.

As far as Twins players, only four have had better dWARs than Buxton in franchise history, and he still has a few games to move up the list.

Of the eight players in franchise history to post a dWAR of 2.5 or greater, only two — Buxton and Puckett — were outfielders.

Kirby Puckett 1984 3.2
Zoilo Versailles 1965 3.0
Greg Gagne 1990 2.9
Leo Cardenas 1969 2.9
Byron Buxton 2017 2.8
Greg Gagne 1987 2.7
Butch Wynegar 1979 2.7
Gary Gaetti 1984 2.5

And, we repeat he’s only 23. Will be fun to see what he can do for an encore in 2018.

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow, Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns