On Defense

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Historically the Twins have been praised for their ability to compete with less money than other teams in their division, most notably the White Sox and Tigers. Most analysts when talking about the Twins’ ability to compete with less resources always come back to the pitching and defense. By traditional baseball numbers, the Twins have indeed been very good defensively. This year they are once again being called among the best defensive teams in baseball. The Twins are 2nd in the majors with a .990 fielding percentage and are tied with the Pirates for committing the 2nd least amount of errors in baseball (32). So at least they’re catching the ball when they get to it. But is their defense really that good? According to UZR, it is not. The Twins are 8th from the bottom in UZR with a -16.4 mark. UZR isn’t perfect (it has a range of approximately +/- 5 runs) so the Twins could be a bit better, or they could be a bit worse.

Breaking down the Twins positionally:

Two things I learned doing this: 1. I am terrible with Paint. I need to hire a paint guy. and 2. The Twins are terrible defensively. Their 11.4 mark at third base is the only thing approaching blue, and one of only two positive numbers (their .6 at SS being the other). Interestingly, Brendan Harris has been their best defensive shortstop, and Michael Cuddyer of all people has been their best centerfielder. However, there’s only 3 months of data in this season and Carlos Gomez has gotten robbed of playing time, so centerfield should be much better than it is. Hopefully Delmon Young gets traded and that CF mark gets moved closer to the teal. I do think that Denard Span is underrated a bit by UZR and Nick Punto has been underrated a lot by UZR this year, although he has had a bit of trouble catching the ball this year.

Closer to the end of the season I’d like to take a look at all the Twins teams going back to 2002 (when the earliest UZR data is available) and see how the team has trended. And yes, that hopefully will give me enough time to become at least semi-competent with Paint.

*For an explanation of UZR go here. For a more abbreviated version, go here.