Torii Hunter: Better Flashy Than Good


What if this entire time that Twins fans have clamored after fan favorite Torii Hunter, we have been watching a player who is more flashy than good? That’s not a knock or an indictment in any sense, but it may be more the truth than we once believed. Even in his best years, Torii Hunter may not have been great by statistical measures, but we already know he was plenty flashy.

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A couple of days ago, Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweeted out an interesting bit of information.

For those unfamiliar with sabermetrics, or maybe even more so uninterested, UZR stands for ultimate zone rating. UZR is a metric that quantifies fielding. The process compares the event that took place to existing data on similarly hit balls to determine how well a fielder fares in comparison to the statistical mean, or “average” player. By dividing the field into zones, each area is covered by a responsible player.

So, that is to say that in 2006, Torii Hunter was well below average when it comes to covering his respective centerfield zone. He got to a significantly lower amount of batted balls than would be deemed able to be caught by the average player. All of that being said, he still won a Gold Glove that season and the next three after.

This begs the question, are Gold Gloves really just a by-product of the flashy and exciting play? Torii Hunter’s career has been littered with home run robbing and diving catches. For what he doesn’t have in straight line speed, Hunter makes up in intellect providing some truly highlight reel abilities. Knowing that when he was in the prime of his career, he was deemed below average, brings us to today.

In signing Hunter, the Twins outfield looks to have gotten worse. Moving Oswaldo Arcia over to left field and having two potential liabilities on the corners is likely not going to do the Twins pitching staff any favors. What if Hunter really isn’t all that bad though? No one has suggested that Hunter would be a trainwreck in the outfield for the Twins in 2015, but he may actually be closer to average than given credit for.

Sabermetrics and statistical analysis all suggest that Hunter has continued to decline, and is a defensive liability. While the numbers may point to that being the case, Hunter also seems to be proof of the fact that certain immeasurables hold significant weight as well. As noted in a previous story on Arcia, the outfield defense could actually improve in its current configuration. With Hunter having a better ability to adapt to the obstructions in right field at Target Field, Arcia is able to focus on playing an easier left field.

Only time is going to tell how things play out in the outfield, but the belief that the situation is dire due to Hunter’s decline, may need to be dulled to a certain extent.

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