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Casey at the Bat (Metrics Version)

Other Baseball Today, 10:03 PM
I purloined this from WAPO. A modern version of an old classic. https://www.washingt...nl_ideas&wpmm=1
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Front Page: Hot Corner Consideration: Potential Third Bas...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:03 PM
Inside the Twins’ meeting rooms this winter, plenty of discussion will be focused on starting pitching. However, third base should be a s...
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Front Page: Dealing with Wheeler Gets Minnesota an Ace

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:18 PM
This offseason the Minnesota Twins chief focus is going to be on acquiring impact pitching. The front office has suggested as much, and w...
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Plan to reduce minor league teams

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 05:41 PM
https://www.nytimes....ue-changes.html   https://www.baseball...r-league-teams/   It would appear that MLB must be thinking the...
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2019 MLB (Non-Twins) Postseason Discussion Thread

Other Baseball Today, 04:20 PM
Here's thread for general (non-Twins) 2019 MLB postseason discussion!
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Recent Blogs


ALDS Takeaways, Part 2: Miguel Sanó and the Athleticism Gap

The two key hits of the series, for my money, each came when a Yankee batter spanked a ground ball between Miguel Sanó and the foul line to drive in a run. In Game 1, Gleyber Torres’s go-ahead double really began the landslide, and in Game 3, Brett Gardner took calculated advantage of Sanó repositioning himself to cash in a key run from third base, changing the atmosphere of the ballpark from hopeful and noisy to frustrated and confused in two seconds flat.
Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
 Three games should hardly form the basis of a team’s offseason mentality, but this five-part series will explore five takeaways from the ALDS series that seem both clearer and more important now than they did a week ago. Here is the link to Part 1.  
Neither hit was Sanó’s fault, exactly. The smart money says he was instructed to move off the line before the Gardner single by the Twins dugout, to better align him with the rest of the shifted infield. The Torres ball was hit hard, and the team hadn’t had a shift on against Torres, so Sanó was a step further from the line than he might have been otherwise.

(It’s a story for another time, but the Twins were on track to shift more often against right-handed batters than any other team in baseball until about mid-August, and then they plunged into the middle of the pack. That paradigm shift is somewhat inscrutable, at least for the moment.)

Still, they each demonstrated something true about Sanó, something the Twins will have to reckon with this winter on a large scale: he’s a below-average third baseman, especially when a particular play puts a premium on quick reaction and a good first step.

At Baseball Prospectus Night at Target Field in August, GM Thad Levine said the team tried to keep Sanó at third whenever they could in 2019, believing he remained more engaged with the game both day-to-day and plate appearance-to-plate appearance when manning the hot corner. That might be so, and it might have been sufficient justification for lining things up that way throughout this season, but in 2020, they need to find a way to keep him engaged and his production maximized while slotting him in at first base every day. As a team, and especially as an infield, they suffered from a fatal dearth of athleticism and defensive prowess in the ALDS. That was thrown into particularly sharp relief by the dazzling play of the Yankees’ very strong defensive infield.

Sliding Sanó over to first base diminishes the value of his strong arm, but his range and hands would be fine there with a solid winter of work. The team ought to encourage him to play in the Dominican Winter League (but to stay far away from podiums, of course, should he win another championship there), and to work to become the best defensive first baseman he can be. As demonstrated by everyone from Albert Pujols to Mitch Moreland, it can be better to be an overqualified first baseman than to be an under-qualified defender elsewhere on the diamond, and there are more ways to stay intimately connected to the action at first base than it might seem.

Of course, that move would squeeze C.J. Cron out of the picture. That’s somewhat regrettable, because he put together some brilliant at-bats for the team and (when healthy) added tremendous power for a bottom-of-the-order hitter. However, on balance, it’s the right choice. Cron’s thumb injury hampered him so much throughout the second half that he’s no sure bet to bounce back in 2020, and his arbitration salary will be inflated by his strong power numbers.

Swapping Cron for Sanó and finding a replacement at third base who brings more athleticism is necessary, but not sufficient. The team needs better athletes in the outfield, too, unless Byron Buxton has a fully healthy season next year—and at this point, betting on that outcome would constitute malpractice. Trading Eddie Rosario, while a painful proposition, certainly has to be a consideration, but his likely replacements in left field are Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, and neither of them is an above-average defensive outfielder, either.

This is where Royce Lewis might soon enter the frame. His encouraging offensive showing in the Arizona Fall League and dubious recent scouting reports on his future at shortstop allow one to envision him reaching the parent club as a third baseman (he’s played there most of the time in the AFL) who moonlights as a speedy outfielder, by the middle of next season. One way or another, though, the team has to upgrade its defense, and that starts with Sanó changing mitts.

  For Part 1 of this series, click here. 

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88 Comments

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Tommygun921
Oct 11 2019 06:57 AM
If the Twins could find a Schoop like 3rd baseman to hold down the fort until June....then cross your fingers and hope Lewis is ready.
I wondered the same a few different times during the ALDS on why players were playing so far off the line. Like Sano and Rosario.

In theory I would agree, but with so many more pressing needs in the rotation and bullpen, weakening the lineup by dropping Cron and moving Sano leaves a big void at 3B.There is no minor leaguer ready to take over there and only Gonzales could slide in to a semi-permanent third basement, thereby severely weakening the bench and team flexibility.

 

Better to resign Cron for one year and hope that one of he top minor leaguers is ready later in the year or 2021.

    • glunn, brvama, DocBauer and 4 others like this

Sano made a fantastic play in the 1st inning of game 1 to keep that inning from being big. The two biggest defensive plays in my book were the pop fly that Arraez didn't get to and the double play relay that wasn't caught. I would even put Cave's completely futile dive in left field that allowed the 2nd run in game 3 way ahead of anything Sano did defensively. Twins could slide Arraez to 3rd and keep Schoop until Lewis.Or count on more reps from Sano to help him improve. I remember Joe Crede and others were considered liabilities defensively early and then settling in to be quite good with experience.

    • SQUIRREL, ashbury, glunn and 14 others like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 11 2019 07:39 AM

Good article.That 3B requires a quick, fast, dependable defender is even more true in view of the shifts being used now. Lewis would be wonderful at 3B. 

    • birdwatcher, Dantes929 and Huskertwin like this
I like Lewis at third as well. He's not ready though. This may be way off base but what about Schoop? He's a good defender with quite the arm. Seems to me he's a better fit there than Arraez, who's bat plays better at second. I like Arraez as a starter but he needs to work hard on his defense. In fact defense needs to be a focus this off-season for the whole team. Plays like Cave's dive (which he had done before in the regular season) are inexcusable for a pro ballplayer.
    • brvama and Nine of twelve like this

The problem wasn't really specific to just Sano.Our whole infield was poor defensively.

 

Polanco is tied for dead last (32nd) in UZR at SS with a minimum of 500 innings. (-9.1 UZR)

 

Schoop was 25th of 31 in UZR at 2B with the 500 minimum innings (Arraez had 390 innings at 2B but was even worse in UZR than Schoop, -5.0 UZR for Arraez and -3.7 for Schoop)

 

Cron was 19th of 29 in UZR at 1st with more than 500 innings. (-0.6 UZR)

 

Sano was 29th of 32 at 3rd (-6.7 UZR).Marwin Gonzalez had 291 innings but a decent 2.6 UZR.

    • glunn, wavedog, Dantes929 and 7 others like this

One option would be resign Schoop and put Arreaz at third. Or keep Gonzalez at third and don't trade Rosario. But really, I'd rather the team focus on improving the pitching staff than moving around deck chairs. The position players are - more or less - set. 

    • SQUIRREL, Twins33, brvama and 2 others like this
I think a lot of people have a bias against Sano. Since he has gotten himself in shape and transformed himself to one of the premier right handed power hitters in the game, there is really only one place left to focus that distaste: his defense.

Is his defense stellar? No. Is really as bad as some would like you to believe? No.

How many 3B would’ve made those plays? Are we going to chastise a guy for not being an Arenado level defender at the hot corner?

Where are articles demanding Polanco to be mixed from shortstop? If I wasn’t a Polanco fan (he has his own skeletons with the PED issue) I could point to him being second to Tim Anderson for the MLB lead in errors (while Anderson recorded more opportunities, more out outs, was in on more double plays, etc.). That’s certainly not ideal.

Why is Cron considered a good defender around here? His drop on the double play was massive, and infinitely more routine than a sprawling backhanded play on a smash down the 3B line.

The list goes on. I understand that Sano isn’t the best defender in the league at 3B. But, he’s certainly not the worst. He’s very adept at coming in on balls, and his arm allows him to play in such a position that he may get to some balls other 3Bs can’t (can play deeper).

There is value in having that bat at 3B. Until recently (with Devers, Chapman, etc emerging), that position was a Barron wasteland offensively for half a decade. If you’re not plugging in someone who can hit at his level, you’re taking a lot of runs off the board next year. Especially when you consider the decline that will already be built in due to regression and the ball (we saw how that killed the Twins in the playoffs, who need multiple home runs to win a game).

I get this is the time for speculation. But, this topic has been beaten and beaten and beaten. There is a reason why the Twins braintrust, widely considered among the sharpest in the MLB (thus the world), decided the team is better off at 3B. This team didn’t lose the playoff series because Sano was unable to make one of the most epic plays we would’ve seen in this entire postseason (but some want you to think it’s routine). The primary reason this team lost, if we need to get into that, was Baldelli’s awful management. The thing was over once he decided to punt game 1 and bring AAA relievers into Yankee stadium. Second was the front-offices inability to solidify the pitching staff (I said all year it was going to rear it’s head eventually). Third was the offense dropping the bats and placing both hands firmly around their own necks. Fourth were the numerous defensive miscues on plus that were realistic to be made (Cave, Arraez, Cron). Fourth was whatever was wrong with Max Kepler.

The point that kind of burns me about the constant scapegoating with Sano was brought up in the article. He’s not responsible for his defensive alignment. And off all people to shift on, is Brett Gardner really included? Sure, maybe the short term numbers say that, but he’s sprayed the ball all over the field for his entire career.

I like Sano. You get a stud 3B that can hit? By all means move him to 1st. But, there are much bigger problems this team needs to address, and it’s not even close.
    • SQUIRREL, gunnarthor, brvama and 22 others like this

 

The problem wasn't really specific to just Sano.Our whole infield was poor defensively.

 

Polanco is tied for dead last (32nd) in UZR at SS with a minimum of 500 innings. (-9.1 UZR)

 

Schoop was 25th of 31 in UZR at 2B with the 500 minimum innings (Arraez had 390 innings at 2B but was even worse in UZR than Schoop, -5.0 UZR for Arraez and -3.7 for Schoop)

 

Cron was 19th of 29 in UZR at 1st with more than 500 innings. (-0.6 UZR)

 

Sano was 29th of 32 at 3rd (-6.7 UZR).Marwin Gonzalez had 291 innings but a decent 2.6 UZR.

I'm not full on board with defensive metrics but that is really bad.

 

 

One option would be resign Schoop and put Arreaz at third. Or keep Gonzalez at third and don't trade Rosario. But really, I'd rather the team focus on improving the pitching staff than moving around deck chairs. The position players are - more or less - set. 

I more or less agree with you.The team focus should be pitching. The individual focus should be improving their defense. I am a believer that talent is a big part of defense but that skill is huge also. You are born with the talent, you develop the skill. I mentioned Crede before but I think there are a lot of guys that became good defenders by focusing on the fundamentals, taking lots and lots of reps and just working hard at it and taking pride in it.

    • glunn, gunnarthor, AceWrigley and 1 other like this

Cal Ripken made himself into a good fielding shortstop by hard work; took so many practice grounders from his dad, practically wore pops out! He was also a master at positioning. For his size I think Sano is pretty athletic and does make some plays that are spectacular. Left to right range is probably limited though, so positioning becomes even more important for him. The best range is standing in the right place.

    • glunn, brvama, Dantes929 and 4 others like this
Defense matters. The whole infield is sub par including Sano. I wanted a strong SS with Polanco moving to second. That would have made a considerable difference. I don’t know what you do with Arreaz. His bat is great but in the field not so much
    • SQUIRREL and wabene like this
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Kelly Vance
Oct 11 2019 08:37 AM

Pretty unfair. You write a headline like this, making it seem Miggy was at fault for not being athletic enough, then you bury this admission in the story

 

 

 

Neither hit was Sanó’s fault, exactly. The smart money says he was instructed to move off the line before the Gardner single by the Twins dugout, to better align him with the rest of the shifted infield. The Torres ball was hit hard, and the team hadn’t had a shift on against Torres, so Sanó was a step further from the line than he might have been otherwise.

    • gunnarthor, Dantes929, SwainZag and 3 others like this

Twice during the playoffs, The Twins had Sano at 3B and Gonzalez at 1B for at least part of the game.(Note this point was made on a previous game thread on TD). From Fangraphs Gonzalez's UZR/150 at 3B is about +19.Sano's UZR/150 is -19.Gonzalez is a significantly better at 3B.Twins explanation is that Sano is more engaged as a hitter when at 3B.If Sano can not engage himself as a hitter while playing 1B or DH, I am not sure what to think.Maybe Sano needs to find a new job.That the Twins management chose to field a weaker defensive alignment, that is on the manager/management.  

 

Watching the Cardinals vs Braves series, it is very clear who are the players who start for offense and those who are in the game for defense.In game 5, with 10 run lead, Matt Carpenter, the starting 3B because of his offense, did not even take the field.

    • glunn, Danchat, PDX Twin and 3 others like this

I think it's only a matter of time before Sano moves off third, now seems as good a time as any. Try first base for a year. 

 

Dunno what to do about 3rd.

    • Platoon, kenbuddha and jz7233 like this

I think it's only a matter of time before Sano moves off third, now seems as good a time as any. Try first base for a year.

Dunno what to do about 3rd.


Agreed.
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 11 2019 09:11 AM

What I do with Sano depends almost entirely on what third basemen are available this offseason and for what price. Maybe I'm clinging to Gonzalez' flexibility too much but I really want to keep him in that role.

 

Or maybe they make Adrianza the super sub and Gonzalez the third baseman. That might not be a terrible solution.

    • Seth Stohs, glunn, Twins33 and 3 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 11 2019 09:13 AM

 

One option would be resign Schoop and put Arreaz at third. Or keep Gonzalez at third and don't trade Rosario. But really, I'd rather the team focus on improving the pitching staff than moving around deck chairs. The position players are - more or less - set. 

The thing is that the Twins infield - especially if you plug in Arraez at second full-time - is really bad.

 

Fixing infield defense improves the pitching staff.

    • SQUIRREL, howieramone2 and wabene like this

Marwin Gonzalez is a good choice as a replacement for Sano at third base, at least until Lewis is ready.  Marwin's career range factor at 3b in 133 games is 2.74.This would rank 7th in major league baseball this year, just ahead of Jose Ramirez. 

    • glunn likes this

Polanco needs to be the long-term 3rd baseman for defensive purposes, Sano to 1st, Cron gone. Gordon or Adrianza can start at SS if we can't trade for someone better. Basically replacing Cron's bat with Gordon's in the everyday lineup, which isn't that bad actually. It does take away some of Marwin's versatility.  

    • justinone likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Oct 11 2019 09:29 AM

 

Polanco needs to be the long-term 3rd baseman for defensive purposes

Sure, if the team cybernetically grafts Sano's right arm to Jorge's body.

 

Otherwise, Polanco should move to second base, even if it requires trading either Jorge or Arraez (though I wouldn't do either this season unless the offer is absurd and impossible to resist).

    • SQUIRREL, USAFChief, birdwatcher and 3 others like this

I agree that it is unfair to blame the Torres hit on Sano.That was an absolute rocket - I am not sure that Brooks Robinson comes up with that one. 

    • Nine of twelve likes this

 

Sure, if the team cybernetically grafts Sano's right arm to Jorge's body.

 

Otherwise, Polanco should move to second base, even if it requires trading either Jorge or Arraez (though I wouldn't do either this season unless the offer is absurd and impossible to resist).

Does either the league or the player's association have a stance on performance-enhancing transhumanism?

    • Brock Beauchamp, SQUIRREL, Dantes929 and 3 others like this

I think Polanco's eventual position will be third base. He played there some as he was coming up and would be much less of a liability there than at short. That leaves a hole at short, but I'm hoping one of our vaunted SS prospects pan out in the next two years. Until then I think riding with Sano at third (or first if Gonzalez starts) should be serviceable. 

 

We need to remember that the Twins won over 100 games with this lineup and defense. Some changes/adjustments may be needed, but the reason we lost in the playoffs is because of pitching.

    • gunnarthor, DannySD and Nine of twelve like this

I don't think it's fair to blame Sano for the loss.As a team they lost three games in a row, did not compete in any of them, and appeared unready to play.Their coaching staff let them down by failing to put them in position to win.Their 1-2 starters should have been Berrios/Odirizzi.This wasn't Sano's fault at all.  

    • Nine of twelve likes this

I think Polanco's eventual position will be third base. He played there some as he was coming up and would be much less of a liability there than at short. That leaves a hole at short, but I'm hoping one of our vaunted SS prospects pan out in the next two years. Until then I think riding with Sano at third (or first if Gonzalez starts) should be serviceable.

We need to remember that the Twins won over 100 games with this lineup and defense. Some changes/adjustments may be needed, but the reason we lost in the playoffs is because of pitching.


Polanco has a hard enough time making throws from shortstop. He won’t be playing third any time soon.
    • SwainZag, Physics Guy, Shaitan and 3 others like this

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