Image courtesy of Wendell Cruz, USA TodayThe Twins defense has been a topic in the second half, particularly in the infield. So I thought it might be fun to take a look at how the Twins stack up by this metric in its most recent analysis (through games of August 18th).
Unfortunately for today’s article, there is a game- or innings-played minimum in this analysis, so the Twins don’t have a player at these positions that qualify. Regarding that Rafael Palmiero Gold Glove, this would have been nice back then!
I think that the Twins feel good about their defense behind the plate. Jason Castro may not be quite what he was in previous years, but he’s still strong. And by all accounts, Mitch Garver has vastly improved his defense, specifically his ability to present pitches. While we can probably agree that their time split has probably helped keep them both fresh throughout the season, it means that neither qualifies for this.
I have always thought that Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are terrific defensive players. I think both show good range and athleticism. I still believe that, even if this data shows both in the bottom four in the AL, separated only by Lance Lynn.
However, it also shows that Martin Perez is second on the list, behind only Mike Leake of the Mariners.
CJ Cron comes in at 1.0. I don’t know and won’t take the time to figure out exactly what that means or how it’s calculated. However, it’s a positive number which means he could be considered average or a little better than average.
I think that’s fair. He got a lot of credit for some scooping early in the season. He hasn’t picked as many of late, but I generally think he’s more than adequate at the position. And, I think we can all acknowledge that he’s not A’s first baseman Matt Olson with the glove.
Jonathan Schoop comes in at a -2.1 SDI, so again, a little bit below average. That ranks ninth of qualifying second baseman. I think we can all agree that his arm is plus-plus. His range may not be real great as he’s easily the biggest player on this list. Of course, in the last month, Schoop has lost much of his playing time to Luis Arraez.
And, I don’t think any of us have any thought that Miguel Sano would rank terribly high among defensive third baseman. It would be nice to see what his numbers would look like though.
Meanwhile, Marwin Gonzalez does show up on the list at 5.1 SDI. Sano has played 66 games at third base. Marwin Gonzalez has played 40 games at third base. In other words, Gonzalez’s numbers must include his time all over the diamond. But, frankly, that makes his 5.1, a decent amount to the positive, even more impressive.
Jorge Polanco has certainly struggled in the field the last couple of weeks, but until that point, his defense went generally unnoticed, which is a good thing. His SDI is -0.3, which would say that he’s been about average in 2019. I fact, he fits in at seventh out of 12 AL shortstops.
Old Friend Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers ranks third at 4.0 SDI.
Max Kepler is tremendous in right field, and good in center field. He comes in at 6.1 SDI, second among AL right fielders behind only Red Sox Mookie Betts (8.9).
While Betts will likely win another Gold Glove, Kepler absolutely should be a finalist and get serious consideration. I’m sure having 34 homers already and playing on a winning team help his case.
Despite missing a decent amount of time this season, Byron Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks atop the list of 14 American League center fielders. In fact, Rays OF Kevin Keirmaier ranks second at 6.3 SDI and recently-released Billy Hamilton is third at 5.7.
In fact, Buxton’s 8.9 SDI ranks fourth among all AL players, regardless of position. He ranks behind only A’s 3B Matt Chapman (13.0), Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez (11.9) and Rays SS Willy Adames (9.9).
Saving the best for last? No, but saving the most interesting - at least to me - for last.
Eddie Rosario’s defense has been a bit of a roller coaster throughout his career, and even in the 2019 season there have been plenty of ups and downs.
Rosario posts a -2.4 SDI, so again, below zero. But what does that mean? He ranks fifth of ten qualifying left fielders. Only two AL left fielders have a positive SDI, and Royals Alex Gordon has a 0.2 SDI. So, I feel fairly comfortable saying that Rosario’s defense this year hasn’t been good, but it isn’t terrible.
But to the big story… The top defensive left fielder according to the SABR Defensive Index is Oakland A’s Robbie Grossman. And not just by a little bit. Grossman has a 5.8 SDI, well ahead of Gordon’s 0.2.
So what do we make of that? Does it completely ruin any value that SDI has in your mind? Does it mean that Grossman is actually playing really good defense in 2019? Truly, I don’t know how to read that, and don’t want to read into it. But it is statistical, analytical, based on the same information that every other left fielder is evaluated by.
So, what do you think?
It feels like - aside from the Grossman thing - this data kind of verifies what we probably thought of the Twins defensive play in 2019. It verifies that Byron Buxton is amazing and that Max Kepler is really good. Marwin Gonzalez has provided defensive value wherever he’s played. Beyond that, there are several very average defenders, and despite his recent struggles, Polanco has been OK for most of the year.
What else do you see from this data?
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