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Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:36 AM
Per Spotrac:   Justin Verlander signed a 2 year / $66,000,000 contract with the Houston Astros, including $66,000,000 guaranteed, an...
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MLB.com Top 30 Twins Prospects

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MLB redesigned their prospect ranking pages and released the Twins top 30 today. 
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Zack Littell on Throwing Multiple Sliders

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:07 PM
https://blogs.fangra...is-two-sliders/ Interesting piece over at FanGraphs where Zack Littell discusses the two different sliders he used...
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Thorpe leaving camp for a spell

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  "To who this may concern! I’ve left camp for a week or 2 for personal matters. I’m healthy and excited for this year. I’ll be bac...
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YouTube TV Drops Fox Sports Regional Networks

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Does MLB and its TV affiliates (mostly Fox Sports channels) realize how idiotic they are being by not being available to be watched on ma...
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Recent Blogs


How Good Can the Twins Defense Become in 2020?

Last year, one of the few things the Twins were pretty bad at was their defense, especially on the infield. While signing Josh Donaldson may have been a huge step toward improving that, there are still some question marks. Here are five questions I thought are worth being asked.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Is Garver’s improvement sustainable?
Jason Castro’s tenure with the Twins is over, but more important than his contributions on the field were his two years as Mitch Garver’s defensive mentor. While he is still not an elite defensive catcher, his improvement was as clear as crystal, more specifically at the catcher-framing front. Per Baseball Prospectus, he was worth -8.2 framing runs in 2018, ranking 110th among 117 qualified catchers. In 2019, he improved that number to 4.2 framing runs, good for 28th among 113 catchers. Another angle is to look at Savant’s Runs From Extra Strike. Here’s how he improved in that metric, as well as in total strike rate.

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It seems as if he loves catching and he has put a lot of effort into becoming a better catcher. The big question for this year is whether he can permanently sustain that improvement he learned. If he does, put that together with new Twin Alex Avila’s good defense (+5 Runs From Extra Strike in 2019) and Minnesota will have a nice backstop combo.

How is Sanó going to handle first base?
Miguel Sanó has a very small sample playing at first base. Including his minor league career, he has a combined 223 innings playing there. But it’s safe to say that he’s had much more success at first then he’s had at third. While he was worth -5 DRS and -6.7 UZR in the hot corner in 2019, those numbers improve to -1 DRS and -0.1 UZR in nine games at first base. His fielding percentage at first (.956) was also much higher than at third (.926). It’s going to be very interesting to know how that works over a full season and also how he will develop through the years in his new role.

Can Donaldson have another good year defensively?
In 2019, Josh Donaldson was worth 15 DRS, the second most among all third basemen in the majors. Using Statcast’s new Outs Above Average (OAA) for infielders, we can also notice that he’s been the third best in the position at that metric, with 8, behind only Gold Glove Winners Nolan Arenado (17) and Matt Chapman (14). However, in the previous three seasons, probably because of a series of injuries, those numbers were considerably worse. Nonetheless, not once in that that span did his DRS go below 1, which is far better than anything Sanó has managed to do there defensively (his career DRS at third is -19). So, either way, he is much likely going to represent a considerable improvement.

Will Rosario bounce back?
Now here’s a tricky one. While Eddie Rosario had his worst season defensively in 2019, we can also see an unusual pattern for his career. His defensive performances over the years have been going up and down. Per Statcast’s OAA, he was MLB worst outfielder, with -17. But at the same time, before last year, his worst OAA result was -3 in 2017, which was still better than those of Mike Trout, George Springer and Bryce Harper, to name a few. In 2016, he was worth 4 OAA. He’s also been on a roller coaster when it comes to DRS in the outfield, as his career numbers stand thus:

2015: 11
2016: 2
2017: -10
2018: 5
2019: -8

So, which Rosario will be out on the field this year?

Can Buxton stay healthy all year?
Here we have the most important question. Byron Buxton became the Twins’ everyday center fielder in 2017 and he had an outstanding season, which earned him MVP votes. He led all outfielders in the majors with 26 OAA and was worth 24 DRS, ranking third-highest in the league. But since then, he simply couldn’t catch a break when it came to his health. After being on the field for 1,143 innings in 2017, he played for only 924 innings in the following two seasons combined. While it seems like he’s finally found his touch offensively (111 wRC+ and .827 OPS last year, both career best), he was missed even more in the field. In 2019, the Twins outfield was worth 12 DRS and Buxton was responsible for 10 of those, even though he was out on the field for only 692 innings. He can single-handedly raise the bar for Minnesota’s outfield.

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11 Comments

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jorgenswest
Jan 26 2020 09:13 AM
The key is improvement from Arraez and Polanco. By every measure Arraez was a poor 2B in a partial season. He now has the job full time. He needs to be a lot better or there are going to many extended innings and shorter starts.

I am hoping Polanco’s leg trouble caused his drop from below average to poor last year and he can approach below average with healthier legs. Donaldson may help here a little but it is his weaker arm that keeps him from playing deep cutting down his range. The weak arm compounded with the leg issue that led to too many balls in play turning into base runners.

Last year the Twins converted 69% of balls in play into outs. That was new league bottom. At the top the Astros and Dodgers were at 73%. I don’t care how players do individually in the metrics but as a team they must do a much better job of converting balls in play into outs. Better coverage from Arraez and Polanco will be needed to make that happen.

 

"I am hoping Polanco’s leg trouble caused his drop from below average to poor last year and he can approach below average with healthier legs."

 

This is not a criticism of Jorgenswest's statement; however is there anything that better sums up the Twins defensive dilemma than hoping that the most important defensive position on the field can improve all the way to below average.

 

I have been sick, and recovering with meds and long hours in the recliner watching 30 Rock reruns.Somehow it sounds like Liz Lemon putting a positive spin on TGS's ratings.

 

I think we will see a better defensive performance by Rosario this year. He injured his ankle in June and was obviously not healthy the rest of the year. He just couldn't get to the balls in play that he normally would. I believe that also led to the perception that he just wasn't trying as hard on defense. Of course he probably will still make the bonehead throws to the wrong base that we all know and "love".

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this
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puckstopper1
Jan 26 2020 01:36 PM

Buxton's health and the ability of Sano to handle playing 1st every day are the two keys to better Twins defense this season IMO.

The big questions are SS and CF.No matter the metrics or the shifts, these remain the most important positions on the field.

 

    • Platoon likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Jan 26 2020 05:47 PM
The two most important questions are Polanco at SS and Rosario in LF. Both will play lots of innings and both have to improve. Both were playing hurt last year but I do that a tick above average is the ceiling for both. Most likely scenario is they're both a tick below average in 2020. Suboptimal but we can survive that if Buxton plays lots of innings in CF and helps Rosario and Donaldson plays a lot of 3B and helps Polanco. I really think that s is the second most important things we can do to improve our chances of postseason success; improve the defense.
I don't pretend to know alot of advanced metrics, so my question is-with the porous defense last year-how is it quantified to games won and lost. Or with our run differential, could they have put me on the left side of the infield and still won 101...?

 

I don't pretend to know alot of advanced metrics, so my question is-with the porous defense last year-how is it quantified to games won and lost. Or with our run differential, could they have put me on the left side of the infield and still won 101...?

Yes! :)

    • Sconnie likes this
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TouchEmAllGuy
Jan 27 2020 03:34 PM

Throwback to the game last year in Boston when Eddie threw out the guy at home plate to win the game. That was electric.

Outfield above average, infield below average, catching hopefully average. I'm pretty worried about SS and 2nd base.

I am not being dismissive to those who warmly embrace defensive metrics. But I just feel those measurements are so bard to accurately quantify that I remain skeptical and still buy in a ton to the eye test.

A healthy Rosario is a quality defensive OF despite a few hair pulling moments.

Buxton for 120-140 games in a difference maker in many ways. Included in that is just allowing Kepler to stick in RF daily.

(I wish Cave could take his athleticism and exuberance and just learn to track the ball better to be a more natural alternative in CF on an occasional basis.)

Good ankle, a full year with his new throwing motion, and another year of experience, I feel Polanco will continue to improve. Donaldson being to his right won't hurt him.

Arraez settling in to 2B, with experience of 2019 under his belt, will settle down to be at least OK.

The infield defense will not be great. But I think it will be improved.