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Minnesota’s Best Defensive Seasons

Byron Buxton has been bringing home quite the hardware collection over the last week. After taking the American League Gold Glove, he was named the Platinum Glove Winner and Wilson’s award for the best defensive player in baseball. It might be time to expand his trophy room at home.

His diving catches and crashes against the wall helped him fill up highlight reels. Buxton joins the ranks of Torii Hunter and Kirby Puckett as the team’s only center fielders to win a Gold Glove. With that in mind, how does Buxton’s season rank in Twins history? Did fans just witness the team’s best defensive season?
Image courtesy of Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Corey Koskie, 3B (2002)
The 2002 season saw some of the best individual defensive seasons in team history. Corey Koskie manned the hot corner for the Twins that season and he compiled a 21.9 Fangraphs DEF total, the highest DEF ranking in club history. His 19.9 UZR ranking is also the top total in the club’s record books. If you extrapolate that total out to 150 games, his 22.4 UZR/150 would be more than four runs higher than his next closest competitor.

Jacque Jones, LF (2002)
While Koskie was dominating at third base, Jacque Jones was also performing very well in left field. His 11.5 DEF score is the seventh best in team history but his 17.6 UZR is the third best overall. He is the lone corner outfielder to rank in the top 20 for UZR and DEF. As a younger player, he spent time playing center field and those instincts clearly translated to his corner outfield spot. His season in left field was the best corner outfield season by any player in team history.

Carlos Gomez, CF (2008)
While Hunter and Puckett are legendary in center field, Gomez compiled arguably the best center field season in team history. His 20.1 DEF and 17.9 UZR totals only trail Koskie’s 2002 season at third base. When it comes range runs (RngR), Gomez tracked down more balls in his vicinity than any player in team history. His 18.9 RngR total was 4.5 runs higher than Koskie’s 2002 total. He lost out on the Gold Glove to Grady Sizemore but he scored much better than him according to defensive metrics.

Torii Hunter, CF (2003)
Seeing Hunter run hard into the Metrodome “baggie” was a common sight during the Twins renaissance in the early 2000s. Hunter won nine Gold Gloves but his best defensive season came in 2003. His 18.4 DEF is third in team history and his 16.2 UZR is one of the team’s four seasons of over 15.0 UZR. When it comes to RngR, only Gomez and Koskie rank higher with their seasons mentioned above. Hunter might be the team’s best defensive player all-time and the 2003 campaign was his crowning achievement.

Byron Buxton, CF (2017)
Buxton became the first Twins player to sweep the Gold Glove, Platinum Glove and Wilson Best Defensive Player. Some of these awards are new editions to the postseason awards circuit but it is an accomplishment to earn multiple honors naming a player as the top defender in the league. When it comes to the defensive metrics, Buxton’s totals are below Gomez (2008) and Hunter (2003). Buxton’s window as the league’s best defender might be small but he still compiled one of the team’s best defensive campaigns.

Who gets your vote for the best defensive season in team history? Koskie? Hunter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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19 Comments

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Old Twins Cap
Nov 13 2017 09:50 PM

Interesting question as to how accurate defensive metrics were in the "early" years of 2002. 

 

I think now with Statcast, comparisons from early years will come with the qualifier that such and such a defensive stat was compiled prior to the Statcast era.

 

That's my bet.

 

They are able to triangulate launch angle, exit velocity and overall route and speed of the defender, that will give them a likliehood that a catch gets made, and from that, they aggregate how many catchers of that likliehood percentage were made -- you've got your defender of the year.

 

All that said, infielders should be judged somewhat differently given the vagaries of a bouncing ball, transfer time, arm speed and thrown velocity -- different for sure, but still cast-statable.

 

 

    • Respy likes this
Can I vote for Buxton 2018?

Buxton also won the Fielding Bible award for top CF in baseball.

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Halsey Hall
Nov 14 2017 09:09 AM

I don't recall anyone having the year Buxton had. 

Out of the old-school players, Greg Gagne was pretty remarkable. I'm still waiting for a defensive SS anywhere near his ability to arrive.

    • USAFChief, Blake and woolywoolhouse like this
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Tom Froemming
Nov 14 2017 11:31 AM

Hmm, you seem to have left out Joe Mauer's 2017 season :) Man, those Twins teams of the early 2000s were so fun to watch in the field.

 

I'm interested if anybody in TD land has any recollections to share about catcher Butch Wynegar's 1979 season. He led the league in caught stealing at 53%, was behind the plate for 146 games and only had six errors and five passed balls. He was before my time, so I never saw him play. Obviously, evaluation of catcher defense has evolved quite a bit in recent years, but did he have a pretty strong reputation at the time?

 

Hmm, you seem to have left out Joe Mauer's 2017 season :) Man, those Twins teams of the early 2000s were so fun to watch in the field.

 

I'm interested if anybody in TD land has any recollections to share about catcher Butch Wynegar's 1979 season. He led the league in caught stealing at 53%, was behind the plate for 146 games and only had six errors and five passed balls. He was before my time, so I never saw him play. Obviously, evaluation of catcher defense has evolved quite a bit in recent years, but did he have a pretty strong reputation at the time?

LOVE THAT KID!

    • USAFChief, Dantes929 and dbminn like this

I'd also be interested in John Castino's brief time at 3B, before his back gave out.

    • Dantes929 likes this

 

Out of the old-school players, Greg Gagne was pretty remarkable. I'm still waiting for a defensive SS anywhere near his ability to arrive.

That's the name the immediately came to my mind.He was as steady as a SS can be in 1991.Always made the play needed to be made, always in the right spot.

    • ashburyjohn, Blake and dbminn like this
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mickeymental
Nov 15 2017 12:47 PM

vic power? earl battey? jim kaat?

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theBOMisthebomb
Nov 15 2017 03:29 PM
Maybe it's because it is so fresh in my mind.. Buxton's 2017 soars a mile high over Gomez and Hunter's strong seasons. Not sure about Koskie's season - I do recall thinking he was an underrated magician at 3rd base.

I won't invite ridicule from the far more knowledgeable (and analytical) fans here by suggesting that Nick Punto belongs on the list, but I will never forget the comment by Ken Harrelson (a first-ballot inductee if they ever open a Most Annoying Broadcasters wing in Cooperstown) in the final game of a series in which Punto had been killing the White Sox with one stellar play after another: "Man, we've gotta stop hitting 'em to that guy."

 

I won't invite ridicule from the far more knowledgeable (and analytical) fans here by suggesting that Nick Punto belongs on the list, but I will never forget the comment by Ken Harrelson (a first-ballot inductee if they ever open a Most Annoying Broadcasters wing in Cooperstown) in the final game of a series in which Punto had been killing the White Sox with one stellar play after another: "Man, we've gotta stop hitting 'em to that guy."

Well, Gardy believed he was the best fielder on the team at every position, so maybe you have something there :-)

I agree about Greg Gagne! 2001 was pretty fun too - that was the year both Hunter and Mientkiewicz both won Gold Gloves and after the dark ages of the late 90's it was fun to watch them both break through on the national defensive scene. But Buxton's season this year was ridiculous. 

The Calvin Griffith teams were known for having outstanding infield defenses. I'm not sure how accurate we can be when we only look back 15 years. The underrated 70s teams were playing very good defense.

 

That's the name the immediately came to my mind.He was as steady as a SS can be in 1991.Always made the play needed to be made, always in the right spot.

And, he spent his career in the dome, which I do not believe was considered "infielder friendly."

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ChiTownTwinsFan
Nov 17 2017 03:53 PM

 

And, he spent his career in the dome, which I do not believe was considered "infielder friendly."

He played elsewhere and didn't spend his entire career in Minnesota ... but the majority of it certainly.

 

He played elsewhere and didn't spend his entire career in Minnesota ... but the majority of it certainly.

Really? Did not know that. But, you knew that, didn't you? :)

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Twodogs
Today, 05:20 PM

Hmm, you seem to have left out Joe Mauer's 2017 season :) Man, those Twins teams of the early 2000s were so fun to watch in the field.

I'm interested if anybody in TD land has any recollections to share about catcher Butch Wynegar's 1979 season. He led the league in caught stealing at 53%, was behind the plate for 146 games and only had six errors and five passed balls. He was before my time, so I never saw him play. Obviously, evaluation of catcher defense has evolved quite a bit in recent years, but did he have a pretty strong reputation at the time?


He was good enough that the Yankees came calling. And it wasn't because of his bat necessarily. Hit only 65 bombs in his career. Was a decent hitter though.
    • Tom Froemming likes this

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