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2018 MLB Postseason Discussion Thread

Other Baseball Today, 11:58 AM
How about a postseason game thread? Any MLB postseason discussion can just go here.
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Article: Your Turn: What Do You Want From A Manager?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:03 PM
As the 2018 World Series is set to start tonight in Boston, indications would seem to be the the Twins are down to just a couple of final...
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Article: Offseason Handbook Updates: Cover and Guest Authors

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:03 PM
As the postseason rolls on, we're getting closer to the World Series, and you know what that means: Offseason Handbook Day is almost upon...
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Escobar resigns with Arizona

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:03 PM
Its a three year contract for around 21 million. If this is true then the Twins low balled him. Let's see the details as they come out.
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BA's League Top 20 Prospect Lists Thread

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 11:38 AM
Today was the Southern League:     1. Eloy 2. Hiura 3. Cease 4. Canning 5. B. Wilson 6. Santillan 7. Wright 8. Touki 9. Widener...
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Offseason Primer: Twins Should Stick With Jorge Polanco at Shortstop

It used to be that baseball teams would seek strength up the middle defensively, but in today’s age is it more important that a team has a strong middle of its lineup? We all know balls in play are on the decline, so has it also become more important to find hitters who can turn them into hits, or defenders who can turn them into outs?

Jorge Polanco seems like the perfect player to apply this question to.
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
This story helps set the stage for a truly pivotal offseason ahead. It's just a taste of what you'll find in the 2019 Offseason Handbook, which is currently available for preorder. If you wanna learn more about it, and the benefits of preordering, check out our FAQ.

Polanco’s 80-game suspension derailed his 2018 season, but he provided a solid bat upon his arrival. From July 1, 2017 through the end of this season, a sample of 624 plate appearances, he hit .279/.340/.445 (.785), good enough for a 110 wRC+. To put that into perspective, shortstops combined to hit .255/.315/.409 (.724) with a 95 wRC+ in 2018, per FanGraphs.

But Polanco’s defense has not been as good, to put it kindly.

Despite missing half the season, Polanco committed 13 errors. Only nine other shortstops had more. Polanco had the third-worst fielding percentage of the 35 shortstops who logged at least 500 innings at the position this season and the second-worst UZR/150.

But is the offensive production worth the drop in defensive ability?

It’s no secret that strikeout rates have escalated the past few years. League average K% has gone up from 17.5 in 2008 to 22.3 in 2018. At the same time, walk rates have remained about the same and home run-to-fly ball ratio has increased from 10.1 percent to 12.7 percent. There are a lot of factors at play in why those numbers have changed, but the end result is fewer balls in play.

Last season, the average team had 38 plate appearances per game and a ball was put into play about 66 percent of the time. That gives us a total number of 25 balls in play you can expect your defense to have to try and field in an average game, but of those how many are actually difficult plays?

If we look at the Inside Edge fielding numbers for the Twins this season, which are available at FanGraphs, it would appear the vast majority of balls in play fall either into the routine play or impossible categories.

2018 Twins Fielding Data Per Inside Edge (3,714 plays tracked)
0% chance: 12.4% (459 total)
1-10% chance: 4.8% (179)
10-40% chance: 4.3% (160)
40-60% chance: 3.3% (125)
60-90% chance: 6.4% (237)
90-100% chance: 68.8% (2,554)

So 81.2 percent of all balls in play were deemed as either routine or impossible and another 6.4 percent land in the 60-90 percentile, leaving only 12.4 percent of all balls in play having a likelihood between 1-60 percent chance of being made. Since there are 25 balls in play each game, that means your defense is only going to be asked to try to field about three of those type of plays in a game. And, of course, your shortstop isn’t even necessarily going to be one of those asked to make those plays.

Taking a look ahead to the offseason, the Twins could make a defensive improvement and sign a shortstop like Jose Iglesias with the intention of shifting Polanco over to second base. On the other hand, Iglesias only hit .269/.310/.389 with a 90 wRC+, and even that was a very strong year for him at the plate.

Keeping Polanco at shortstop and signing a stronger bat to plug in at second base would leave the Twins a little light in terms of infield defense, but it might be worth the extra firepower. For example, free agent second baseman Jed Lowrie hit .267/.353/.448 with a 122 wRC+ for Oakland.

You can apply this same kind of thinking across the diamond. Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jason Castro all bring plenty to the table defensively, but it's also pretty difficult to try to project any of them to be above league average at the plate. There still may be some growth left with Kepler and Buxton, and you wouldn’t want to go out and downgrade every spot on the diamond, but I still feel like the Twins are in a position to sacrifice defense in order to improve their offense.

Circling back to Polanco, of course the Twins would prefer to have a better defensive shortstop, but there are so few two-way players at the position. Even Manny Machado, one of the big fish on this year’s free agent market, leaves a lot to be desired as a shortstop.

Also, while Polanco will never be a plus defender at short, I’m hopeful he can avoid some of the mistakes he made in 2018. Often times he seemed rushed -- like the game was a little too fast for him -- on the blatant errors he committed on what should have been routine plays. We didn't see that as often in 2017, which makes me wonder if the suspension had anything to do with the backslide he made in the field.

Polanco does not fit the ideal profile at the position, but from a big-picture perspective keeping him as the shortstop gives the Twins a better overall chance to be successful in 2019.

For more on Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Jed Lowrie and all the other middle infield free agent options, make sure to preorder the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook.

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90 Comments

I'm fine with leaving Polanco at SS. I agree with Tom: I'm not sure the gains we're likely to get on D are worth what we're likely to give up on offense. Of course, you have to look at it holistically: we have to fill a hole in the middle infield this offseason. Where are we more likely to find success and increased overall production?

 

Despite losing Polanco for half a year, Dozier being awful, Sano & Buxton being injured and awful, Morrison adding nothing, and Kepler not improving on offense the twins still finished 6th in the league in scoring, and the top 5 teams in the AL in scoring made the playoffs. Maybe we're better off with the offensive-minded SS?

    • DocBauer and Original Whizzinator like this

The Twins are coming off an stretch of years where they could realistically expect to get 4.5 - 6.5 WAR out of 2nd base.Obviously, we can hope that other spots in the lineup grow and compensate...but, on the other hand, the Jose Iglesias's of the world won't do much to fill those types of gaps.

 

I say you go after the very best offensive middle-infielder you can get...and do with Polanco what you will based on who you get.(Spoiler:if we get Machado, Polanco goes to 2nd)

 

Also not opposed to including Polanco in trade offers (depending on what happens with FA signings...and what we think about Gordon, Lewis, etc., etc.)...I think the league values Polanco.

    • 70charger likes this

I don't think it's relevant whether he plays at 2B or SS because they need to find the best player they can get at either 2B or SS, and put Polanco at the other position. Deciding first what position Polanco should be at, limits our flexibility.

    • ashburyjohn, birdwatcher, nicksaviking and 6 others like this

A good defensive team has a better chance of stumbling into a run or two in a close game than a good offensive team has of getting 5 or 6 when they're trailing because their defense sucks. It's an over-simplification but ya know sometimes that's all you've got

    • Hosken Bombo Disco likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 11 2018 12:23 PM

If I remember right, Polanco graded out around average last year at SS. So perhaps there's some rust in that 80 game sample size? I don't know. I'm not one to trust defensive metrics anyways, and I know I'm not the only one there. That said, they need someone. Gordon isn't ready, and I think it would be foolish to hand him the reigns next season. So either they get someone on a 2 year deal or go big for one who will remain nameless. 

 

I suppose they could let Escobar start and move him back into that role, though I think at this point I consider signing Escobar into a super utility role and getting someone else that play 2b/ss. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Oct 11 2018 12:35 PM

 

Polanco's OPS and wRC+ would still be top 10 as a second basemen.You lose a little bit there, but gain a lot defensively.

 

Basically, he's a premium hitter whether he plays 2B or SS, so better that he plays the position where he can be a plus defensively rather than a minus.

I like this, but who plays SS? Iglesias is a good glove but not much of a hitter and I'm not aware of anyone else out there we could get. Adrianza might be a similar choice since he hit .251 (.680 OPS, 86 OPS+), so a little better bat, little lesser glove. It's going to be hard to carry Buxton and Iglesias in the same batting order, particularly when you add Kepler's below average OF bat. I guess we could pick up a glove first guy but then it's hard to start both Buxton and Kepler. 

 

My other thought would be either: (1) to get a glove first SS like Iglesias, play Rosario and Cave every day in the OF and have Kepler and Buxton as the 3/4 OF guys, or (2) trade for a guy like Starlin Castro to play 2B and then you can play Kepler and Buxton in the OF but you put Cave on the bench when he's a good fielder and a much better hitter so far than either Kepler or Buxton. I would opt for approach #1 - sign Iglesias, move Polanco to 2B, play Cave every day in RF with Buxton in CF and Kepler as 4th OF/LH 1B/LH DH playing 3-4 days a week until he shows he can hit better than he's hit the last 3 years. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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TheLeviathan
Oct 11 2018 01:00 PM
I would target Iglesias or Galvis. The other option is to explore trades. Im just not sure what's out there.
    • DocBauer likes this

I am gonna look at this a little different, Tom.Polanco played nearly every day at shortstop for 13 weeks, or 3 months.He had 13 errors.I don't know how many more than the average that is.Maybe 3?If so, does his offensive upside offset 1 extra error a month?I would think so, especially considering that not all of those errors will lead to runs.

 

Don't know what the best position for Polanco or the Team is long-term.But I want this kid somewhere in the middle of the lineup for the next 5++ years.And with a normal winter/spring, I suspect he will be better in 2019...with his bat and glove.

 

If one of these kids comes up and is a better shortstop a few years from now, move him to second base then.But I don't see that happening between now and opening day.

    • Kelly Vance, DocBauer, RaymondLuxuryYacht and 1 other like this
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jorgenswest
Oct 11 2018 01:07 PM

If I remember right, Polanco graded out around average last year at SS. So perhaps there's some rust in that 80 game sample size? I don't know. I'm not one to trust defensive metrics anyways, and I know I'm not the only one there. That said, they need someone. Gordon isn't ready, and I think it would be foolish to hand him the reigns next season. So either they get someone on a 2 year deal or go big for one who will remain nameless.

I suppose they could let Escobar start and move him back into that role, though I think at this point I consider signing Escobar into a super utility role and getting someone else that play 2b/ss.


On trusting defensive metrics...

Is it just the available measures you do not trust? Do you believe that individual defense has a significant impact on preventing runs?
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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 11 2018 02:07 PM

 

By the way, last season Joe Mauer had 20 scoops in 753 2/3 innings played at first base, per FanGraphs. That's basically one scoop per every four games he played there. It's a valuable skill, no doubt, and you'd much rather have a guy at first that can pick it than somebody with stone hands, but I think it's an overvalued skill.

Thanks for this post. After looking at the FanGraphs information, I was surprised at how infrequently a scoop happens at 1B. In view of this info, I agree it is an overvalued skill.

    • Mike Sixel and DocBauer like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 11 2018 02:17 PM

What about Polanco at 3B, and Sano at SS? That would improve the fielding at 3B and improve the hitting at SS. (april fool).

    • Riverbrian, Platoon and Doctor Wu like this
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yarnivek1972
Oct 11 2018 02:20 PM

If I remember right, Polanco graded out around average last year at SS. So perhaps there's some rust in that 80 game sample size? I don't know. I'm not one to trust defensive metrics anyways, and I know I'm not the only one there. That said, they need someone. Gordon isn't ready, and I think it would be foolish to hand him the reigns next season. So either they get someone on a 2 year deal or go big for one who will remain nameless.

I suppose they could let Escobar start and move him back into that role, though I think at this point I consider signing Escobar into a super utility role and getting someone else that play 2b/ss.


Out of 33 shortstops with 1000 innings in 2017 and 2018 combined, Polanco’s UZR/150 ranked 32nd. That’s not average.
    • Winston Smith, Platoon and SF Twins Fan like this
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Carole Keller
Oct 11 2018 02:28 PM

 

Sign Manny, move Jorge to 2nd and move Manny when Lewis is ready. Best infield in the league for 5+ years.

Yes!!! I'm way on board with this!!! :)

    • tarheeltwinsfan, SF Twins Fan and Dakota Diver like this

 

A good defensive team has a better chance of stumbling into a run or two in a close game than a good offensive team has of getting 5 or 6 when they're trailing because their defense sucks. It's an over-simplification but ya know sometimes that's all you've got

 

One one side, you have to find 1 run, and the other 5? That doesn't seem like a fair comparison.....People don't trust defensive stats, but they put more value on defense than offense. Seems odd to me.

    • Sconnie likes this

 

By the way, last season Joe Mauer had 20 scoops in 753 2/3 innings played at first base, per FanGraphs. That's basically one scoop per every four games he played there. It's a valuable skill, no doubt, and you'd much rather have a guy at first that can pick it than somebody with stone hands, but I think it's an overvalued skill.

 

 

Not to mention other 1B also had scoops.....that ability is in the defensive rankings, and there just isn't that much difference between 1B at the MLB level. These guys have been fielding grounders since they were 7 ......or 5.

Just not buying it mainly by the eye ball test.Last year when Ortiz and Sano were playing in place of Mauer when I watched there would be at least one play that they messed up that I mentally said Mauer gets that one.Not all scoops are created equal and Mauer would make some while I watched that I thought "Most Sano, or Ortiz or Austen miss that most of the time"The stats say Mauer scoops one every 4 games.Hard to believe but I accept your facts.Of course once in every 4 games sounds like more than 20 time in 753 innings.Yes, other 1st basemen have scoops but do the stats track the ones that aren't caught?It is said one hit every two weeks is what separates an average hitter from an all star and my eyes still tell me Mauer caught one ball every two weeks that Sano would not.Every one has played ball since young age and hitters have unique athletic ability but Rod Carew was a great hitter and mediocre fielder and I could probably cite hundreds of examples of athletic skills not translating.I'm sure Sano was fielding fly balls since a young age also but it didn't make him an outfielder. Doesn't mean he can't get better though.Morneau was good but not great.Still did that hockey thing where he made the big wave at the ball on scoops. Looks flashy as heck and he was good at it but balls still got by him every once in a while.Good but not great.If Mauer is gone next year I think you will notice the difference. Might be only once in 10 or twenty games but games hinge on that kind of thing.

    • birdwatcher, Hosken Bombo Disco and Platoon like this

 

One one side, you have to find 1 run, and the other 5? That doesn't seem like a fair comparison.....People don't trust defensive stats, but they put more value on defense than offense. Seems odd to me.

I quite honestly can't tell what you're trying to say. Care to elucidate?

 

 

The question to me is this: since you know you need an external option to start 2019 at one or the other position, which makes more sense? Do you try to sign Iglesias and move Polanco? Do you sign Jed Lowrie or someone and keep Polanco at SS?

 

 

 

Sign Escobar for 2-3 years and pencil him in as the starting second baseman and take it from there.If and when one of the prospects is ready, Escobar returns to his super utility role.

    • birdwatcher, DocBauer, dbminn and 1 other like this

 

Sign Escobar for 2-3 years and pencil him in as the starting second baseman and take it from there.If and when one of the prospects is ready, Escobar returns to his super utility role.

 

Too easy!!! :)

    • Thrylos likes this
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stringer bell
Oct 11 2018 07:42 PM

I am with Chief on this discussion. Shortstop remains very important and even though less balls are put in play, it is crucial to turn outs into outs. Polanco is a very nice offensive player for a middle infielder, but he cost too many outs with his defense last year. 

    • Carole Keller, USAFChief, Sconnie and 5 others like this
Below are Manny Machado's numbers, in an inconvenient format. These seem the numbers you could suffer subpar defense for. While I have always liked Polanco as a hitter, I have never liked him as a defensive player. It's not just th lack of range, and the insufficient arm for the position, it's a generally inability to handle the ball on throws and tags. Sadly I must admit that will follow him to second base. The Twins IF has the potential to be a mess next year. If you would put in place the current pieces you would end up with Sano, Polanco, Forstyhe and Austin. Every one a subpar defender. Toss in (fill in the blank) behind the plate and it will look like an A ball IF. I agree with the above poster: I don't want to see the game filled with 8 guys dragging their bat out to their field in position! If that's the case, I might as well head to the local park to watch slow pitch! :(

SUMMARY
2018
Career
WAR
5.7
33.8
AB
632
3720
R
84
522
H
188
1050
BA
.297
.282
HR
37
175
RBI
107
513
SB
14
53
OBP
.367
.335
SLG
.538
.487
OPS
.905
.822
OPS+
146
121
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RatherBeGolfing
Oct 12 2018 06:45 AM

If they miss out on a SS this offseason, then yeah you could go back to Polanco being there next year but there is absolutely no reason they shouldn't be pursuing and looking into other options there.

    • Carole Keller likes this
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birdwatcher
Oct 12 2018 07:23 AM

 

Sign Escobar for 2-3 years and pencil him in as the starting second baseman and take it from there.If and when one of the prospects is ready, Escobar returns to his super utility role.

 

I'm all for meeting Escobar's agent's demands and convincing him to return, but I've been thinking of him as a back-up plan for Sano as a first priority and as a guy who plays more often than not by spelling Iglesias or whomever at SS. Polanco at 2B, and Sano on his DH days or when he (oops, IF) he gets hurt. 

    • Carole Keller, Sconnie and DocBauer like this

It only works if there is a guy on the other end that catches balls in the dirt routinely. Hrbek, Mauer and mr. alphabet have been the only Twins that have done that.

 

 

Hey.

    • Dantes929, Hosken Bombo Disco and RaymondLuxuryYacht like this
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nicksaviking
Oct 12 2018 07:56 AM

I don't want a no-bat SS tied up for four years or so. I'm OK improving the infield defense if it's a guy that will be gone or moved once a better option emerges though. Iglesias and Galvis probably have enough bat to be a stop-gap regular but if it's more than two years I'd pass. Otherwise maybe I go for a Hecheverria, Jordy Mercer or Alcides Escobar and stick them at SS regularly when groundball pitchers like Gibson or Stewart start but if a flyball pitcher is on the mound like Berrios I go with the defensive downgrade to get the better bat in the lineup.

 

I'd also be interested in a trade. If the Yankees do chase Machado they're going to have too many infielders. Do they move Gregorious? 

    • Mike Sixel likes this

 

It only works if there is a guy on the other end that catches balls in the dirt routinely. Hrbek, Mauer and mr. alphabet have been the only Twins that have done that.

 

 

Hey.

Hah! No disrespect. Before my time.Not even saying others are bad but when a shortstop or 3lb threw one in the dirt to Sano or Vargas I was hoping he would scoop it. With Mauer I expected it.The error goes to the guy throwing it. If I am Polanco, I am hoping Mauer doesn't retire.

    • DocBauer likes this

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