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Front Page: Statcast Reveals Ugly Truth About Minnesota Twins' Infield Defense

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#1 Nate Palmer

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:00 AM

The Minnesota Twins aren’t technically done putting together their roster for 2020. As it stands today, Statcasts newly rolled out Outs Above Average stat doesn’t have much but bad news for Twins fans. Of course, with anything there is always a glimmer of hope.It has always been tricky to figure out just how to use or trust Defensive metrics have when trying to evaluate baseball players as fielders. While it is clear stats like DRS and UZR tell part of the story for fielders, the jury continues to be out on exactly how reliable these stats can be for us when evaluating players.

Statcast has been at work trying to help find a way of evaluating fielders with a stat that more fully tells the story of a player's performance. That is where OAA or Outs Above Average comes in. The big difference between OAA and stats like DRS and UZR is that OAA for the first time looks at infielders in a way that reflects today’s “positionless baseball”.

Previously DRS and UZR have looked at players and rated them based on the traditional ranges of each infield position. Where DRS and UZR have fallen short is they are not able to shift with players as they shift in today’s style of baseball. OAA has found a way to better evaluate infielders even as they move around the diamond.

For the most part, OAA has affirmed a lot of what we already knew about fielders. As you take a chance to run through the leaderboard most players will wind up where they would on some of the other leaderboards. Eno Sarris did take a look at the biggest movers between the traditional stats we are used to and OAA as part of his recent article in The Athletic.

What is most important to us here at Twins Daily is what does this mean for the Twins infielders. According to OAA the Twins infield defense is still MIA. Ok, MIA may be strong but there isn’t much good to look at. Here is how the Twins starters from last year ranked among their position group followed by their OAA number.

1B C.J. Cron: 17th (+1)
2B Jonathan Schoop: 5th (+5)
SS Jorge Polanco: 35th, last among qualified SS (-16)
3B Miguel Sano: 29th (-5)

Schoop is viewed very favorably by OAA. Problem is that he will not be around in 2020. Same can be said for the only other positively ranked infielder out of last year’s starters, Cron. So here is where the currently projected starting infield ranked in 2019 according to OAA.

1B Marwin Gonzalez: +7 (+2 attributed to 1B)
2B Luis Arraez: -6
SS Jorge Polanco: -16
3B Miguel Sano: -5

As has been observed time and time again, the Twins infield defense is not looking good any way you paint it if each infielder repeats his 2019 performance. Marwin right now represents the only plus defender in the current starting lineup.

One big hope has to be that Polanco just had an especially bad season in 2019 as in 2017 and 2018 he was rated at a -5. Some of the the same can be said for Sano as he was at a -3 the previous two seasons.

Polanco may come out looking the worst with the release of OAA where he seemingly plummets from a +1 DRS to a -16 OAA. Even though Sano may not look great, he does look slightly more favorably and even ranks higher than old friend Eduardo Escobar amongst current third baseman.

Many of us are still hoping for one more signing either at third or first so here are some infielders available (or rumored to be) that could give the Twins an upgrade in infield defense according to OAA.

Nolan Arenado: +17
Josh Donaldson: +8
Brandon Belt: +3
Kris Bryant: +2
Mitch Moreland: -1

This is a real quick look at what this new tool Statcast has placed in our hands to look at infielders is telling us about the Twins. There are several different nuances that I personally still need to and want to explore to see what we can learn about infield defense.

What are your thoughts about OAA. Are you excited for Statcast's newest stat?

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#2 USAFChief

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:13 AM

Donaldson makes so much sense, in so many ways. 

 

Not as good as signing a top level pitcher would have been, but it would help prevent runs.

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#3 Mike Frasier Law

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:47 AM

Is there a conversion of OAA to WAR or some other value we're used to seeing? When I see a -5, I'm trained to think that's worth about half a win, but I don't know if that's right. Anyone?


#4 mikelink45

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 09:56 AM

This is why I am not big on Bailey or any other pitcher who has the ball put in play on the ground.

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#5 rdehring

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:18 AM

Is Arraez' -6 his overall defensive rating?Or just at second base? 

 

Considering he was a rookie who played all over the place, including the outfield where he had almost zero experience, I would expect he would be better if he can focus on second base only.


#6 RaoulDuke

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:26 AM

If they miss on Donaldson I hope they start Marwin at 3rd.

 

They need to fix this to be a real contender and the log jam is only going to get worse.Polanco/ Arraez/ Gordon/ Lewis all profile towards 2nd base.

 

Sano might be passable for awhile at 3rd if paired with a good shortstop that can cover his range deficiencies.Polanco might be almost passable at short with a good 3rd baseman that cover some of his range and arm deficiencies.

 

If they aren't going to acquire top of the rotation strike out pitchers (and even if they did) they are shooting themselves in the foot by putting a poor defense behind more contact prone pitchers.Shifting helps some but not near enough.

 

 

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#7 PDX Twin

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:40 AM

I wonder how much of Polanco's apparent decline in 2019 is the Mauer effect. He had Cron catching the sinkers and stinkers that he threw to first last year instead of a Gold Glove catcher who had spent most of his life learning to block balls in the dirt.

It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#8 USAFChief

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:42 AM

 

I wonder how much of Polanco's apparent decline in 2019 is the Mauer effect.b

None.

 

We spent the first half of last year marveling over Cron's defense.

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#9 PDX Twin

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 10:55 AM

 

None.

 

We spent the first half of last year marveling over Cron's defense.

 

For me, that was because of low expectations rather than high achievement. Mauer's defense at first was Gold Glove quality for his last years. Cron's defense was, maybe, above average. I'd be interested to know how many throwing errors Polanco committed last year vs. 2018 and how many of these were throws in the dirt. My imperfect memory says that happened a lot.

It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#10 Doctor Gast

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 01:53 PM

I think Sano`s defense will get better next year if he doesn`t hurt himself again this year. If Donaldson doesn`t sign w/ us which is a good chance, I suggest going after a very good SS instead of 3B or 1B. A good SS can cover any inadequacies of 3B & 2B. I`d shift Polanco to 2B & Arraez to 1B. & use Gonzalez as much as possible . Shifting also effects the numbers


#11 Nate Palmer

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 01:54 PM

 

Is there a conversion of OAA to WAR or some other value we're used to seeing? When I see a -5, I'm trained to think that's worth about half a win, but I don't know if that's right. Anyone?

I don't know if there is a real clean way to look at the two stats quite the same way (but I could be missing something). They come to the number by each play a fielder is involved in having a weighted value assigned to it based on difficulty. Each play a player is involved with then gets added together. 

 

If you want the real long explanation of the stat here is a link to a thorough read! 

 

http://tangotiger.co...he_Fielding.pdf


#12 Nate Palmer

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 01:57 PM

 

Is Arraez' -6 his overall defensive rating?Or just at second base? 

 

Considering he was a rookie who played all over the place, including the outfield where he had almost zero experience, I would expect he would be better if he can focus on second base only.

The -6 is a combination of all of his lineup positions. When lined up traditionally as a 2B Arraez had a -5, as a 3B -1, and a SS -0. The negative 0 seems silly but I added it because the sight seems to for now differentiate between -0 and 0. No idea why but it can all be found on a players specific page on the site. 


#13 Nate Palmer

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 02:02 PM

 

I wonder how much of Polanco's apparent decline in 2019 is the Mauer effect. He had Cron catching the sinkers and stinkers that he threw to first last year instead of a Gold Glove catcher who had spent most of his life learning to block balls in the dirt.

If we put any stock in FanGraphs scoop metric, Cron actually graded out better than Mauer when comparing 2018 and 2019. Cron at 31 and Mauer at 20. 

 

 

 

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#14 USAFChief

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 02:05 PM

 

The -6 is a combination of all of his lineup positions. When lined up traditionally as a 2B Arraez had a -5, as a 3B -1, and a SS -0. The negative 0 seems silly but I added it because the sight seems to for now differentiate between -0 and 0. No idea why but it can all be found on a players specific page on the site. 

I know, right? Neutral defense, but with a poor attitude. 

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#15 rdehring

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 02:26 PM

 

The -6 is a combination of all of his lineup positions. When lined up traditionally as a 2B Arraez had a -5, as a 3B -1, and a SS -0. The negative 0 seems silly but I added it because the sight seems to for now differentiate between -0 and 0. No idea why but it can all be found on a players specific page on the site. 

Does that mean that Arraez' play in left field was 0?That's tough to believe after seeing the mistakes he made the first half dozen games or so out there.


#16 Nate Palmer

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 02:47 PM

 

Does that mean that Arraez' play in left field was 0?That's tough to believe after seeing the mistakes he made the first half dozen games or so out there.

This is the infield only version of OAA. You would need to go look at the outfield version for those numbers. But since you asked he pulled in a -3 in the outfield version of the stat. 


#17 wavedog

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 04:24 PM

Maybe better to go with Buxton and Kepler in the outfield and 5 infielders.Hopefully we focus on defensive improvement in Spring training to at least try to make it to average.  


#18 jkcarew

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Posted 19 January 2020 - 01:09 PM

Sometimes the defensive metrics are ridiculously misleading. Sometimes they tell you what you already know. At first glance, OAA seems to fall into the latter category.