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Catch the ball!


mikelink45

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blog-0804223001561814367.jpgAt the half way mark the one area of Twins baseball that is really bothering me is fielding. It used to be that the fundamentals of fielding were the Twins specialty, but now that we have the bats, we seem to be slipping in the field. I went to the various web sources to see if my eye test was right on a night that Adrianza makes two errors behind Berrios in a loss to the White Sox.

 

Looking at fielding stats in Baseball Almanac http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teamstats/fielding.php?y=2019&t=MIN I went the simple way to test the fielding - I clicked on errors. Here is our starting infield by errors:

Polanco - 9

Cron - 6

Schoop - 6

Sano - 5

 

Utility Men - infield errors only

Adrianza - 6

Gonzalez 3

Astudillo - 2

 

That is 37 errors in exactly one half season - by the infield (not counting catching and pitching).

 

 

https://www.espn.co.uk/mlb/team/stats/_/type/fielding/name/min/table/fielding/sort/defWARBR/dir/asc According to ESPN we have only three with negative defensive WAR - Castro, Cron, and Cave (what is it with the letter C?). It might come to a surprise for many but both Sano and Astudillo are a plus 0.1! This is despite the fact that Sano has a fielding pct (old school, I know) of 937. And as expected Kepler, Rosario, and Buxton are all +s in fielding with Buxton leading with 1.2.

 

https://www.foxsports.com/mlb/minnesota-twins-team-stats?season=2019&category=FIELDING&group=1&time=0&pos=0&splitType=0&page=1

 

I have a hard time evaluating catchers - framing, calling a game, SB no longer seems to matter...When I went to http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/sortable.jsp#elem=%5Bobject+Object%5D&tab_level=child&click_text=Sortable+Player+fielding&game_type='R'&season=2019&season_type=ANY&league_code='AL'&sectionType=sp&statType=fielding&page=1&ts=1561813674629&position='2' I did not even see one of our catchers in among the 14 that they rank in fielding stats. And in ESPN fielding stats - including the non-qualified (batting title) Castro ranks 37. http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/fielding/_/position/c/qualified/false/order/true

 

In fielding pct the Twins rank #10 and according to Baseball Reference the Twins are -2 in their state Rtot - Runs above average which matches our catchers total. https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2019-specialpos_c-fielding.shtml

 

I repeat - Baseball defense is the hardest to measure, but using the tools that are available we are not elite, closer to average in fielding.

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    I agree how hard it is to quantify fielding. Then there is the issue of guys like Sano and Polanco, guys who the harder the ball is hit, the better they field it. Little hippoty hops drive them crazy. Astudillo won't ever look good fielding, he doesn't present athleticism. Cron has surprised me with his digs. Cave? I have wondered from almost day one why anyone wanted him on an MLB roster. His glove is suspect, his arm is no better, and he sure isn't playimg for his bat. Catching has changed so much. An arm isn't even necessary except to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Blocking the ball is very important, makes the pitcher secure in the low breaking stuff. But calling a game?? Have asked this question forever, if the catcher is calling the game, why is he always looking towards the dugout between pitches? Is PaPa Johns delivering soon? Lol

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    I agree how hard it is to quantify fielding. Then there is the issue of guys like Sano and Polanco, guys who the harder the ball is hit, the better they field it. Little hippoty hops drive them crazy. Astudillo won't ever look good fielding, he doesn't present athleticism. Cron has surprised me with his digs. Cave? I have wondered from almost day one why anyone wanted him on an MLB roster. His glove is suspect, his arm is no better, and he sure isn't playimg for his bat. Catching has changed so much. An arm isn't even necessary except to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Blocking the ball is very important, makes the pitcher secure in the low breaking stuff. But calling a game?? Have asked this question forever, if the catcher is calling the game, why is he always looking towards the dugout between pitches? Is PaPa Johns delivering soon? Lol

    I enjoyed your speculation.  When electronic balls and strikes come in framing will be the next judgment dropped from catcher evaluation.

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    Very interesting post Mike, and something that's been on my mind for a couple weeks now as I've seen a few games with "dumb" errors that I swear I didn't see earlier in the season. And I'm going to agree with you and Platoon that baseball defence is darn near impossible to accurately measure. I mean, what if 3 or 4 guys are truly outstanding defensive players by any metric and observation, and make unbelievable plays at times, but the rest of a normal lineup is very average. As a TEAM, a few guys could make the metrics look good. But what if your entire, regular lineup is nothing but average at best, but catches what they can get to, and don't make silly mistakes? Overall, that team could rank high in metrics as a team, but do next to nothing to make a DIFFERENCE on a game to game basis.

     

    I ran a simple search and pulled up a few sites to see what they had to say, based on how they quantify things. ESPN and FOX both had the Twins at 18, just below average, but not terrible. As close as some teams are, about average in comparison. Baseball Reference, however, seemed to use a different algorithm by a culmination of all positions and Wins Above Average, which I believe would be their version on defensive WAR. They had the Twins ranked 3rd in MLB behind the Dodgers and Astros.

     

    In any sport, at any level, I believe in strong defense. Again, how do you accurately measure that?

     

    Maybe I'm just old school, but beyond any statistic you want to use, I still believe in they Eye Test. There is simply no way to deny what you actually see! I was very surprised by the number of errors attributed to Cron, for instance, in your OP. I have seen a couple bad plays or throws...they happen...but his defense has been good to outstanding virtually every game I have watched. Schoop has impressed me time and again with fine defense at 2B, but I also witnessed a handful of just bad plays a couple weeks ago where it just seemed he tried to hard to make a GREAT play, instead of the right play, and threw the ball away. Does that make him a poor defensive player, day by day when I watch what he does consistently? Or a good defensive 2B who made a handful of poor decisions trying too hard?

     

    Day in day out, what my EYES tell me is this is a good to very good defensive team, overall, who had a rather bad stretch over about a 10 game streak a week or so ago.

     

    Just my opinion, of course.

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    The defensive stats are not what they seem.  We see errors and the official scorekeepers call them hits.  Since it happens everywhere, we trust that the stats will even out.

     

    Statistically (According to MLB.com) the Twins are ranked in the middle of the pack.  That seems about right.  However, we seem to be killed by throwing errors.  I have no idea how to quantify this, except to keep a game by game log of fielding and throwing blunders regardless of how they are scored.

    If you focus on throwing errors, the solution is fairly simple. Examine the defenders priority's and change them so that players don't make the desperate throw's.

    Perhaps, given the player's competitive natures, this may be simpler said than done.   :)

     

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    Baseball defense is the hardest to measure, but using the tools that are available we are not elite, closer to average in fielding.

     

    I agree that it's hard, and I'm not fully versed in the distinctions among the stats out there, but I'd have to say that modern defensive stats seem to like our 2019 Twins a lot. "Elite" as in "absolute best in the league," no. Houston seems to be that. But top 3 or 4 in the AL? Probably. Have a look at the baseball-reference selection of metrics - Defensive Efficiency, Total Zone Rating, Defensive Runs Saved - and all of them put the Twins in a good light.

     

    Fielding percentage is about the last way I would evaluate any team, for two or three independent but big reasons.

     

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2019-standard-fielding.shtml

     

    I also agree with DocBauer about the eye test. I think it's more reliable in small sample than equivalent samples for batting and pitching, for the simple reason that the batter and pitcher are both trying to outdo the other while the batted ball is not nearly so cussed. You still want a good-size sample, to get a sense for bad hops and so forth, but you're less likely to get completely fooled about talent, and the ability to translate that into plays made.

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    The defensive stats are not what they seem.  We see errors and the official scorekeepers call them hits.  Since it happens everywhere, we trust that the stats will even out.

     

    Statistically (According to MLB.com) the Twins are ranked in the middle of the pack.  That seems about right.  However, we seem to be killed by throwing errors.  I have no idea how to quantify this, except to keep a game by game log of fielding and throwing blunders regardless of how they are scored.

    If you focus on throwing errors, the solution is fairly simple. Examine the defenders priority's and change them so that players don't make the desperate throw's.

    Perhaps, given the player's competitive natures, this may be simpler said than done.   :)

    I have a simple formula

     

    Good pick plus bad throw equals second base. 

     

    GP + BT = 2B

     

    Most bad throws are rushed throws. Sometimes you are better off just holding the ball and calling time. 

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    too often the discretion of an official scorer skew defensive numbers even in this modern "analytical" age. How often do we hear about Polancos deficiencies as a SS. His range and arm dont seem to hurt us too bad. I would argue that Sano's cannon saves lots of outs. Cron has proven the Rays made a bad call by cutting him and keeping Choi. I havent seen as much of the games as id hope but Schoop has always had a rep as a decent defensive 2b. I wouldnt ever wanna see Schoop at SS. That outfield is WORLD CLASS. Theres prolly only one guy that could even take any of their jobs and that would be Betts.

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    too often the discretion of an official scorer skew defensive numbers even in this modern "analytical" age. How often do we hear about Polancos deficiencies as a SS. His range and arm dont seem to hurt us too bad. I would argue that Sano's cannon saves lots of outs. Cron has proven the Rays made a bad call by cutting him and keeping Choi. I havent seen as much of the games as id hope but Schoop has always had a rep as a decent defensive 2b. I wouldnt ever wanna see Schoop at SS. That outfield is WORLD CLASS. Theres prolly only one guy that could even take any of their jobs and that would be Betts.

    Um, Mike Trout?

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    Plenty of data on baseballsavant re defensive metrics, especially catcher framing. Castro is having a very good year. Garver is much, much improved from last year. Astudillo's strike rate is still higher than Garver's though. All three are better than average in pop time but Castro's arm is the best of the three catchers. 

     

    https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/catcher_framing

     

    Buxton is leading all of MLB in outs above average. 

     

     

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    too often the discretion of an official scorer skew defensive numbers even in this modern "analytical" age. How often do we hear about Polancos deficiencies as a SS. His range and arm dont seem to hurt us too bad. I would argue that Sano's cannon saves lots of outs. Cron has proven the Rays made a bad call by cutting him and keeping Choi. I havent seen as much of the games as id hope but Schoop has always had a rep as a decent defensive 2b. I wouldnt ever wanna see Schoop at SS. That outfield is WORLD CLASS. Theres prolly only one guy that could even take any of their jobs and that would be Betts.

    I am with you on official scorers - so easy to give a hit and protect the fielder and the batter rather than being accurate. 

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    One more mention has to be made of Arraez.  He will not continue to hit 431, but what a pleasure to see his bat control.  Imagine if Buxton hit like that. 

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