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New Metrics Paint Ugly Picture for Twins Infield


Ted Schwerzler

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In the ever-expanding quest for information, Baseball Savant unveiled new metrics for public consumption yesterday. We’ve had Outs Above Average for a couple of years now, but it’s only related to outfielders. Now thanks to technology provided through Statcast we have quantifiable infield numbers. For the Twins, that’s not a great thing.

 

At the top of the infield leaderboards there are plenty of familiar names. Javier Baez paces the league with 19 OAA. He’s followed by Nolan Arenado and Andrelton Simmons. Nick Ahmed gets in there before Trevor Story and then Matt Chapman. Everyone in that group is considered an elite defender of the dirt. When looking for Minnesota Twins though, they’re nowhere to be found.

 

Marwin Gonzalez was the highest performer of Rocco Baldelli’s squad, posting 7 OAA (good enough for 19th). You can then skip over the since departed Jonathan Schoop (5/31st) and C.J. Cron (1/99th) before reaching another currently rostered player. As a part-time player, Ehire Adrianza posted a -1 OAA (147th) and Miguel Sano checked in at -5 OAA (194th). That leaves just Luis Arraez (-6/206th) and Jorge Polanco, whose -16 OAA is tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for dead last (218th).

 

If you think back to 2019 there was a quiet concern as defensive ability dipped for Minnesota as the season went on. The reality isn’t necessarily that the unit got substantially worse, but that without Byron Buxton in the outfield, the over output was weighed down much more heavily by the sagging infield. Three of the infield spots are already spoken for in 2020, and unless there’s a concentrated jump in performance, they can be expected to provide much of the same.

 

Even without digging into advanced analytics, it was visible to the naked eye that Minnesota left plenty to be desired on the dirt. A poor infield makes groundball pitchers less than ideal fits for team construction, so seeing an appeal in Dallas Keuchel was always hard, and a reunion with Kyle Gibson might have been hard to swing.

Right now, we only have three years of OAA infield data at our disposal, but it will be interesting to see how the Twins look to evolve and attack the deficiency in 2020. Rather than dismissing the information as too invasive, it’s at least worth acknowledging that it describes exactly what we were able to see and solidify there may be a problem worth addressing.

 

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

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I have never been a fan of defensive metrics, relying more on the eye test than numbers.However; in this case, both methods agree.  The Twins as currently constructed have three starting infielders who are well below average defensively and an open spot at first. One of those three should end up at first rather than any thought of signing a first baseman in free agency.  Sano is probably the most obvious choice as his physical build is working against him remaining at third, and there is no other option for him other than DH.  It is unknown to any of us whether or not Polanco or Arraez can handle third, at least as well as Sano has been doing.  My personal preference would be to move Polanco to 3rd and sign Iglesias to fill SS for a year.  Although I am not in favor of long term deals for aging stars, I could get a bit excited over Josh Donaldson; partly as an offensive addition, but primarily as a defensive upgrade.  I definitely don't feel the same towards a potential Bryant deal.

It would certainly be nice if Lewis actually turns out to be a legitimate SS or even solid 3rd baseman both offensively and defensively.

 

Lots of rambling, but I definitely agree that infield defense should be a primary focus throughout the offseason.

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The lack of defensive competence by the Twins is most evident when they play a series against a good defensive team. The plays they make v the plays we don’t can be eye opening. The troubling part is that on the defensive front there seems no options being pursued? Bombas or Bust! 

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I still don't know how Sano will work out as a fulltime first base guy. Or even splitting the duties with Garver.

It's certainly a massive question mark, but the devil we know certainly isn't ideal at all.

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Elliot, Iglesias signed with someone else.  Can't remember who right now.  I had a long post about this in the "5 third basemen the Twins could target" column.  My point was that if shoring up infield defense was of paramount importance, but an average to below average hitter like Jose Iglesias wasn't of interest to the Twins, they needed to take a hard look at Trevor Story.  It would cost A LOT !  But he's a Gold Glove SS with 30-HR power, speed and good contact skills.  He's a top 5 SS in the majors.  You're talking on a par with Lindor, Baez, Gleyber Torres, Semien, Bogaerts, That's 5 other guys.  Semien has done it one year.  Torres has tremendous potential, but other than Lindor, Story is better than all of them.  He's a guy the Twins would build around.  You want to make an IMPACT move for 2020 and beyond???  Make a deal for Story. 

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When Robbie Grossman is a Gold Glove finalist last year (and Brian Dozier a winner one year), I don't know anything about defense.

Gold Glove voting is a joke, first off.

 

Secondly, Grossman actually deserved inclusion last year. His season with the Twins was a massive outlier. Dozier should not have ever won.

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