Twins fans were rightfully excited about acquring slick fielding SS Andrelton Simmons last night.
If you want to spend a fun 10 mintues, check out his defensive highlight reel
There's no doubt that grabbing the best defensive SS since Ozzie Smith will upgrade the Twins roster.
Combine Simmons with already strong defenders in Buxton, Donaldson, Jeffers, and Kepler, you can see how quickly the mind would shift to "well, what does this mean for their pitching?".
In my opinion, this means two things:
1) It upgrades the Twins existing staff (and should be helpful to one guy in particular)
2) It might tell us a bit about who the Twins could target next for a SP, given their newly upgraded defense
Simmons Impact on Existing Twins Pitchers:
Looking purely at GB% (calculated by the number of ground balls induced/number of balls put in play), we know that based on an improved defense, the more balls hit on the ground, the higher chance they have to be converted into outs than they did 24 hours ago (pre-Simmons signing).
It's even more fun to look at how much better the Twins defense is than in 2017 when Falvey and Levine took over. JD Cameron takes a look into that here.
From Fangraphs, a "ground ball pitcher" is any pitcher who has a GB% over 50%. League wide in 2019 - 2020, the average GB% was 42.8%.
Here is how the Twins current staff stacks up by GB% using combined stats from the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
For the most part, the majority of the staff has a below average GB% (would love to see what this chart looked like for the 2004 pitch-to-contact Twins).
Two names stand out here.
1. Randy Dobnak - GB% of 58.8%***
2. Taylor Rogers - GB% of 48.2%
***Since he came into the league, Randy Dobnak ranks 7th out of 284 pitchers in GB%.
Which SP could the Twins acquire that would benefit most from the Twins defense?
Given that any ball hit on the left side of the infield should be vaccumed up quicker than a Dyson, maybe this shifts how the front office approaches filling out the rotation. Ground ball pitchers stand to gain a lot if their infield can consistently convert more ground balls into outs.
It's the little things in baseball that make the major differences.
From 2019 - 2020, there were 284 pitchers that threw at least 75 IP.
Below are the ranks and GB% for the remaining free agents.
For this exercise, I only focused on FA that had a GB% at 44% or higher.
You can see the entire list from Fangraphs here.
Brett Anderson - 55.2% (17th)
Jake Arrieta - 51.4% (30th)
Adam Wainwright - 47.4% (71st)
Cole Hamels - 47.0% (79th)
Aaron Sanchez - 46.9% (81st)
Homer Bailey - 44% (128th)
Below are the ranks for potential trade candidates that have popped up in rumors. Again, I only focused on players with a GB% of 44% or higher.
Luis Castillo - 56.1% (13th)
Sonny Gray - 50.9% (35th)
German Marquez - 49.5% (52nd)
Jon Gray - 46.9% (81st)
BONUS. Here are a couple bullpen free agents that could benefit from a good defensive infield:
Jeremy Jeffress - 50.0%
Alex Colome - 47.7%
So there you have it. I will be interested to see how the Twins defense positively impacts the pitching staff all year long. Specifically, I am excited to see what this means for Randy Dobnak.
For now, I am most interested to see what the Simmons acquisition means in how the Twins front office addresses the rest of their pitching needs.
Do any names on this list jump out to you as being good targets for the Twins? Maybe now even moreso with a Simmons addition?