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    Is Twins' Arm Strength Enough for MLB's Post-Shift World? (CARETAKERS ONLY)

    Matthew Trueblood

    The Twins' infield's arm strength, even with Carlos Correa, isn't particularly impressive. But their pitching staff gives them a sneaky advantage.

    Image courtesy of © Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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    Like the other 29 MLB teams, the Minnesota Twins face a new defensive challenge in 2023: they’ll have to adapt to rules barring shifts on the infield. When we think about the ramifications of that change, we often focus on fielders’ ability to reach and field the ball. In reality, though, there’s an interaction between raw range and throwing arm–one that will become more important. To that end, bringing back Carlos Correa at shortstop was crucial, but even his strong arm faces a tougher test under the new guidelines. 

    Shifts aren’t just about reaching balls that would otherwise scoot cleanly through to the outfield. They are, in nearly equal measure, about making plays more comfortable for defenders. When a big-league team deploys a shift, a much higher share of ground balls hit by the opposition are within a step or two of a fielder’s starting position. They can usually make the play, plant their feet, and make a strong, balanced throw from a firm footing.

    In a post-shift world, we will see teams carefully calibrate their positioning to create as many of those easy chances as the new constraints permit. Inevitably, though, we’re going to see more plays made on the run. Since two defenders have to set up on each side of second base, the shortstop won’t be able to shade as far toward the hole against some right-handed batters as they previously had, because the second baseman will have to be a couple of steps further away from any ball hit to the left side of second base. That, in turn, will force the third baseman to play a step further off the foul line, in order to help defend the hole. 

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    I'm not too worried about Correa. He has a strong arm and is "baseball smart". Polo will probably have to range further than ha has since his move to 2B, but so far he has good range (if his legs hold up). Haven't seen enough of Miranda or Farmer to guess about them.

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    Range will matter more at 2B for Polanco than arm strength.  It's a short throw, and now that infielders are prohibited from starting in the outfield grass, it should (almost) never be a long throw.  The ball should get to him quicker as well since he's closer to home plate, so lateral movement will determine a lot more this year in terms of a player's ability to cover his position.

    Same is probably true for Miranda at 3B, though it would be rare (other than a 3B playing fundamentally a deep short) for him to start too deep to field and throw out anyone other than on a slow-roller.

    That first-step lateral quickness, quick reads on ball angles, and a quick release - as you mentioned in the article - will dictate outs more than pure strength of arm.  And avoiding errors.  And fly-ball pitchers.

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