Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And the Twins best defensive player is ...

Let us begin this post with the standard disclaimer: Nine games is too few from which to make reliable judgments.

It's too few with hitters -- anybody really think that hitters like Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer are going to remain below .200 all season? -- and it's too few with fielders as well.

And, as regular readers of this corner of the Internet know, I bear a dose of skepticism for the audit-proof defensive metrics that have emerged in recent years. I want to know the numbers, but I decline to base any conclusions solely on them.

So the numbers to be cited in this post are illustrative of what's happened so far, but not predictive of the future.

End disclaimer. On to the meat.

A nice Delmon Young catch from last
season, when there weren't many of them.
Through the wonders of my iPad and a new app, I now have access to Baseball Info Systems' two sophisticated defensive metrics, plus-minus and runs saved. The figures for the Twins aren't pretty.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka is already -3 in plus-minus. Cuddyer, with one game played at second base, has (says BIS) already cost the Twins a run there (and another run at first base, where he has two games played.)

Indeed, the only infielder who isn't in the negatives in runs saved or plus-minus is Matt Tolbert, who has just 17 innings in the field.

But the outfield — Cuddyer and Jason Repko are both +1 in plus-minus in right field, and each (and Jason Kubel as well) is credite with one run saved. Denard Span is 2 to the good in both categories (he's played every inning in center field so far).

But the best defensive player so far: Young. He's +4 in plus-minus with three runs saved.

Those are incredible figures considering how incompetent these metrics have held him to be in the past. He's -57 over the past three years in plus-minus, -27 runs saved in the same period.

And now he's saving the Twins a run every three games? Really?

We'll see how long this lasts.


  1. Delmon has actually been good so far. Not pretty, but he's made all the plays he should by my recollection and he caught a ball deep in the corner and made the catch while bumping into the wall to save Joe Nathan in Toronto and then he threw out the runner at home against Oakland. Total Zone also has Delmon at 4 runs above average. I highly doubt this will last, but maybe he can become close to average, which would be a big improvement.

  2. Ed, you're the one who told me Young has the tools to become a Hall of Famer. Maybe he's starting to prove you right!