Monday, May 9, 2011

Problem spot: Infield defense

This dropped fly ball in left field by Ben Revere
was one of three errors charged against the Twins
Sunday. There were other unmade plays, not
scored as errors, that hurt their chances.
A basic rule of thumb: Shuffling middle infielders in and out of the lineup is bad for the defense. Double play combos thrive on familiarity.

So it shouldn't be overly surprising that that the Twins have had poor middle infield defense this season. They've played five different men at second base (Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes, Michael Cuddyer, Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla) and three different men at shortstop (Tolbert, Casilla and Trevor Plouffe).

Plouffe is supposed to be the regular at short for now -- at least until Nishioka is ready to play, and maybe beyond. But his play afield Sunday was somewhat less than airtight.

Not that he was alone. Consider the third inning, in which the Red Sox scored four runs and took a 5-3 lead. All four runs were earned, but the Twins had numerous opportunities to get out of the inning. (I should note here that  I saw none of the disaster; I was, at that point, following the game on the radio and hence a hostage to the observations of Gladden and Gordon; this is less than optimal.)

Carl Crawford triples. The radio boys suggested that Denard Span might have been able to catch the ball but instead settled for trying to play the carom instead. Said carom got away from him, allowing Crawford to reach third. So Span passed on the risky play of trying for the out, then failed in the fallback position of holding Crawford to a double.

Jason Varitek grounds to first, scoring Crawford. In an alternative universe in which Span catches Crawford's ball, there are now two outs; in the one in which Span holds Crawford to two bases, Crawford advances to third.

Jacoby Ellsbury singles past Plouffe.The radio boys and Joe Christensen of the Strib agree: This could have been ruled an error on Plouffe. (The ruling of single extended Ellbury's hitting streak.) Hsad this play bene made ... it could be the third out in one scenario, or it could have scored Crawford in another, or it could have left him at third. I'll assume it would have scored Crawford. But at least there'd be two outs and nobody on.

Ellsbury steals second. Of course he did; Pavano is notoriously poor at holding runners. In a cleanly played inning, of course, there's no steal because he's not on base.

Dustin Pedroia walks. No defense for the base on balls. Adrian Gonzalez singles. Ellsbury scores, Pedroia to third.

Kevin Youkilis grounds into a force out. Gordon's initial call anticipated an inning-ending double play, but Plouffe and Casilla couldn't turn it. Pedroia scores.

At this point there have been multiple ways out of the inning. Maybe Span catches Crawford's triple. Maybe Plouffe snares Ellsbury's grounder. Maybe the double play is turned. Maybe the Twins yield one run, maybe two. Instead, they've yielded three, and the inning is still alive.

And it goes on to include two more singles and a throwing error by Drew Butera trying to pick Youkilis off. The wonder isn't that they gave up four runs in the inning, but that it was only four runs.

No comments:

Post a Comment