|Tsuyoshi Nishioka struggled defensively on Friday.|
The bad news: He gave away a run in the field. And that understates his problems, as LaVelle Neal details here.
I opined at the end of June that Nishioka is a better defensive shortstop than Trevor Plouffe. I still believe that to be the case, but the margin is shrinking the more I see Nishi play short.
For what it's worth, the Baseball Info Systems metrics available to me through an iPad app says Nishioka, through 48 games at short, is -5 in plus-minus and has given away seven runs. Plouffe is -5 and -4, but his numbers were compiled in just 15 games. Sample sizes matters; those figures, in and of themselves, don't mean much. Our eyes agree with the numbers, however; the Twins have not gotten good shortstop play this season.
Nishioka is hitting a bit better now — he has an eight-game hitting streak going this month, which isn't quite the same thing as hitting well (.321/.321/.357 in that stretch with five strikeouts and no walks)— and the birth of his son last week is probably good for him emotionally. But just as Plouffe's defensive woes made him unplayable at shortstop, games like Friday's suggest the same about Nishioka. His arm strength makes him a marginal shortstop at best; if he's going to combine that with bobbles and mental errors, it's a problem.
I'm not sure at what point the Twins write off their investment in him and move on to the next middle infielder. One factor is that he's 27 and a star in his native Japan; he was supposed to be a finished product, not a work in progress.
My expectation is that he'll get the rest of 2011, at least, to try to establish himself. The returns to date have been discouraging.