Friday, September 16, 2011

Coming up short

Baseball Info Systems's
advanced metrics suggest
Trevor Plouffe is the worst
defensive middle infielder
in the American League.
I have this season periodically dug into the advanced fielding metrics designed by Baseball Info Systems, and after seeing Ron Gardenhire promise "a lot of research and a lot of digging on what's going to make us better in the infield," I returned to my iPad app this morning to see what it tells me.

And the top take-away: The best way to "make us better in the infield" might be to stop playing Trevor Plouffe.

By BIS's "plus-minus" and "runs saved" measurements, no team in the American League is getting worse shortstop play than the Twins.

Derek Jeter has the worst individual totals; the Yankee captain is at -22 in plus-minus, -18 in runs saved. (I write in present tense, but the app appears to be about four games behind on the Twins, so the numbers here are not up-to-date.) But Jeter complied those numbers over 969 innings.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka is -10 and -11 in 508 innings; Plouffe is -13 and -9 in 247 innings (and, since that certainly doesn't include his performance in Kansas City this week, that understates how poorly he's played). That makes the Twins duo -23 and -20, worse than Jeter in almost 200 fewer innings.

And Plouffe isn't merely a dismal shortstop. He's even worse, on a per-inning basis, at second base (-9 and -8 in just 127 innings there.) In fact, he has the worst totals at second base in the AL, in about one-tenth the playing time of a regular second baseman. The Twins' second base play, by these metrics, have been about average if you take Plouffe's innings out.

Now the disclaimer: Even Baseball Info Systems is wary of putting a lot of weight on one year's numbers, much less one year of part-time play. But these figures jibe with what we think we see. If Trevor Plouffe isn't the worst defensive middle infielder in the AL, he's in the running.

And Nishioka isn't much better. The more we see of this defensive duo, the better Brian Dozier looks — and we haven't seen him yet.

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