Monday, April 30, 2012

A quick look at the defensive metrics

Jamey Carroll has been an iron man
at shortstop so far for the Twins.
My Monday print column repeats an assertion that I've made before: That the Twins defense has declined steadily over the Ron Gardenhire era.

My eyeball sense is that, while Jamey Carroll is an improvement at shortstop over last year's regular-less disaster, there are still plays left unmade; that the corner outfielders don't get to enough balls; that Danny Valencia's range leaves much to be desired.

But that's an eyeball sense. What do the metrics say?

As I did last year, I will periodically check the "plus-minus" and "runs saved" stats (explanation here) compiled by Baseball Info Systems and which I'm gleaning through an iPad app.

A quick disclaimer: It's just 21 games, and considerably less for several individuals. This is a snapshot of what has happened and not to be relied on as talent evaluation.

First base: Chris Parmelee has started 11 of the 21 games, with Joe Mauer starting five, Justin Morneau 4 and the departed Luke Hughes the other. They have combined for -3 in plus-minus (plays made), -1 in runs saved.

Second base: Alexi Casilla has 17 starts, with two each for Trevor Plouffe and Hughes. Casilla is +6 and 3. Hughes, suprisingly, is +2 in plus-minus despite a lousy .923 fielding percentage. The three are a combined 8 and 3 at second; a running total of 5 in plus minus, 2 in runs saved.

Third base: Danny Valencia has 18 starts, Sean Burroughs three. Burroughs has no score; Valencia is -1, -2 (better than I had expected). Running total: 4, 0.

Shortstop: Carroll has played all but one inning so far and is +1, 2. Running total: 5, 2.

Left field: Josh Willingham has 18 starts, Ben Revere two, Parmelee one. Willingham is -1, -2, which is better than I expected; Revere is +2, 1, which is pretty impressive for 18 innnings; Parmelee is -1, 0. Left field totals 0, -1; running total 5, 1.

Denard Span, by the metrics, has been the Twins
best defensive player so far. Ryan Doumit, not so much.
Center field: Denard Span has all 21 starts, with Clete Thomas picking up six innings. Span is +10, 6; Thomas +1, 1 (interesting). Center field totals 11and 7, lifting the running total to 16 and 8.

Right field: A mishmash. Plouffe has seven starts, Thomas and Ryan Doumit five apiece, Revere three and Parmelee one. Plouffe is +1 and 1 (surprise); Thomas 0 and 1; Doumit -2, -1; Revere 1 and 1; and Parmelee -2, -1. Right field totals -2, +1, making the running total 14 and 9.

Catcher: Mauer had 12 starts, Doumit nine. Mauer is 0 and 1; Doumit is 0 and -1, making catcher 0 and 0 and the running total unchanged.

Pitcher: I'll spare the individual breakdowns, but will note that Liam Hendriks isn't doing himself any favors (-1, -2 in 16 innings). As a staff, the Twins are -1, -4, making the running total +13 in plus-minus and 5 runs saved.

Which is better than I had expected to find, and far better, I'm sure, than the Twins were in these metrics at any point in 2011.

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