Friday, May 4, 2012

On the defensive

A run-scoring single gets past a diving Jamey Carroll
during the series in Anaheim.
One of the running themes here this season has been the idea that part of the Twins' pitching problems is with the other players on the field — that the defense is not up to snuff.

But I'm being forced by facts to reconsider that argument.

The defensive metrics developed by Baseball Info Systems — plus-minus and runs saved — actually looked pretty good on a position-by-position basis when I broke them down earlier in the week.

And then came into my email inbox a BIS "stat-of-the-week" message on team level defense.

The Twins, as a team, were plus nine in runs saved at the end of April— fifth best in the majors, but only fourth best in the American League. Toronto was first with 31 runs saved, followed by Tampa Bay at 23, then Arizona and Texas at 14 and 13 respectively.

(On the other end of the spectrum were Colorado, -26; Detroit, -19; Washington, -15; the Mets, -13; and Milwaukee, -12. Four NL teams and the Tigers, with all the DHs they can stuff into a lineup.)

My view is shifting slightly.

I'm still sure that the decisions made late in spring training — specifically the de-emphasis of Ben Revere, the demotion of Brian Dozier and a rather heavy use of Ryan Doumit at catcher — all served to enhance the team at the plate while eroding the defense.

Despite that, the defense is much better than the 2011 atrocity and is a bit better than average.

But "a bit better than average" isn't enough to save this starting rotation. Quite possibly even a top-of-the-line defense wouldn't be.

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