Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Twins killings: Turning the double play

Jamey Carroll, playing second base on Tuesday,
turns a first inning double play.
The Twins turned double plays in the first and second innings Tuesday night — and none after that, breaking a four-game streak with at least three double plays.

Those two DPs gave the Twins 70 double plays on the season — by far the most in baseball. (Toronto has the next highest total at 58, a dozen behind Minnesota.)

This is a mixed blessing — a multitude of double plays is characteristic of a team that allows too many baserunners, and this is certainly the case with the Twins.

But it also has links to some strengths. The Twins' opponents entered Tuesday hitting ground balls in 35 percent of their plate appearances —a high figure, just slightly behind Cleveland for highest in the AL. (This is fueled in large part by Scott Diamond; according to Baseball Reference, Diamond in his five starts has gotten 65 ground balls and 38 air balls.)

And there can be no serious question that getting Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe out of the middle of the infield (and Jamey Carroll and Brian Dozier into the middle infield) has helped tremendously.

Plouffe was a disaster at shortstop last year,  but he has been pretty decent in his first dozen or so games at third base — considerably better than I expected when he started playing there with Danny Valencia's demotion. He has been charged with two errors at third and has had a hand in seven double plays. It's a rare third baseman who has even as many DPs as errors — to have that kind of ratio is almost unheard of.

Valencia, in more than twice the playing time at third, had two errors and eight double plays — last year, 18 and 20. The contrast in around-the-horn double plays from 2011 to 2012 suggests that the improvement may have less to do with the third baseman than with the second baseman.

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