Monday, August 22, 2016

The hidden problem

Jorge Polanco fails to handle a "base hit"
off the bat of Lorenzo Cain with two outs
in the sixth inning Sunday. The next batter
doubled Cain home for what proved to be
the winning run.
I voiced optimism here about the Twins direction last week. Then they went to Kansas City and got swept. Two blowouts, one extra-inning rain-interrupted marathon, one pitchers duel -- all with the same "L" for the standings.

One of my pet theories about "intelligent fandom" is that the broadcasters reflect the thinking of the organization. Dick Bremer, Bert Blyleven, Cory Provus, Dan Gladden -- these guys are not only around the team (as are the beat writers), they hold their jobs at the mercy of the team (unlike the beat writers). When Billy Beane was in the process of imposing the use of advanced stats on the Oakland A's almost 20 years ago, their TV broadcasts rather quickly ditched the traditional "triple crown stats" on their graphics to show on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

So when Bremer spends much of his airtime bewailing the Twins starting pitching while barely acknowledging the flawed fielding, the presumption here is that he's reflecting the thinking of the manager and coaches.

There's really not much good to say about the Twins starting pitching in three of those four games in Kansas City. Tyler Duffey, Jose Berrios and Hector Santiago all had short starts, and that strains the already strained bullpen.

But defense is the hidden problem. The Kansas City Star on Friday described a pair of plays by Minnesota outfielders Eddie Rosario and Robbie Grossman on Thursday as "two of the worst defensive plays of the year." The video-laden breakdown linked to above concluded:

According to FanGraphs, the Twins’ defense has a negative-25.3 runs saved, the second-worst in the American League.

Sunday's final, and decisive, run was handed to Kansas City by the Twins fielding, specifically the shortstop play of Jorge Polanco. As has been noted here, the heavy use of Polanco at short in recent weeks directly contradicts the obvious conclusion drawn by the farm system, which devoted more than two seasons to playing him at shortstop and decided he's not a shortstop.

Polanco, as depicted above, failed to come up with a grounder in the sixth inning. Blyleven and Bremer were still questioning the scoring call when Eric Hosmer doubled over Rosario's head (might Byron Buxton have reached that ball?) to score Cain from first base -- and suddenly the TV talk went from a missed out to a pair of two-out hits.

I say this a lot: The easiest way to improve the pitching staff is to improve the defense. That we don't hear that from the broadcasters suggests that they aren't hearing that from the organization.

eIad more here:

1 comment:

  1. Such good organizations as the Red Sox, the Dodgers, the Rays etc. would play Buxton everyday in centerfield and tell him to catch everything he can. They would assure him that he is a valuable player based on his defense alone and show confidence in his ability to relax and figure out the offensive side of the game. If only the Twins were a good organization. . . .