Posted at 12:01 AM on September 21, 2005
by Josh Lee
Remember when the Twins had a reputation as a sharp defensive team, one of the best in the majors? When other clubs looked to them as an example of how to build a team around defense and smart base running? The days when pitchers actually tried to induce contact, secure in the knowledge that their defense would chase down flies, scoop up grounders, and turn double plays?
Those were good times. Those times seem so long ago.
Considering we lost/got rid of uber-fielder Mientkiewicz (he of the career .996 fielding average), Morneau is currently 6th in fielding at first (at .993) which doesn't seem that bad to me at all. The glaring problem to me is inexperienced third basemen, which are a combined .934. That's very not good.
Shannon Stewart isn't a liability, although his arm is dead... he's the 8th best at his position, Jones and Mauer are both 6th at their respective positions, and Hunter would be right around there as well if he qualified.
The sad is that we've sacrificed defense and gained nothing. Still no power and less clutch hitting.
As I pointed out at my site last week, if anything, the Twins defense has been better in 2005 than at any time during the resurgence of the last five years.
I put together a chart showing defensive efficiency and how it has impacted the Twins pitching.
You will be surprised to find out that the Twins have converted a higher percentage of balls put into play by the opposition into outs in 2005 than they did in 2004 and 2003 and almost exactly the same as in 2002. Further, the number of double plays turned this year is up dramatically.
In 2005, the Twins have a DIPS% of 1.11, meaning that the Twins ERA is 11 percent lower than might be expected with an average defense. That is, if it weren't for the above average Twins defense, the Twins ERA would be 11% higher. In 2004, the DIPS% was 1.00, meaning that the Twins defense contributed basically nothing over the average to the ERA. And the 2003 defense was below average. The 2005 defense has been the best of any of the last four years.
The number of double plays turned isn't necessarily significant of defensive prowess. Although, it should be said, it MAY be in this case.
Usually THE biggest factor in double plays is the OPPORTUNITY to turn them.
All I know is the Twins are an incredibly boring team to watch play baseball.
DIPS% or whatever is Sabermetrics run amok. This year's Twins are far more mistake prone than their recent predecessors -- that's readily apparent to anyone who has watched the team the past five years......
The plain fact is that the Twins have turned a higher percentage of balls put into play into outs this year than last year. Further, with the added double plays, they have even more outs per balls in play than previously.
It seems to me that defense is about converting as many balls put into play into outs as possible. Or is there some other metric that I'm missing? Is the object to get dirty uniforms?
True, a few more batters have reached on errors, 59 vs. 48 last year. That's about one every sixteen games or fewer than 2 a month. Even with that, the Twins are converting 70.3% of balls put into play into outs, as compared to 68.8% last year. That means that the Twins defenders are getting to more balls. What does this mean? The Twins have turned 76 more batted balls into outs this year than they would have with the same defense as last year. With more 17 more double plays, that's 93 more outs. That means that the defense has provided more than one extra out every two games over last year's team, even with the few extra errors. Those outs help the pitching staff and puts the lie to the statement that the pitching staff can't expect the defense to catch the ball behind them.
We have a choice. Rely on anecdotal evidence or look at the actual numbers. I'll take the latter.
This team is boring, yes. But, they've pitched great AND they've defended better than in the past. The problem is that they have the worst offense in the American League.