A Defense of the Twins Defense?

4 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It seems that I start pretty much of the blogs I’ve written lately by saying, “It was a really frustrating 2011 season for the Twins.” That’s kind of an old theme. But, I did want to explore more of the reasons that the team struggled. The injuries. The lack of offense. Sure, the pitching staff struggled, starters and relievers. But to be fair to the pitchers, the defense was pretty bad.

So, half of the purpose of my research was to take a look back and see who did play well defensively, statistically, and who didn’t. Secondly, as we start looking to 2011, it is clear that the defensive issues do need to be address. So again, using the below numbers can be a part of that discussion.

UZR is short for “Ultimate Zone Rating.” It is a good defensive metric that takes things like range, arm, etc, into account, and then compares is to the rest of the league. UZR/150 is a metric to normalize players based on playing time. It’s a way to compare a player who plays 150 games at a position to a guy who plays 50 games at the same position.

Fairness in conversation, I’m still not a huge believer in any defensive statistic at this point. You can try to talk me into it. Many believe that UZR is a good way to determine. Many believe that no matter the sample size, it is too small to gain any real solid opinions based on it. But it is something, and for today, I wanted to take a look and include the defensive numbers for each of the Twins position players in 2011. Please note that a 0 is average. Greater than zero is above average. Less than 0 is below average. Please note that I only included stats for players who spent 50 or more innings at any position.

First Base

  • Justin Morneau – 4.0 UZR, 11.3 UZR/150, 479.1 innings
  • Michael Cuddyer – 2.1 UZR, 6.4 UZR/150, 352.2 innings
  • Luke Hughes – 2.1 UZR, 11.0 UZR/150, 274 innings
  • Chris Parmelee – 1.4 UZR, 8.1 UZR/150, 173.2 innings
  • Joe Mauer – 3.0 UZR, 27.8 UZR/150, 141 innings

Summary – All five of these guys were above average. Mauer’s numbers certainly look good.  

Second Base

  • Alexi Casilla – 0.9 UZR, 2.2 UZR/150, 470.2 innings
  • Luke Hughes – 1.3 UZR, 4.9 UZR/150, 301.1 innings
  • Matt Tolbert – 0.9 UZR, 5.1 UZR/150, 244 innings
  • Michael Cuddyer – -2.8 UZR, -20.8 UZR/150, 140 innings
  • Trevor Plouffe – -4.9 UZR, -41.8 UZR/150, 127 innings
  • Brian Dinkelman – -0.2, UZR, -2.9 UZR/150, 89.1 innings

Summary – Again, a little surprising how well Luke Hughes grades out at both positions on the right side of the infield. Casilla was solid at second base. The numbers for Cuddyer and Plouffe weren’t so good.

Third Base

  • Danny Valencia – -6.1 UZR, -6.2 UZR/150, 1,280.2 innings
  • Luke Hughes – -0.9 UZR, -9.0 UZR/150, 104 innings

In 2010, in about 709 innings, Valencia had a 5.9 UZR and a 10.2 UZR/150 which was very good.


  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka – -6.3 UZR, -14.2 UZR/150, 508.1 innings
  • Trevor Plouffe – -7.7 UZR, -20.4 UZR/150, 464.2 innings
  • Alexi Casilla – -1.1 UZR, -4.4 UZR/150, 306.2 innings
  • Matt Tolbert – -0.4 UZR, -3.2 UZR/150, 210 innings

Summary – If you believe that shortstop defense is pretty important (and I think everyone does), this speaks to some of the Twins problems in 2011.

Left Field

  • Delmon Young – -2.8 runs, -3.7 UZR/150, 994.1 innings
  • Rene Tosoni – -1.4 UZR, -3.8 UZR/150, 321 innings
  • Jason Repko – 1.6 UZR, 13.3 UZR/150, 128 innings
  • Ben Revere – -0.2 UZR, -3.1 UZR/150, 127.1 innings
  • Joe Benson – 0.6 UZR, 9.1 UZR/150, 88 innings
  • Jason Kubel – -0.1 UZR, -4.2 UZR/150, 70 innings

Summary – Young’s numbers are combined between the Twins and the Tigers, but he likely improved his numbers during his stint in Detroit. Repko again showed that in the corners, he is terrific defensively. Benson did well in limited time in left field.

Center Field

  • Ben Revere – 8.5 UZR, 15.1 UZR/150, 776.1 innings
  • Denard Span – 9.0 UZR, 17.6 UZR/150, 585.1 innings

Summary – I think, based upon these numbers, it’s fair to say that the Twins got some really, really good defense in center field in 2011!

Right Field

  • Michael Cuddyer – 0.1 UZR, 0.1 UZR/150, 639.1 innings
  • Jason Kubel – -2.7 UZR, -8.3 UZR/150, 413.2 innings
  • Jason Repko – 2.9 UZR, 21.7 UZR/150, 157.2 innings
  • Trevor Plouffe – -3.1 UZR, -51.4 UZR/150, 72 innings
  • Joe Benson – -0.5 UZR, -5.9 UZR/150, 59.2 innings

Summary – Cuddyer was apparently a pretty average right fielder in 2011, which is a great improvement over what he had done in previous seasons. Repko was tremendous.

Not a ton of analysis here. It’s really a blog with numbers for people to make their own thoughts. I would say that the Twins got great defense in centerfield, but absolutely horrible defense at SS. The left side of the infield was statistically pretty poor while the right side was pretty good. Jason Repko is tremendous in the corners.

Any thoughts?

Quick Minor League Notes

  • Tom Stuifbergen picked up a two-inning save as Team Netherlands beat Taipei 2-1 in the World Cup yesterday in Panama. He isn’t the only Twins minor leaguer playing in the tournament. My Twins minor league relief pitcher of the year, Andrew Albers, started for Canada in their first game against Puerto Rico. He threw five one-hit innings. Marcus Solbach and Max Kepler are playing for Germany. Kepler was 0-1 with 3 walks in their first game while playing CF. James Beresford, Allan de San Miguel and Todd Van Steensel are all representing Australia. Beresford is leading of for them and is 2-6 in the first two games.
  • Today is Opening Day for the Arizona Fall League. The Twins are represented by pitchers Cole DeVries, Bret Jacobson, Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts and hitters Brian Dozier, Chris Herrmann and Aaron Hicks.
  • Hicks was ranked by Baseball America yesterday as the #18 prospect in the Florida State League. Fellow outfielder Oswaldo Arcia ranked #15.

Here’s a quick look around the Twins blogosphere:

As always, Feel free to comment.


13 Responses to “A Defense of the Twins Defense?”

  1. mike wants wins October 4, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Quite the fall for Hicks. Wasn’t he once the 18th best prospect (give or take 10 spots) in all of baseball? What was his peak ranking? It was certainly higher than this. You think he’ll be in AA next year? Why is Wimmers not in the AFL?

    • Seth October 4, 2011 at 9:32 am #

      Keith Law and others had him in the Top 25 at the midpoint this year when he was on a two-month tear in Ft. Myers. Horrible second half for him that we’re all probably over-reacting to. In my most recent Top 10 Twins ranking, I had a hard time putting him higher than 7th. That’s not to say that he isn’t still a tremendous prospect, but the numbers will have to show up soon. What we know is that he can get on base, play very good CF and throw very well. Three very good tools. If he can just hit a little bit and show any power, he’ll be a solid big league player. There’s absolutely no rush. He may jump to AA and be just fine next year. The AFL will be a good test for him.
      I initially thought Wimmers should be in the AFL to get some innings, but I do actually agree with not throwing him into that. He can get his work in in the Instrucational League. If he’s doing well there, he could still move up quickly next year. We literally could see him by the end of the year. The AFL is a nice honor, but it’s probably not worth sending him there at this point.

      • mike wants wins October 4, 2011 at 11:15 am #

        I’m ready to give up on the switch hitting for Hicks. IF he can’t switch hit again next year, how long do you wait to give up on it?

        I do agree, he’s still got the tools to be valuable, but the production started to make me nervous this year, and now I’m really wondering about him.

        We’ll just disagree on Wimmers. I’d guess they’ll be overly conservative with him again next year even if he pitches like they thought he would. I hope I’m wrong on that.

  2. roger October 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Seth, I like seeing numbers that reinforce what I mentioned a couple Saturday’s ago. Luke Hughes is a solid second baseman with some pop. I would like to see him penciled in to second next year…I think he would do a good job. Solid defensively with average range, good turning the double play, hit .260-.275 with eventually 20 home runs.

    Benson’s numbers in right have to be discounted a bit as he was thrown into the fire in a position that needs some time to learn. Revere’s UZR in center is surprising. Would have thought his lack of arm strength would have been more of a factor.

  3. gobbledy October 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    i wonder if they consider moving hicks back to the mound. a lot of teams thought of him as a pitcher in the draft. it has worked for a lot of guys (nathan). seth do you remember anything about what kind of stuff he had?

  4. JimCrikket October 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    2B: Trevor Plouffe – -4.9 UZR, -41.8 UZR/150, 127 innings
    SS: Trevor Plouffe – -7.7 UZR, -20.4 UZR/150, 464.2 innings
    RF: Trevor Plouffe – -3.1 UZR, -51.4 UZR/150, 72 innings

    Looks to me like yet another DH candidate because he’s costing his pitchers more with his defense than he’s helping with his bat. Looks to me like, in addition to only being concerned “a bit” with winning in the minor leagues, he was even less concerned with learning how to use a glove.

  5. jim October 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Who are the top defensive performers in the middle infield within the Twins minor league system this past season?

  6. Amy from lowes October 4, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    I can understand uzr and range but how do they determine arm?

  7. Shane Wahl October 5, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Seconding JimCrikket’s Plouffe to DH (PLATOON, is it REALLY so much to ask that Gardenhire platoons people at various positions?) comment. If Thome wants back, that would be an excellent situation. That Hughes can play second well is very nice. Casilla isn’t horrendous at SS, so that is certainly a preferable situation than a lot of others bandied about (if the Twins make the mistake of not getting some defensive shortstop). Thanks for the information, Seth.

  8. Shane Wahl October 5, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    Whoa, I encourage everyone to follow that Minor League Ball link. That is a great resource.

  9. Al October 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    What would account for Valencia’s drop year to year? How does a player get that much worse. Were the 2010 numbers just a small sample size?

    • mike wants wins October 6, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Defensive stats are somewhat variable year to year. The two big stats sites admit this on their descriptions of the defensive stats.


  1. Friday Links-N-Thinks | Minnesota Sports Zone - October 7, 2011

    […] There were some defensive issues for the Twins this year and Seth Stohs took an in-depth look at the topic. […]

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