Thursday, January 9, 2020

New Metrics Paint Ugly Picture for Twins Infield

In the ever-expanding quest for information, Baseball Savant unveiled new metrics for public consumption yesterday. We’ve had Outs Above Average for a couple of years now, but it’s only related to outfielders. Now thanks to technology provided through Statcast we have quantifiable infield numbers. For the Twins, that’s not a great thing.

At the top of the infield leaderboards there are plenty of familiar names. Javier Baez paces the league with 19 OAA. He’s followed by Nolan Arenado and Andrelton Simmons. Nick Ahmed gets in there before Trevor Story and then Matt Chapman. Everyone in that group is considered an elite defender of the dirt. When looking for Minnesota Twins though, they’re nowhere to be found.

Marwin Gonzalez was the highest performer of Rocco Baldelli’s squad, posting 7 OAA (good enough for 19th). You can then skip over the since departed Jonathan Schoop (5/31st) and C.J. Cron (1/99th) before reaching another currently rostered player. As a part-time player, Ehire Adrianza posted a -1 OAA (147th) and Miguel Sano checked in at -5 OAA (194th). That leaves just Luis Arraez (-6/206th) and Jorge Polanco, whose -16 OAA is tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for dead last (218th).

If you think back to 2019 there was a quiet concern as defensive ability dipped for Minnesota as the season went on. The reality isn’t necessarily that the unit got substantially worse, but that without Byron Buxton in the outfield, the over output was weighed down much more heavily by the sagging infield. Three of the infield spots are already spoken for in 2020, and unless there’s a concentrated jump in performance, they can be expected to provide much of the same.

Even without digging into advanced analytics, it was visible to the naked eye that Minnesota left plenty to be desired on the dirt. A poor infield makes groundball pitchers less than ideal fits for team construction, so seeing an appeal in Dallas Keuchel was always hard, and a reunion with Kyle Gibson might have been hard to swing.

Right now, we only have three years of OAA infield data at our disposal, but it will be interesting to see how the Twins look to evolve and attack the deficiency in 2020. Rather than dismissing the information as too invasive, it’s at least worth acknowledging that it describes exactly what we were able to see and solidify there may be a problem worth addressing.