• Twins Defensive Player of the Year: Denard Span

    On Monday, ESPN's Mark Simon wrote an article naming Mike Trout as the "Defensive Player of the Year" for MLB. Throughout the season, he and a team of twelve voters had picked out the best defensive player for every month and their overall choice for the year was Mr. Trout. This got me to thinking about who would come out on top for the Twins if the same award had to be given to a player on the roster for Minnesota. There are some good defensive players on the Twins and it's fun to try and pick out the player with the best year behind a lackluster pitching staff.
    The first step should be to name some of the top candidates on the defensive side of the ball for the Twins in 2012. In the outfield, there are a couple options with Denard Span and Ben Revere having very good seasons patrolling the deep outfield at Target Field. Jamey Carroll has done well in his time at multiple infield positions and Alexi Casilla has looked good in his limited action for the club. Since September started, Pedro Florimon has been impressive but he hardly has enough chances to be named as the top defender or did he...

    By digging into the statistics, it makes it easier to separate the leaders for the Twins. According to the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) statistic, Ben Revere has the top marks on the team during his time in the outfield. UZR is based on zone rating and it measures a fielder's success at getting to balls determined to be in his "zone" of the playing field. The number attempts to quantify how many runs a player saved through their fielding skills or lack of fielding skills. Revere's UZR sits at 16.3 which is almost five and a half points higher than the next closest member on the team. He also gets some credit for going out of his zone in right field to track down balls. Here is the top five for the Twins:

    Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) Leaders
    1. Ben Revere 16.3 (LF, RF, CF)
    2. Jamey Carroll 10.9 (2B, SS, 3B)
    3. Darin Mastroianni 10.1 (RF, CF, LF)
    4. Denard Span 9.4 (CF)
    5. Alexi Casilla 7.8 (2B, 3B)

    UZR isn't the only statistic of importance when it comes to grading defenders for the Twins. There are other categories to consider when trying to separate the boys from the men. Another metric that is easy for fans to understand is Defensive Runs Save (DRS). DRS captures a player's total defensive value by indicating how many runs a player saved when compared to the average player at his position. Much like UZR, DRS is measured in runs above or below average. Span ranks at the top for the Twins and some of the other members on this list might be a surprise.

    Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) Leaders
    1. Denard Span 20 (CF)
    2. Alexi Casilla 15 (2B, 3B)
    3. Jamey Carroll 13 (SS, 2B, 3B)
    4. Ben Revere 8 (RF, CF, LF)
    5. Pedro Florimon 6 (SS)

    Since there are two different websites visited by fans looking for statistics about baseball players, there can be some differences in the numbers put out by those sites. Baseball Reference and FanGraphs each have their own version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) so there are some differences in how they look at the defensive side of the ball. FanGraphs uses the UZR numbers from above when calculating their WAR number. Baseball Reference has a specific value for the amount of wins a player was worth as a defender over a replacement level player.

    Defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) Leaders
    1. Denard Span 2.4
    2 (tie). Jamey Carroll 1.8
    2 (tie). Alexi Casilla 1.8
    4. Pedro Florimon 0.9
    5. Ben Revere 0.6

    One final category to consider in the balloting for top defensive player on the Twins in 2012 is Range Runs (RngR). In this metric, it rates players based on their ability to get to a ball also known as their range. As with most of the statistics looked at here today, it is measured in runs saved compared to the average for other players in the league at the same position. Much like UZR above, Revere gets quite a bump from being a center fielder shagging fly balls in the corner outfield spots for most of the year.

    Range Runs (RngR) Leaders
    1. Ben Revere 12.6
    2. Denard Span 9.5
    3. Darin Mastroanni 8.9
    4. Jamey Carroll 7.0
    5. Alexi Casilla 6.6

    It's clear that there isn't a perfect way to measure a player's defensive ability but there are plenty of statistics to help clear up some of the foggy mess. With that being said, the Defensive Player of the Year for the Twins is Denard Span. He ranks at the top of two of the above categories and he finished runner-up in another category. After dealing with concussion issues for a chunk of last season, it was good to see Span manning center field for over 120 games this year. A nagging shoulder injury cost him some time late in the season and his numbers might have been even better had he not been on the DL. It was still a terrific defensive season for Mr. Span and he continues the line of great defensive center fielders for the Twins.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Defensive Player of the Year: Denard Span started by Cody Christie
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Good article and thanks for the summation. Carroll's numbers do surprise me.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Nice analysis. I've thought all season that Span wasn't getting the credit he deserved defensively (and Carroll too, for that matter). I remember about the time of the all-star game roster selection Gardy was quoted as saying (and I paraphrase) that Span was playing as well as anyone on the team. It was widely scoffed at but I had no difficulty believing it.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      span is now afraid of the wall, afraid to dive for a catch (no, i don't consider sliding on his butt a dive), has no where near the range of revere......... i just don't see it. so many balls he let drop in front of him when an aggressive jump and a dive would have been a catch. i would give it to revere......... who sans arm to consider (and he led the team outfielders in assists if you can believe that), would get those balls span was afraid to go for. i am reminded of the quote often attributed to mark twain, but twain himself attributed it to the 19th-century british prime minister benjamin disraeli (1804–1881): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      span is now afraid of the wall, afraid to dive for a catch (no, i don't consider sliding on his butt a dive), has no where near the range of revere......... i just don't see it. so many balls he let drop in front of him when an aggressive jump and a dive would have been a catch. i would give it to revere......... who sans arm to consider (and he led the team outfielders in assists if you can believe that), would get those balls span was afraid to go for. i am reminded of the quote often attributed to mark twain, but twain himself attributed it to the 19th-century british prime minister benjamin disraeli (1804–1881): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
      I would agree that his days in CF should probably be numbered and Revere should take over that position, but Span still has the ability to contribute nicely in LF or RF.

      I would also stop short of saying Span is afraid. It wouldn't surprise me if his concussion injury was still on his mind somewhat and that was affecting his wall play slightly, but as far as diving I would point out that it only makes the highlight reel when it works. When it doesn't and the ball gets behind you it will turn a single into a double or triple. I would prefer an outfielder who concentrated on keeping the ball in front of them, making the catch when possible but not gambling an extra base hit.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      Great article! It would be nice if we could keep Span AND add pitching. I would be for keeping Casilla too, but I'm probably the only one. Carroll at SS and Casilla at 2b with Escobar as the utility guy.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Quote Originally Posted by sbknudson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      span is now afraid of the wall, afraid to dive for a catch (no, i don't consider sliding on his butt a dive), has no where near the range of revere......... i just don't see it. so many balls he let drop in front of him when an aggressive jump and a dive would have been a catch. i would give it to revere......... who sans arm to consider (and he led the team outfielders in assists if you can believe that), would get those balls span was afraid to go for. i am reminded of the quote often attributed to mark twain, but twain himself attributed it to the 19th-century british prime minister benjamin disraeli (18041881): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
      I would agree that his days in CF should probably be numbered and Revere should take over that position, but Span still has the ability to contribute nicely in LF or RF.

      I would also stop short of saying Span is afraid. It wouldn't surprise me if his concussion injury was still on his mind somewhat and that was affecting his wall play slightly, but as far as diving I would point out that it only makes the highlight reel when it works. When it doesn't and the ball gets behind you it will turn a single into a double or triple. I would prefer an outfielder who concentrated on keeping the ball in front of them, making the catch when possible but not gambling an extra base hit.
      please don't get me wrong......... as i like span, and i agree that he brings a lot to the plate, and would be a more valuable corner outfielder. revere has his problems too......... and they both don't bring any outfielder consistent power. (oh, i forgot to say that span is even afraid to be still and close his eyes in the nmr tunnel) in regards to the "highlight reel" you refer to.......... there is a time to go for it, and a time to not. with the game on the line, and if you let the ball drop it still scores the go ahead or winning run(s)....... then you MUST take the dive. that is being a true team player. if it makes a highlight reel.... so be it. that is not the reason players try to make those catches with every sacrifice they can. with a 5 run lead........ play it safe and let the two runs score........... no doubt his concussion residue has created the fear, and i understand that.
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      span is now afraid of the wall, afraid to dive for a catch (no, i don't consider sliding on his butt a dive), has no where near the range of revere......... i just don't see it. so many balls he let drop in front of him when an aggressive jump and a dive would have been a catch. i would give it to revere......... who sans arm to consider (and he led the team outfielders in assists if you can believe that), would get those balls span was afraid to go for. i am reminded of the quote often attributed to mark twain, but twain himself attributed it to the 19th-century british prime minister benjamin disraeli (18041881): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
      Umm... A little perspective. Spans 2.4 dWAR was tied for 6th for all players in all of baseball. Do we really think he is not the best CF on this team?
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      very probably..... not for long.............. however you may think.
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      Given Revere's much higher zone rating, it follows that he would have put up better quantity-driven numbers (dWAR, DRS) than Span if given the bulk of playing time in CF as opposed to RF.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.