• Twins still seeking third base help?

    When Jack Hannahan signed with the Cincinnati Reds last week, this took yet another potential third base option off the board for the Minnesota Twins.

    Hannahan, a local product with above-average defensive prowess and a mediocre platoon bat from the left-side, appeared to be a given to land in Minnesota. With Terry Ryan’s statements that the team was going to push their incumbent, Trevor Plouffe, Hannahan’s left-handedness and superior defense felt like the logical fit. Perhaps less realistically, free agent Eric Chavez was also snapped up by a more competitive Diamondbacks team. The Twins also flirted a bit with the Cardinals and utility man Skip Schumaker but the Los Angeles Dodgers ultimately obtained the 32-year-old.

    Clearly the Twins have been putting forth effort in that market this offseason but will little progress. The focus shifted the past few weeks to acquiring starting pitching -- such as the recent signings of Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey -- and the third base position has moved to the back burner.

    How important is it that either the Twins find a suitable challenger to Plouffe’s position? Very, if you follow the data.

    Thanks to a collection of pitchers who allows for an exorbitant amount of contact, the Twins infielders were tested regularly this past season. In fact, their left side of the infield led the league in most balls hit into their respective zones in 2012. At third, Minnesota had 402 in-zone balls hit that direction -- the next closest was Boston at 385.

    Highest In-Zone Balls - Third Base 2012
    Team
    In-Zone Balls
    Twins
    402
    Red Sox
    385
    Royals
    383
    Giants
    383
    Rockies
    370
    (via Fangraphs.com’s BIS data)

    Plouffe, who handled a shade over 800 innings in the field last year, was marginal at best according to defensive metrics. His own revised zone rated of .691 was 22nd overall among third basemen with a minimum of 500 innings in the field. This was a fairly average mark considering the top third baseman by this metric -- Jack Hannahan -- was at .791. But more that that, Plouffe’s ability to make plays outside a third baseman’s standard universe was also poor in comparison to others. In 804.2 defensive innings, Plouffe was able to convert just 14 balls out of the standard zone into outs. Over ten other third basemen with fewer innings were able to make more outs on balls out of that zone.

    Another area of the game in which Plouffe needed work is turning double plays. In 2012, the Twins led all of baseball with 158 double plays turned. Part of that is a byproduct of having a high-contact pitching staff with ground ball tendencies combined with opponents who start a hit parade. Furthermore, when you lead baseball with the most batted balls into third and shortstop zones, you can expect a high number of double plays. Here’s the thing: With all the opportunities, with all the plays in zone, with all the base-runners, Plouffe started just 12 double plays all year (24th in baseball). With a high-contact staff, it is almost imperative that double plays are turned to help get the defensive off the field.

    So, Plouffe was converting on just 69% of plays inside his zone whereas the game’s elite were making outs on nearly 80% of their opportunities. This may not seem like a significant difference however for every ball that is failed to be converted into an out, it allows the opposing team to extend their half of the inning. With a high percentage of contact-oriented pitchers, this spells trouble.

    With the addition of similar high-contact arms in Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey, these figures are not likely to drop either, making that a fairly vital position for the team. With two months remaining until pitchers and catchers report, the Twins may begin to increase their shopping activity once again - specifically in the third base department.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins still seeking third base help? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      Three Words: Mark DeRosa
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      If Plouffe can get back to his power hitting ways from last summer his lack-luster below average at defense is an acceptable loss. If he turns back into a pumpkin or cant keep his BA around .250, then his offensive skills will not outweigh the problems with his glove. That being siad, with 2013 looking to be another bad season for the Twins, give him all the chances he needs to find his power stroke, what's the harm?
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      Three Words: Mark DeRosa
      You know what would be worse than signing DeRosa? Overpaying him.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      This thing about Plouffe and his "bad defensive issues" in a season when he hit 24 HRs (which, to remind you, is more than ANY Twins hitter hit in 2011 and any RHB hit in 2010; Thome hit 25 then) is ridiculous, especially coming from the same powers of being who were trotting Brian Butcher out there when the Twins were "Competing".

      Those are the facts and read what you want into them.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      This thing about Plouffe and his "bad defensive issues" in a season when he hit 24 HRs (which, to remind you, is more than ANY Twins hitter hit in 2011 and any RHB hit in 2010; Thome hit 25 then) is ridiculous, especially coming from the same powers of being who were trotting Brian Butcher out there when the Twins were "Competing".

      Those are the facts and read what you want into them.
      Any predictions on how many HRs Plouffe will hit in 2013? How manyHRS (or OPS) are needed to justify him as a regular 3B?
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      Any predictions on how many HRs Plouffe will hit in 2013? How manyHRS (or OPS) are needed to justify him as a regular 3B?
      I see this was directed at Thrylos... But I'd like to play.

      2011: At age 25 he hit 23 home runs between AAA and the bigs in a combined 540 at bats.
      2012: At age 26 he hit 24 home runs in 422 at bats... 17.6 AB/HR

      This looks like a trend up during a career prime age. Assuming at least decent health... I think he will have more at bats in 2013 because of the lack of alternatives.

      I'll say a dinger every 16 at bats... 550 at bats... Run it through this special computer my son brought over to me... Oops... He says its not a computer... It's a calculator... My bad... Punch up the numbers and I predict with a 99 percent chance of being wrong.

      34.375 home runs!!!

      I'm not afraid to be wrong but wouldn't it be cool if I end up right or close.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Wow! That is super! Somehow we'll have to find a way to quell all of the "sell high" guys. I mean how many posts have we read advocating trading Willingham?--or any of the newly signed pitchers should he "have a good 1st half, then 'flip' him"--these guys are relentless.
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