• 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. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      I'm willing to give Plouffe a chance a 3rd this year. He was still adjusting to the spot last season. Plus if he has a good offensive season again it will help.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      And remember, he had the horrid thumb injury. He should be better in the field. He was, after all, the "shortstop" of our future at one time.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I find it odd that the Twins are saying things like they are seeking someone to challenge Plouffe. Before getting injured, his offensive outburst was very impressive and that was WHILE learning third base defensively after being moved around all over the hell the past two seasons and beginning the season in the OF.

      Thankfully they didn't sign Hannahan. His offensive value is really sinking.
    1. boney's Avatar
      boney -
      I'd lke to see them give Plouffe the year at third and concentrate on improving the middle infield defense. Is it possible that hey feel Plouffe is the type that needs direct competition in order to play his best or force hmself to improve?
    1. Big City's Avatar
      Big City -
      How was Plouffe a former SS? This season will determine if he's a viable 3B or if he needs to be moved to a corner OF position. The other possibility is to start experimenting with Mauer at the hot corner. I wouldn't put it past Mauer to play a solid 3B which would actually be the best situation for the Twins when he eventually has to move out from behind the plate.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Given their rebuild mode, isn't it more important to play Plouffe, than to replace him with some old guy that cannot hit? Should they not have patience with him, like with other young players? What good is a couple more wins next year, if Plouffe does not get more reps, and you do not know if he is the answer or not?
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Given their rebuild mode, isn't it more important to play Plouffe, than to replace him with some old guy that cannot hit? Should they not have patience with him, like with other young players? What good is a couple more wins next year, if Plouffe does not get more reps, and you do not know if he is the answer or not?
      Yeah, there's no sense to bringing in a third baseman to compete with him. They already have defensive subs in Carroll and Escobar.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      I only say Inge because i think Trevor deserves a full year to see if his bat and glove will allow him to stay at 3rd,with Brandon as a backup we should not have to carry Butrea
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Big City View Post
      How was Plouffe a former SS? This season will determine if he's a viable 3B or if he needs to be moved to a corner OF position. The other possibility is to start experimenting with Mauer at the hot corner. I wouldn't put it past Mauer to play a solid 3B which would actually be the best situation for the Twins when he eventually has to move out from behind the plate.
      Been arguing this for about 7 years now. Mauer would end up doing fine at 3B. You can platoon Mauer with Plouffe at 3B now and finally have a decent PH bat on the bench once in a while. Give Mauer 70 games/year at catcher and you potentially prolong his hitting productivity for the life of the contract.
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Is this how the Twins try to help Trevor Ploufee regain his confidence? I would be more worried about 2B, SS, CF, #1 & #2 SP and than 3B.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs have agreed to a deal with Carlos Villanueva.

      Terms of the deal are not yet known, but, assuming it's not too out of line, it's another sneaky addition to the rotation by the Cubs. Villanueva was shifted back and forth from starter to reliever the last two seasons by the Blue Jays, but he pitched really well out of the rotation in 2012 before a couple late-season blowups inflated his ERA. All told, he put up a 4.16 ERA and 112/46 K/BB ratio over 125 1/3 innings this past season.
      Related: Cubs

      Source: Jon Heyman on Twitte
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Been arguing this for about 7 years now. Mauer would end up doing fine at 3B. You can platoon Mauer with Plouffe at 3B now and finally have a decent PH bat on the bench once in a while. Give Mauer 70 games/year at catcher and you potentially prolong his hitting productivity for the life of the contract.
      I agree with you but no one else seems to.
    1. Chris in Osaka's Avatar
      Chris in Osaka -
      Moving one of the game's best catchers to third base is idiotic.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Chris in Osaka View Post
      Moving one of the game's best catchers to third base is idiotic.
      on a permanent basis, yes... but letting him catch 120 games and play another 30-40 at 3rd is not...
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Dont you love the mind games played by the mindless?
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Dont you love the mind games played by the mindless?
      I don't have to be a psychologist to tell that you're projecting.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      The Twins will never spend the money to bring in real competition for anyone so why do they play this game? Just go get pitching and a backup catcher and middle infield help. Plouffe isn't Mike Schmidt by any means but he's 20 times the player anyone Ryan is willing to sign. Skip Schumaker? jack Hannahan? Lets get serious. That's roster filler not competition.
    1. RGrouse's Avatar
      RGrouse -
      Plouffe is excellent at running through stop signs at third base, throwing high & wide to first on easy grounders and not able to hit in the clutch. Not the type of individual I would want on my team if the goal is to win championships. They got big holes to fill but 3rd base has to be on the list.
      Quote Originally Posted by Gernzy View Post
      I'm willing to give Plouffe a chance a 3rd this year. He was still adjusting to the spot last season. Plus if he has a good offensive season again it will help.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      ...and the answers is: to place someone who hasn't played 3B, SS, or 2B because they wish to claim that all positions are interchangeable--no experience required. Hmm, if that were the case why nt have Mauer pitch on the one game per week he needs to avoid catcher duty. Hoo Boy!!!
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I think we should have a 25 man roster and that all 25 should contribute. I have no problem with 3B competition and I think Plouffe could become a 30 home run guy and play a mean defensive hot corner in time. The backup could do some pinch hitting and play 3B when Plouffe plays some outfield because Parmelee is playing DH or 1B because Doumit came down with the flu while Morneau is nursing a bum ankle or Plouffe can just have a day off when he goes into a funk... I don't know who that backup should be... 3B is a little thin around the league. You may have to find a AAAA type.
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