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  • Pedro Florimon's "Limbo Line"

    You’ve heard of the Mendoza Line. Named after Mario Mendoza, a shortstop for the Pirates, Mariners and Rangers in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was a career .215 hitter. To this day, when a hitter has a batting average hovering around .200, it is known as the “Mendoza Line.” In his era, that wasn’t good, but shortstop did not become an offensive position until the mid-1990s. So today, I have to ask one question for Twins Daily readers to consider. What is the “Limbo Line” as it relates to offense from a shortstop? How Low Can They (the offensive numbers) Go?

    No one is going to dispute the importance of the shortstop position defensively. The shortstop is the leader of the infield. It is important for a good defensive shortstop to have great range, going left or right. It is important for a good defensive shortstop to have a strong, accurate arm, particularly to make the long throw from the 5.5 hole. He must make the routine plays. The Twins shortstop, Pedro Florimon, is among baseball’s best on defense.

    OFFENSIVE NUMBERS

    However, although defense is immensely important for a shortstop, offense is also part of the game. It is the part that Pedro Florimon has not been able to do well. In his minor league career, he hit .249/.321/.354 (.675) over seven seasons. In AA, his OPS was .678. At the AAA level, he posted an OPS of .652.

    So when Florimon hit .221/.281/.330 (.611) in his first full season last year with the Twins, it is what should have been expected. The fact that he added nine home runs and 15 stolen bases was respectable, though certainly not as good as his 70 OPS+ would indicate.



    Florimon is obviously off to a bad start in the first two weeks of 2014. Through 35 plate appearances in 11 games, he enters Tuesday’s game hitting just .067/.176/.067 (.243) with just two hits. Of course, being extremely worked up about his .067 batting average is akin to getting really excited about the possibility of a hitter with a .450 batting average at this point in the season becoming the first player since Ted Williams over 70 years ago to hit .400. The sample is just too small.

    How much of that is due to missing about a month of spring training after his emergency appendectomy? There is no way to know that. Over the final two weeks of spring training, Florimon was playing daily, and as the season started, he was at 100%

    What is realistic to expect is that 2014 should be a little bit better than 2013. Nothing dramatic. Maybe an OPS above .630. What is the batting average, on base percentage of OPS line that you would find acceptable as it relates to Pedro Florimon at the shortstop position?

    DEFENDING DEFENSE

    As a reminder, Pedro Florimon’s defense is among the best in baseball. Any look at the 2013 defensive metrics will back that up. Looking at Baseball-Reference, Florimon’s defensive WAR was 2.2. That was second among all shortstops to the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons and his remarkable 5.4. Florimon’s 5.29 Range Factor per Nine led MLB, ahead of Simmons who came in at 4.92.

    One of the most important things about Florimon has been his ability to not take his struggles at the plate into the field. If you don’t want to buy the defensive metrics, Florimon certainly passed the eye test. He has the range in both directions and comes in on the slow rollers well. He has a very strong arm.

    Finally, when you consider the pitchers on the Twins staff, middle infield defense becomes pretty valuable. Phil Hughes has struck out a batter per inning through his first two starts. However, none of the five starters classifies as a strikeout pitcher. They will all likely give up a hit per inning. The ball will be put in play and defense does matter.

    SUMMARY

    I have been a proponent of Pedro Florimon through the offseason because of the defense. For me, the “Limbo Line” with Florimon is probably an OPS about where he was in 2013. Maybe a .610-.620 OPS. I’d love to see a .250 batting average or a .300 on-base percentage. I don’t think either of those is realistic.

    Danny Santana is at AAA. He’s hitting about .250 this young season. He is not ready, but he could be a possibility by September or more likely mid-2015. Last week, the Twins acquired Eduardo Nunez from the Yankees. Although he is more of a utility player, he could work his way from #2 utility man to starting shortstop at some point this season. His defense at shortstop is statistically horrific, but he could post a .700 OPS. Jorge Polanco is getting a chance to play shortstop consistently at the start of the 2014 season. He has six errors in 10 games. He is hitting very well. He has a long ways to go.

    So, for you, what is the value of great defense? I’m curious what your thoughts are for where the Limbo Line should be for the Twins shortstop. In your opinion, how low can Pedro Florimon’s batting average, on-base percentage or OPS go?
    Comments 118 Comments
    1. JW24's Avatar
      JW24 -
      Many of the other comments have touched on this, but for me, Florimon simply needs to put the ball in play more often. If he can do that, his slash line will rise.

      As of right now, it is obviously frustrating to have an automatic out coming to the plate, especially right before the top of the order. However, his value is entirely in his defensive abilities, which are tremendous. In baseball, having great defensive players up the middle is extremely important. This is why the Twins were so hesitant to move Mauer from behind the dish, and waited out Aaron Hicks' struggles so long last season; they provide plus defense at a premium position. Florimon does the same.

      On a side note, one move I would love to see the Twins make, and one that I do not feel is likely to happen, is to pursue Nick Franklin of the Seattle Mariners as a potential fix at SS. The Mariners have no place for him to play, after the Cano signing. They have a former second baseman in Dustin Ackley playing outfield already. Franklin would be a down-grade defensively from Florimon (as would almost everyone), but not to the Nunez/Escobar extent, and the kid can hit. Provided that he is only 23 years old, he could be a long term solution at SS.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      The Twins started the season with
      1) a starting rotation that still pitches to contact
      2) a light hitting good defensive catcher, backed up by just the opposite
      3) a new to the position first basemen
      4) a good defensive and offensive 2nd basemen
      5) a mediocre fielding, good hitting 3rd basemen
      6) black hole hitting, Hoover fielding SS
      7) a terrible fielding, power hitting left fielder
      8) a big question mark in CF
      9) an unproven potentially very good hitting, bad fielding right fielder
      10) a plethora of DH talent

      there has to be more than one player behind the pitchers mound who can field their position cleanly with minimal errors. Hitting has not been an issue so far, but the Twins have been winning games 10 to 8. I'm not ready to pull the plug on Florimon yet.

      I would be ok with Florimon for the rest of the season if the following items occurred, reducing or eliminating the other lineup black holes.

      1) Hicks proves his potential to be a .250 hitting, excellent fielding CF.
      2) Pinto earns the lions share of catching duties.

      2 I think is pretty much a lock
      1 I'm not sure of, 50/50

      it would be icing on the cake if Florimon learned to bunt and steal bases effectively with some frequency.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      He needs to put up at least what he did last year. The most frustrating part is he doesn't even seem to move up runners.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      If the Twins insist on solving this problem from within then they are going to need to get more creative. Here's a couple ideas:

      1. swap Herrmann for Beresford. The Twins can't afford the roster space for a no hit bench player and don't need a 3rd catcher anyway.

      2. start road games with one of the bench bats as the SS and batting somewhere 1-3. Sub in Florimon for the bottom of the 1st and PH for him again later if necessary. That way you can minimize Florimon to 1-3 PA's per road game while also having him on defense for most of the game.

      3. For home games, move Dozier to SS, put Beresford at 2B.

      4. Alternatively, at home, move Plouffe to SS, Mauer to 3B, and Colabello to 1B.

      5. Can Pinto play 3B?
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      He's got to OPS in the vicinity of .600 to be a realistic major league starter. Right now that seems unlikely. His numbers won't stay this putrid forever, but I'm not optimistic they'll even approach that .600 mark.

      Last year he had some pretty good success (by his standards) early in the year, but in the second half of last year he was pretty much the hitter we've been watching so far this year. He managed to steal a base every other week and hit a homerun once every three weeks, but other than that he was quite terrible.

      Normally I'd say a player's got until June when there's nobody really knocking down the door to take his job, but I think he's got maybe a couple more weeks before they send him down and give Escobar or Nunez a shot as the starter. He's been that bad so far.

      How is Beresford's defense? The 40-man roster spot would seem to be his biggest hindrance at this point.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      The Twins believe in "pitching to contact".

      Disagree with that or not as a good philosophy, that means until the Twins get strikeout pitchers, the SS must be average or better defensively. I think Florimon is overrated defensively but yes, he is better than average. Nunez is simply horrid on defense. NO WAY the Twins can play him at SS. (His defense with the current pitching staff will cost the Twins a run or two at least a game.) The Twins defense on the corners is already below average.

      Given that, Florimon has to be given a wide berth. Play him til June--if his numbers come close to last year--keep him in the lineup. Maybe PH in late innings and put Escobar in there then.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I like Willihammer's plan a lot, but no way they get that innovative. They just figured out Shifts.....
    1. brvama's Avatar
      brvama -
      Having Florimon in the line-up is like a team playing in the AL w/o the DH. That being said, I can tolerate him there IF he can approach his 2013 offensive numbers. As has been stated, the Twins replacement are not clear upgrades either. So until a trade, waiver, or FA signing occurs it is what it is.

      It's not unusual for teams to have an offensively weak/defensively strong player in the lineup. The problem occurs when the other spots become offensively challenged. I think any lack of production in the other positions is more troubling for me.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I don't expect Florimon to turn into Tulo.

      However... He needs to watch how Plouffe is hitting right now. Plouffe is going with the pitch all of a sudden and it's awesome. Plouffe isn't trying to pull everything and it's working.

      This year... I'm watching Florimon pull outside pitches and grounding out weak time and time again.

      He's technically flawed and if he fixes it... He could surprise us all.

      Sadly... some people never fix it.

      On the D side of things... I'll say it again... A play made or not made... isn't just a single stroke in a column or UZR chart.

      Anytime a play is made that others don't make... you take a large step toward preventing a big inning. Anytime a play is not made... that extra out can lead to a Bartman sized crooked number.

      Official scorers are much to easy going.

      Those crooked numbers decide ball games... I will always be a D guy in the pursuit of wins.

      Florimon and Dozier are a fantastic pair and better than most keystone combo's.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I don't understand why Florimon wasn't DL-ed given the appendectomy. He clearly is not healthy enough to hit. He is a bad hitter, but not this bad. And last year he did flash a little power and that isn't happening. Get him an injury and get him down to rehab. Escobar is perfectly fine and the Twins could add Nunez's bat or Beresford's glove (and singles bat?) if they want.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      Shane's probably just described the best plan.

      When he came onboard with the club, I was opposed to the idea of a no-hit SS. Then I watched him play. Honestly, his D is such an asset that his bat don't bother me none at all.

      The step from a .220/9 HR hitter with an excellent glove to a .260/12 HR hitter with a weak glove doesn't appeal to me and fans who are calling for his replacement would eventually be calling for Nunez's head, Escobar's head, Santana's head, Beresford's head, etc.

      I think it was wrong to work off the rust with the big club, but we can reasonably expect that he'll produce at 3x the rate he is so far (which would put him in line with historic averages) and that is not unforgivable at short.

      Jason Bartlett got MVP votes in 2008 when he posted a .690 OPS at short!

      PeeFlow's history is that of a low-mid .600's OPS. That is fine when paired with his glove.
    1. puckstopper1's Avatar
      puckstopper1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by stringer bell View Post
      I have been in the pro-Florimon camp, believing that defense is crucial and that P-Flo could raise his OBP a bit just by making contact a bit more and perhaps bunting successfully a few more times. So far (and it is really early), it looks like he doesn't have a clue at the plate. I do think that in order for Florimon to continue with the Twins 1) he needs to hit at least as well as he did last year and 2) that either he is a starter or he is relegated to the minor leagues or release.
      Stinger makes a good point. How many times has Pedro tried to bunt for base hits this year? That was supposed to been part of his "aresenal" this year.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      I wonder what it would take to trade for JJ Hardy.

      ....too soon?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I don't understand why Florimon wasn't DL-ed given the appendectomy. He clearly is not healthy enough to hit. He is a bad hitter, but not this bad. And last year he did flash a little power and that isn't happening. Get him an injury and get him down to rehab. Escobar is perfectly fine and the Twins could add Nunez's bat or Beresford's glove (and singles bat?) if they want.
      I think he's the kind of hitter who needs to really work hard and long in the cage to have a chance. Losing the first three weeks of spring training made it almost impossible for him to be in good form out of spring training. So why not start him on the DL and give him a rehab assignment in extended spring until he can get his swing back? I don't understand why they didn't do this.
    1. reinhardt_nation's Avatar
      reinhardt_nation -
      Is anyone else interested in seeing if BullDozier can remedy the shortstop situation?

      The BulldDozier of today is much different from the prospect who was rushed to the bigs, never looking settled defensively or offensively as a result.

      I'm ok with Florimon for now - I pretend the Twins are in the National League and a pitcher has to swing every 9
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      The only reason the Twins should EVER bunt is 1. traditional bunting situation, and 2. Florimon is up, and pinch-hitting isn't an option (e.g. the stud hitter who would win the game for you is your back-up catcher).

      But, of course, bunting would even be stupid if Florimon were even a AAA light-hitter. He's not. His defense is okay, but it can be replaced. His bat can be replaced by me, and I can't even hitting a 90 mph batting cage ball.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I think he's the kind of hitter who needs to really work hard and long in the cage to have a chance. Losing the first three weeks of spring training made it almost impossible for him to be in good form out of spring training. So why not start him on the DL and give him a rehab assignment in extended spring until he can get his swing back? I don't understand why they didn't do this.
      What was the injury? By opening day, he had played in 3 weeks of games and was playing as much as the starters in the last week to 10 days.
    1. edavis0308's Avatar
      edavis0308 -
      Quote Originally Posted by reinhardt_nation View Post
      Is anyone else interested in seeing if BullDozier can remedy the shortstop situation?

      The BulldDozier of today is much different from the prospect who was rushed to the bigs, never looking settled defensively or offensively as a result.

      I'm ok with Florimon for now - I pretend the Twins are in the National League and a pitcher has to swing every 9
      No. Then we have a hole at 2nd, and someone else has to bat second.

      /rim shot.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      The limbo line for me is when he hits bad enough that you'd prefer to DH him over the pitcher.
      The Hicks comparison, while valid from small sample size standpoint doesn't hold up in other ways, like the fact (already mentioned) that he just hasn't hit -- ever. The other reason it's bad is that Hicks was 23 last year and Florimon is 27 this year and this isn't his first exposure to major league pitching (though he doesn't have 1000 plate appearances yet).

      Is Escobar really that bad defensively? I realize his numbers don't look much better, but he wasn't getting regular at bats and he has a smaller number.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      It is more of a question on how many nopn-batters you can carry in a lineup. How long can you keep Dozier, who will give you the occasional homerun, although giving you a leadoff homer is not something to cheer about. Can you also afford to have a cenetrfielder who also hit the Mendoza line. And can you carry a catcher than hits the Mendoza line, even with power. You CAN have one batting hole, always, in a lineup (which in the National League is usually the pitcher). You can also have a light-hitter in the outfield of he has speed (also on the basis). When you go beyond that, the poor bat ahs to be replaced by a better bat, no matter the outcome in the field. You can have the best fielding team in the league and still lose a lot of games 1 or 2-0. Let.s look at the Twins. Dozier: Has some punch, adequate at 2B. Mauer, can be perfect, but helps more if the people batting before him egt on base more than 33/40% of the time. Willingham needs to heal. Kubel ahs been a surprise. Colabello is a glorified bench player. You use him when he is hot. Suzuki will put the ball in play, but unless he can outhit Pinto, and unless Pinto can outhit Suzuki, we have a weakness behind-the-plate. Hicks is a total work in progress. Can he just get on base. Floirmon suffer because of Hicks before him and Dozier after him. The guy will swing and push and thus not do anything because there is no need to pitch to him period. Plouffe just needs to show consistency. Bartlett isn't ultimately worth it, sadly. Herrmann is bench fodder, sad to say. Mastro has to make the most of his opportunity or we get Ramirez back. The Twins are suffering bigtime because of Hicks/Florimon/Dozier batting back to back, and this ultimately hurts Mauer.
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