Defense! It Saved Two Jobs and Solidified One.
by, 05-31-2013 at 02:28 PM (520 Views)
If Brian Dozier played second base this year like he played shortstop last year, is there any chance he'd still be on the big league roster? If Chris Parmelee played right field with the proficiency of Ryan Doumit and (so far) Osvaldo Arcia, would he be in Minneapolis or Rochester (NY)? Finally, if Pedro Florimon played shortstop like he did last year and the first couple weeks of this year, would the fans be calling for Escobar, Carroll and Danny Santana?
I think the answer to all three questions is that defense has made a difference. Dozier as a shortstop last year demonstrated marginal tools--average range, enough arm--and probably a lack of focus due to his offensive struggles. He was a subpar SS, for sure. This year he has moved to second and has been a very good defender, showing good range, a quick pivot, especially for someone new to the position, and good hands. His defense has kept him in the big leagues and probably kept him in contention to continue to get regular at-bats this year and beyond.
Parmelee was thought to be a displaced first baseman, basically waiting for Morneau to get injured or traded. While he isn't blessed with even average speed, Chris has caught everything he could get to, played the corners and the walls well, charged balls well hit in front of him and thrown very well. Because he gets pretty good breaks on balls, I think one could classify his range as "adequate" despite the lack of foot speed. This year, Parm has logged an inning in center field and served as a defensive replacement. Not many would have predicted either of those things going into the season. So, despite a .223 BA and .647 OPS, Chris is still getting playing time in Minnesota, not upstate New York.
Florimon's assignment as the regular shortstop was questioned. There was nothing to project him as anywhere near an average hitter and his defense didn't profile as anything special--too many errors, too many routine plays not turned into outs--and Pedro began the season with some sketchy defense. He could have been charged with a half dozen more errors than he received and threw a whole bunch of sinkers to first base, most of them dug out by Morneau. As the weather has warmed, so has Florimon's defense. The throws are 100% improved, he's fielding grounders with confidence and making very few, if any, mental mistakes. Combined with acceptable offensive production, Florimon has, for now at least, cemented his position in the lineup.
All three of these guys need to hit to maintain their roles with this club and have a future in the big leagues, but their leashes have gotten longer because they have exceeded expectations in the field. To me, Parmelee is the biggest surprise. He doesn't look like much of an athlete, but he's made the plays. Unfortunately for him, defense at first and outfield corners is not nearly as important as how well you swing the bat. Dozier and Florimon have been a decent middle infield and a real improvement over last year.