May 21, 2008
Twins Notes: Infield Shuffling, Sir Sidney, and TK
What does come as a surprise is Harris ranking second among AL second basemen in Revised Zone Rating, behind only A's defensive whiz Mark Ellis. While Harris getting to more balls in his zone than anyone in the league save for Ellis is plenty shocking, he certainly hasn't looked bad at second base in my eyes, at least on "normal" plays. However, Harris has looked pretty shaky far too often on double plays, which is seemingly what has Gardenhire doing everything he can to move him off the position.
With Casilla apparently out of the doghouse for the moment and Nick Punto due to return from the disabled list shortly, Gardenhire will soon have a pair of speedy, switch-hitting, defense-first second basemen to choose from as replacements for Harris even with a third such player, Tolbert, sidelined. Of course, Harris was supposed to be a bad-glove, good-hit second baseman, and he's batted just .262/.335/.355 while flashing a far better glove than expected on non-double plays.
Of course, while botched double plays are ugly and memorable, my guess is that a second baseman who makes the normal plays and struggles to turn two is far better than a shortstop who struggles to make the normal plays and capably turns two. On the other hand, Adam Everett was brought in during the offseason solely for his previously elite defense at shortstop, but has looked shaky for much of the year and is clearly having problems making even routine throws with his still-balky shoulder.
Everett has very little value if he's no longer an elite defender at shortstop, and Casilla replacing him there would seemingly be an obvious option given that Casilla has a great arm and has played plenty of shortstop in the minors. However, the team likely still views second base as Casilla's long-term position and if Gardenhire thinks that Harris can better handle double plays at shortstop that goes a long way toward explaining the latest infield shuffling. My guess? Lots of Punto, beginning next week.
UPDATE: Sure enough, Everett is now headed back to the disabled list.
Most fans and media members still misguidedly believe that "errors" and "defense" are the same thing, which is why Bartlett drew a tremendous amount of criticism for being an error-prone shortstop who possessed excellent range. Romano notes that the Rays got historically bad defense from their shortstops last season, which should be concerning for Twins fans given that Harris saw 53 percent of Tampa Bay's innings there.
The change in Tampa Bay's defense this season has been stunning, and you can attribute much of the improvement to Bartlett. He has brought calm to the infield and confidence to a pitching staff. ... Bartlett is getting to balls that, in years past, have routinely scooted through the infield for singles.
Based on figures from STATS Inc., Tampa Bay had the worst defensive shortstops in the American League last season. The Rays' zone rating--which measures a player's efficiency on balls hit in his vicinity--was the second worst for any team in the AL in the past 20 years. And Bartlett's zone rating? Last week, he was third in the American League.
"He is making the routine plays, and then some more on top of that," Rays third-base coach Tom Foley said. "He's got the knowledge, he's got the athleticism. We've seen multiple plays this year with the bare hand over the mound, or turning double plays on balls that you weren't even sure he could get to."
A fat columnist poking fun at a fat beat reporter is highly amusing to this fat blogger.
The propaganda about Ponson's sinker coming from the Twins' brain trust in spring training was such that LaVelle Neal admitted going on an obscure radio show and predicting ''13, 14 victories'' for the husky righthander (Sidney, not LaVelle). The Star Tribune's senior hardball writer was only generous by 11 or 12.
Once you adjust for catcher being the worst-hitting position in baseball and throw in his considerable defensive value, a WPA-based analysis likely shows Mauer as the league's most valuable position player thus far. Some homers would certainly be nice, but anyone complaining about a player hitting .330 and getting on base at a .400 clip while playing the most physically demanding, least-offensive position is merely doing a fine job showing how little they really know about baseball.
Tyner never got "a shot at them" because days after being called up by the Indians he was designated for assignment. He then went unclaimed on waivers, with the Twins and 28 other teams declining to take him for essentially nothing, and accepted his demotion back to Triple-A. Tyner spent the entire 2004 season in the minors and looks likely spend nearly the entire 2008 season in the minors, so perhaps the team that kept him in the majors from 2005-2007 wasn't so bad to him after all.
I thought I had earned my stripes there. I had a tough role. You'd go a week without playing, but I thought I did my job. I guess they didn't think about that when they made the decision. I'd like to get a shot at them. I know that.
Remember how I said Hicks reportedly doesn't want to pitch and that he was a toolsy outfielder as well? Here's a team that might be willing to take a shot on those considerable tools. Hicks has shown the ability to be a game-changing center fielder, though it may take some time for the bat to come. You never want a fall-back for a pick this high, but any team giving Hicks a shot as an outfielder surely knows that they can always turn to pitching and his 96-mph fastball if things don't work out after a while.
Back in 2004 many teams liked California high schooler Trevor Plouffe as a pitcher, but the Twins took him 20th overall as a shortstop and he's now one of the system's few decent middle-infield prospects.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.