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Twins make an error Friday, but defense is improved in their eyes

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • June 1, 2013 - 12:34 AM

The Twins defense might be very good, and also it’s possible that it’s very bad, and then again, it could be basically average — there are statistics to back up all points of view.

For the sabermetrically inclined, FanGraphs.com’s ultimate zone rating (UZR) and range runs (RgR), which attempt to quantify overall range and the ability to turn batted balls into outs, both rate the Twins the worst defense in baseball, while the website’s defensive runs saved (DRS) metric, which tries to count actual runs avoided with good defense, places the Twins at almost exactly the league average.

The Twins in uniform, though, prefer the more traditional measures of defense — their own observations and, if stats have to be involved, errors. And by those measures, the Twins’ emphasis on shoring up their defense is paying off.

They entered Friday with only 20 errors on the season, fewer than all other major league teams but St. Louis and Baltimore, which had committed 19 apiece. Pitcher Anthony Swarzak committed error No. 21 with a bad throw in the seventh inning, the Twins’ first error in 12 games.

“Making all the plays, we’ve been doing that very well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We worked really hard on it in spring training — relays, getting the ball to the right people, all those things.”

He is particularly happy with his double-play combination, shortstop Pedro Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier, and that’s something that sabermetricians can agree with — UZR rates both among the top 10 in baseball at their position. Dozier has committed only two errors, while Florimon, who has four on the season, has been error-free for 27 consecutive games.

“We’ve clicked better than any tandem up the middle I’ve ever been a part of,” said Dozier, who moved over from shortstop this spring. “We’ve been at it since spring training, and it seems like we know exactly the feeds, where each of us likes [the ball], footwork on double plays. I feel like we have two shortstops out there.”

Etc.

• They haven’t exactly gone to closer-by-committee, but the Twins accomplished an unusual feat this week. Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins and Jared Burton each recorded a save against the Brewers, the first time three Twins pitchers have recorded saves in consecutive games since July 20-22, 1993. That trio was made up of Rick Aguilera and Carl Willis in Detroit, and Mike Trombley at home against Baltimore. One difference from the modern one-inning saves: Willis pitched 2⅔ innings to earn his save, and Trombley went four innings.

• Saturday is outfielder Wilkin Ramirez’s seventh day on the concussion disabled list, but Terry Ryan doesn’t expect him to be activated when he’s eligible Sunday. “It’s doesn’t look like he’s going to be ready,” the Twins general manager said. “It’s going just so-so.”

• At the invitation of the Twins, Wild players Zach Parise and Josh Harding, along with former Wild player Mark Parrish and fellow St. Cloud State product Casey Borer, shagged fly balls during batting practice.

Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters accomplished something this week that hadn’t been done for more than a month: They gave the Twins back-to-back starts of six innings or more. Not since April 20-23 had the Twins bullpen gone two games in a row without being summoned in the sixth inning or sooner. Gardenhire said he likes the look of the rotation now, but “it’s got to be about consistency, doing it over and over. You have to give them time, face some different ballclubs and some different lineups, to see exactly what you’ve got.”

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