Advanced statistics in baseball are largely useful in differentiating between what we think we see and what we actually see when it comes to players on the field. If ever those two shall meet … well, all the better because then the new-school numbers match the old-school eye test.
That brings us to the Twins. We were curious if what we saw matched what we thought we saw. So we took a spin through some advanced metrics at fangraphs.com and came away with some reinforced notions:
• Position players: How many of the eight positions to do you feel as though are relatively set for 2014, as long as everyone is healthy? Catcher, with Joe Mauer, naturally. Second base, probably, with Brian Dozier’s solid few months. Shortstop, perhaps, with Pedro Florimon’s impressive glovework and occasional offensive production.
Per FanGraphs’ calculation of WAR — the number of wins a player is worth above a low-level major league replacement, taking into account both offense and defense — that is accurate. Mauer is first among AL catchers with a WAR of 5.0 (minimum of 250 plate appearances). Dozier is seventh among AL second basemen (2.1). Florimon is seventh among AL shortstops (1.9). Nobody else is in the top 10 by position. The highest-ranked Twins outfielder? Clete Thomas at No. 35 in the AL, with a WAR of 0.7. Last year, Denard Span (12th in the AL) and Josh Willingham (13th) and Ben Revere (17th) were all at 3.0 or better.
• Starting pitchers: The eyes don’t lie. Here, we turn to xFIP — basically how good a pitcher has performed assuming he has an average defense behind him. There are 63 AL starters who have worked at least 100 innings this season, including four Twins: Sam Deduno, Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond and Mike Pelfrey. None are in the top 30 in the AL in xFIP. Two (Pelfrey and Diamond) are among the three worst.
• Relief pitchers: This has appeared to be a clear strength of the team, and the xFIP numbers bear that out. Glen Perkins and Casey Fien rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in that category in the American League. Three other relievers are in the top 50, all with above-average xFIP numbers.