Behold the Twins’ Defensive Turnaround

It’s not just the White Sox who have been an early AL Central surprise. There are also the Twins, who, at 15-14, stand just a game and a half behind the Indians. Now, the Twins are not as good as the Indians. For all I know, the Twins might not be as good as the White Sox. You don’t want to overreact too much to a season’s first five weeks. But you might at least want to understand how the Twins have gotten here. One part of the answer: a much-improved defensive unit.

Last season, by Defensive Runs Saved, the Twins ranked 28th in baseball. By Ultimate Zone Rating, they again ranked 28th, giving them an average rank of…28. This season, by DRS, the Twins rank third in baseball. By UZR, they rank fifth, giving them an average rank of 4. That’s an average rank improvement of 24 places.

Here is how every team has moved so far, according to the same method.

There are, obviously, other teams who have played better defense. And there are other teams who have played worse defense. Here’s just another area where the Blue Jays underwhelm. But no one’s moved quite like the Twins have. This is just an InstaGraphs post, so I’m not going to dig in too deep; the Twins have gotten better at catcher, shortstop, and in the outfield, in particular. By pitching WAR last year, the Twins ranked 28th. This year they rank 27th. By hard-hit rate last year, Twins pitchers ranked second-worst. This year they rank second-worst. And yet by BABIP allowed, last year, the Twins ranked second-worst. This year they rank 10th-best. It’s nothing amazing, but the Twins have been able to prevent some hits. That’s something they struggled to do a season ago. The Twins haven’t ridden some complete fluke to an above-.500 record.

Incidentally, I know this isn’t about the Cubs, but as you’ll recall, last year the Cubs set a team BABIP record. This year their BABIP allowed is tied for 14th. Okay! I don’t have anything for that quite yet.

The Minnesota Twins have a defense. The Minnesota Twins have an offense. We’ll see about the pitching staff. We’ll see about Jose Berrios. You can squint and see something interesting in development here.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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5 years ago

Polanco has been a lot better at short than I would have thought.