Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Valencia has shown defensive flaws

In the Metrodome years under Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, the Twins focused on having a good fielding team behind a pitcher that could pound the strike zone. The Twins had some great defenders in those years that prided themselves on making the routine plays and the extraordinary plays. Fielding the baseball has been a core value of the Twins for multiple generations.

In his rookie season with the Twins, Danny Valencia showed decent ability at third base to make the plays that were required of him on the field. His range and movement were satisfactory and his offensive skill set looked promising enough to let fans hope he would be the third baseman for the foreseeable future.

2010 Defensive Statistics
Defensive War: 0.5
Total Zone Fielding (Rtz): 6
Range Factor/Game: 2.68
Fielded ball resulting in out: 91%
% of bunts resulting in outs: 70%

Valenica has turned into the team's iron man this season by playing in a dozen more games than his closest teammate, Michael Cuddyer. Alexi Casilla is third on the list of games played and Valencia has appeared in 32 more games than Casilla. All of the extra time on the field for Valencia means that he has plenty of opportunities to make (or miss) plays when fielding the ball at third base.

The manager has been quick to jump on Valencia in games when the young player has struggled. There have been plenty of those opportunities this season and Monday night was another chance for Gardenhire to voice some constructive criticism of Mr. Valencia. There are many defensive plays that Valencia seems to have limited range in all directions. He does rate better on balls hit to his right than to his left but the stiffness in fielding is still there.

2011 Defensive Statistics
Defensive War: -1.8
Total Zone Fielding (Rtz): -18
Range Factor/Game: 2.22
Fielded ball resulting in out: 84%
% of bunts resulting in outs: 44%

One of the most important plays for a third baseman to make is charging in on a bunt to get an out. Former Twins players Corey Koskie and Nick Punto were very good at approaching the bunt down the line and making the appropriate play on the batter. The slow roller down the line has become a very difficult play for Valencia to make in the middle of a game.

In 2010, Valencia had ten bunts that he fielded while playing third base. Out of those ten different plays, he recorded an out 70% of the time. A very good percentage when you consider some of the situations that he would be placed in when a batter bunts the ball. For example, Evan Longoria won the Gold Glove in 2010 for his defensive prowess at third base. Last season, Longoria had 32 opportunities to field a bunt and he managed to get an out on 63% of those plays. 

When it comes to bunted balls in the 2011 season, Valencia has shown his fair share of struggles. There have been 16 balls that were bunted his way so far this season. In 2011, the percentage of those plays that have resulted in outs is only 44%. There have been numerous plays throughout the year where Valencia will charge the ball and try to make the bare handed play. Much like last night, those plays have resulted in Valencia missing the ball and the runners being safe. 

There are obviously plenty of things to work on for the entire team during this offseason. Last year, Valencia spent time working with Alex Rodriguez near their homes in Miami. Hopefully, A-Rod can pass on some of his defensive knowledge to the Twins third baseman in the coming offseason. The three extra days of drills at Spring Training might not be enough time to fix all of the team's defensive flaws. 

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On Sunday night, I was lucky enough to host the "SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Minnesota Twins Podcast." I covered a wide variety of topics in the half hour show so make sure to check it out. 

On Monday night, I joined Seth to help him out with the "Twins Minor League Weekly Podcast." We talked in awe of the great players for the Elizabethton Twins as well as other minor league headlines.
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