|Photo Credit: Mark L. Baer, USA Today Sports|
A pitcher finds himself with runners on base before a perfectly placed pitch coaxes a ground ball to a middle infielder. After a flip to second and a laser throw to first, the defense is walking off the field. Fans in the stands get on their feet for the perfectly timed double-play.
But what's been the Twins' double play trouble this season?
Minnesota is actually near the top of the American League when it comes to turning double plays. Only the Texas Rangers have turned more double plays than the Minnesota Twins. On the surface, this seems like it could be a positive place for the Twins to be. But when one digs a little further, there are some hidden problems under the surface.
Twins pitchers have been able to collect more double plays because they are allowing more base runners than other teams. Minnesota has allowed the highest batting average in the AL by 13 points. They also rank last in WHIP, BABIP, and left on-base %. According to FanGraphs WAR, Twins pitchers only rank ahead of the Angles and they trail the Yankees, the highest ranking team, by over 10 WAR.
Another hidden problem has been Minnesota's defensive problems. The Twins's defense has a negative 33.5 defensive runs saved, the second worst mark in the American League. Following this weekend's tough series in Toronto, the Twins have now committed 100 defensive errors (55 fielding errors and 43 throwing errors). The next closest team in the AL is 17 errors behind the Twins.
Earlier this season, I discussed Minnesota's defensive dilemma and things haven't gotten better in the latest update (through August 7, 2016) of SABR's Defensive Index. Joe Mauer dropped from second to fourth among AL first basemen. Brian Dozier continues to rank near the bottom among second baseman with a -3.2 SDI. Like Dozier, Kurt Suzuki ranks as the third worst player at his position.
Other players haven't accumulated enough time to be featured in the rankings but there are still not many positive things on the horizon. Max Kepler has the most errors among all right fielders in the American League. Not to be outdone, Robbie Grossman has the most errors among all left fielders in the American League. Then there was this play from over the weekend.
If Minnesota wants to dig out of their current hole, there are plenty of changes that need to occur. One of the easiest ways to improve the pitching staff is to have better defense behind them. Twins' pitchers are giving up hits and the defense isn't helping the situation.
Even with double plays piling up, there are other glaring holes. Big innings can be avoided with better defense. Starters can make it longer into games with better defense. The bullpen can be relied on less often with better defense.
When fans walk through Gate 34, they pass a giant glove with all the names of former Gold Glove winners. Fielding was part of the heart of the organizational philosophy.
Now that heart seems to be broken.