Tagged: Defense

Finding Spans Position

While Minnesota Twins’ outfielder Denard Span has found his spot in the team’s lineup as the leadoff hitter, his true position in the team’s outfield has remained a question in his first full season as a major league player. 

After making his debut last season as a replacement for then injured right fielder Michael Cuddyer, Span consistently took the field in right. In a total of 104 defensive games last season, Span was in right field for 85 of them and in centerfield for the other 19.
This season that consistency has been unfound. With four outfielders, including one whose primary position is centerfield, Span has found himself hitting leadoff everyday and playing musical chairs in the field.
So far this season, Span has been the starter in left field 39 times, centerfield 42 times, and right field only 12 times. For now, Span will play anywhere so long as it’s a starting role. In time however, even as soon as next season, Span will be looking to remain in one full time location.
What position Span will field is still in question, but there is one of the three that Span fields best, and it just might work perfectly. According to the numbers, Span’s best defensive position is left field; with 23-year old Carlos Gomez the hopeful future in centerfield and Michael Cuddyer currently a mainstay in right, the question may answer itself.
Span Defense.png
The UZR takes into account several different factors including a fielder’s range. Each player has a positive or negative number which shows how many runs above or below average a fielder is at a given position.
This season Span has a UZR of 7.0 in left field, -3.5 in centerfield, and -1.2 in right field. With only 12 starts in right this season, his right field statistic may not be accurate (he had a rating of 7.1 in right field last season), but his numbers in center and left have a much larger sampling. 
Span’s UZR/150 for left field, which shows how many runs a fielder saves or costs his team over 150 defensive games, is 17.6 – seventh best among players with at least 350 innings.
Span has been greatly valued this season as a leadoff hitter and table-setter for All-Stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. He’s found his position in the lineup, and finally maybe, in the field as well.

Inspecting Credes Defense

When the Minnesota Twins signed third baseman Joe Crede to an incentive-laden deal in spring training, everybody knew the team was brining in a potential All-Star bat when healthy. The previous year, Crede had hit nearly 20 homeruns and was named an American League All-Star before a back injury ended his season after only 97 games. 

Thus far in ’09, after just over a half season of play, Crede has hit only .234. He has nonetheless been productive in driving in runners with 12 homeruns and 36 RBI. Crede finds himself on pace for 27 homeruns and 80 RBI by season’s end; numbers that third base in Minnesota hasn’t seen in quite some time. 
The offense is great, but Crede’s value extends much further than his presence in the lineup. With only two errors, Crede has the best fielding percentage (.988) of all qualified third baseman in the American League. 
The error total and fielding percentage alone tell a great deal about Crede’s value. They do not however tell the entire story. A newer stat, one now used by some voters to award the Gold Glove, very prominently shows Crede’s value to the left side of the infield and his team in general. 
The Ultimate Zone Rating, a number that factors in things such as a player’s arm and range, ranks Crede at the top of the league among all third baseman. 
Crede’s UZR/150, which is the average number of runs saved over the course of 150 defensive games, has Crede at a solid 27.0; a number that places him first in his position and over Beltre by nearly 10 runs. 
With a career average around .250 and pretty decent power numbers, Joe Crede is right on par with what the Twins signed up for a few months ago; and his defense has been a welcomed addition to a franchise known for doing ‘the little things’.