June 16, 2005
Thursday EditionArizona Diamondbacks: Though Arizona's fast start has been dismissed in some quarters, there are several underlying stories that are getting lost amid the Pythangenport reassessments of the NL West:
Minnesota Twins: The Minnesota Twins seemingly have no major flaws this year, but to this point still trail the Chicago White Sox in the standings. In examining why, let's start with their hitting. How does it compare with last year's? The numbers, entering Wednesday:
2005 AL PMLV 2004 AL PMLV Pos Player Pos Rank PMLVr Pos Player Pos Rank PMLVr C Mauer 3 .249 C Mauer 7 .407 1B Morneau 4 .106 1B Morneau 9 .148 2B Punto 9 .102 2B Rivas 22 -.023 3B Cuddyer 14 -.026 3B Koskie 9 .103 SS Castrlett* 17 -.063 SS Guzman 19 -.011 LF Stewart 7 .069 LF Stewart 8 .118 CF Hunter 3 .142 CF Hunter 6 .098 RF Jones 3 .166 RF Jones 23 -.034 DH Ford 8 .079 DH Ford 5 .012 AVER 7.56 .092 AVERAGE 12.00 .104 * Castrlett = Juan Castro + Jason BartlettUsing PMLV and PMLVr, we can see that while the Twins rate has declined slightly at the outset of 2005, their standing relative to the American League has improved quite a bit. This improves even further when "Castrlett" becomes just Jason Bartlett, who is the better half of that combination from the offensive side.
One of the reasons that Juan Castro is in the lineup however, is his outstanding defense, as Castro to date has a +18 FRAR. Combined with a +13 FRAR from Nick Punto (currently on the DL), a +10 FRAR from Joe Mauer, and a +12 FRAR from Torii Hunter, shows that the Twins have a very formidable defense up the middle. This is reflected in their team totals as well, as the Twins had the number one Defensive Efficiency entering Wednesday. This has come as a pleasant surprise for the Twins. In 2003 and 2004, the Twins ranked just 6th and 10th in the AL in terms of Defensive Efficiency, and that was with the expert fielding of Cristian Guzman. That they have improved so dramatically without him, with much of the same lineup, speaks to the quality of both the Twins' coaches and pitchers.
Though at least one study shows that a pitcher who labors or works slowly doesn't have an effect on his defense, it certainly helps if your pitchers are efficient. With a staff BB/9 rate of 1.7, the Twins pitchers are keeping the pace moving and the defense involved. This is also reflected in the Twins STRESS scores. As can be seen in our Pitcher Abuse Points by Team report, only 7 teams have no pitchers with a 10+ STRESS score, and Minnesota is one of them.
The question remains then, if the Twins have a better offense by comparison, coupled with an ultra-efficient defense and pitching staff, then why are they still in second place? Our Adjusted Standings report proves prescient, as it shows that while the Twins have earned all the wins they have, the Chicago White Sox entered Wednesday playing 7.4 wins over their head. If the White Sox actual win total should more closely align with their third order win total, the Twins will be ready to pounce.