While watching the Twins beat the White Sox–again–on Saturday, I was
mightily impressed with their outfield defense, and not just because
Torii Hunter made the play of the weekend. Jacque Jones is a
center fielder playing left field and Matt Lawton is an underrated
defender in right. All three players had above-average range factors in
2000, and Hunter and Jones had above-average range factors, Zone Ratings
and Prospectus Fielding Runs. (Lawton’s metrics were all off in 2000,
following two excellent defensive seasons.)

How is this translating on the field? Well, one way of getting a handle on
outfield defense is looking at how many doubles and triples a team allows,
both overall and as compared to total hits allowed:

          D+T per
Team       9 Inn.

Texas        2.71
Detroit      2.61
Toronto      2.40
Tampa Bay    2.32
Cleveland    2.24
Chicago      2.23
Anaheim      2.03
Kansas City  1.97
New York     1.89
Baltimore    1.88
Seattle      1.69
Oakland      1.68
Boston       1.62
Minnesota    1.54

          D+T per
Team          hit

Cleveland    .281
Toronto      .259
Detroit      .249
Anaheim      .239
Texas        .236
Boston       .231
Chicago      .231
Tampa Bay    .231
Baltimore    .231
Seattle      .215
Kansas City  .205
New York     .200
Minnesota    .190
Oakland      .166

The Twins are last in the league in allowing non-HR extra-base hits,
next-to-last in doubles and triples as a percentage of hits. Those are huge
reasons why they’re fourth in the AL in ERA.

It’s not just that their pitching staff isn’t giving up flyballs, either:
the Twins are eighth in the league in groundball/flyball ratio, and 13th in
strikeout rate. Keep in mind as well that the Twins’ home park, the
Metrodome, increases doubles and triples more than any park in the game.
This performance by the team’s outfield is legitimate.

Eric Milton is one of the most extreme flyball pitchers in the AL,
and he’s thriving this season. Mark Redman was an extreme flyball
pitcher as a rookie, but put up a decent season and has been effective this
so far this year. These pitchers are able to succeed in part because there
are three great defenders roaming the grass behind them.

I don’t know if the Twins can keep up their current pace. I’m certain their
offense isn’t as good as it’s looked, but there’s a very real possibility
that they can continue to keep runs off the board, and that’s because they
may have the best defensive outfield in the game.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by

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