The Twins have the worst defensive outfield in baseball

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I think we all hoped it wouldn't be this bad.

One of the Twins' biggest weaknesses in 2013, and yes - there were a lot of them, was that the outfield didn't have much fun chasing down baseballs. In 4,351 innings, Minnesota was forced to give 70% of those innings to Clete Thomas, Oswaldo Arcia, Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee, Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann, and Chris Colabello. It's a small wonder that, in a league where outfielders were averaging a .917 Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and 298 plays made outside of an outfielder's zone (OOZ), the Twins were 28th in RZR and 26th in OOZ.

Sadly, it doesn't look like this season has been any better. In fact, according to Scott Lindholm of Beyond the Box Score, the Twins' outfield defense ranks dead last. For a full explanation of their method, I highly recommend reading the entire piece.

Here are a few other telling defensive numbers, via our friends at FanGraphs.

Split RZR OOZ RngR
MLB Average .897 120 0
2014 Twins .880 122 -18.0
MLB Rank 26 12 30


Definitions

Revised Zone Rating - Essentially, a percentage representing outs made compared to outs that should have been made based on an average fielder. It's outs divided by opportunities.
Out of Zone - While RZR is a percentage of outs made inside of a fielder's zone, OOZ is a running count of outs made outside of that zone.
RngR - Runs saved or lost based off of the range of the defense, with a league average of zero.

That brief look is a bit more dynamic than BtBS's, simply because of how we're approaching the numbers. The numbers I've selected point out that the Twins, as a whole, haven't been very good chasing balls down in the outfield so far this year and that it's cost them runs. But if that's the case, why is the team also performing well in converting outs outside of their zone?

Aaron Hicks and Sam Fuld are the answers, mainly. Fuld, in particular, has performed very well in the outfield so far this season and it's not even close. He's getting to balls outside of his zone slightly more often than once every ten innings, compared to Hicks' every 13 innings. Combined, they account for two of every five outs made outside of the zone by outfielders.

But then we get to the part where we see why the other two numbers above are as bad as they are. The only Minnesota outfielders in the black on Range Runs are Fuld, Eduardo Nunez, and...by a hair, Josh Willingham. There are four outfielders who are four runs below average or worse, with Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello leading the way at -5.9. Colabello (.792) and Arcia (.773) have posted two of the worst RZR numbers you could imagine.

The good news is that brighter days are coming. There's Byron Buxton, of course, and potentially Eddie Rosario, but we're a long way from having an outfield of Hicks-Buxton-Rosario. For now, the team has to continue to hope for good play from Fuld and for, surprisingly, adequate play from Chris Parmelee (.927 RZR, -0.6 RngR). If Willingham can keep his feet and if Arcia can get a bit better as the season goes on, maybe the Twins outfield can crawl out of the defensive cellar by season's end.

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