The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

September 23, 2013

Thoma column: Twins: this is a simple game

Contemplating the flaws of the 2013 Minnesota Twins brings to mind the “Bull Durham” managerial rant in the showers:

This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.

The Twins this year haven’t done any of that well.

Their problems at the plate (second fewest runs scored in the American League) and on the mound (second most runs allowed and by far the fewest strikeouts) are obvious in the statistics.

Their weaknesses in the field are less visible in the basic numbers. They are, for example, well above average in fielding percentage; the Twins don’t commit a lot of errors.

But defense IS a problem.

Start on the team level. A stat called “defensive efficiency” sums it up well: It’s the percentage of balls in play the fielders turn into outs. A home run is not in play. A single is. A strikeout is not in play. A flyout is.

The Twins defensive efficiency is .680 — meaning they turned 68 percent of the balls in play into outs. Sound good? It’s not. That’s the second lowest DE in baseball (Colorado, which has the handicap of playing at altitude, has the lowest).

Couple a relative inability to turn batted balls into outs with a pitching staff that has very few strikeouts and ... you have a lot of baserunners.

Pinning the blame for that low DE on individuals is a bit trickier. The regular middle infielders, Pedro Florimon at shortstop and Brian Dozier, certainly look good with the glove, and some of the interpretive defensive metrics put them in the top ranks of defenders. Others see those two as more average glovemen.

But the outfielders — there’s general agreement there between the eyes and the stats. Josh Willingham is a 34-year-old who wasn’t fast in his youth and has spent the season playing on one leg. Chris Parmelee, who was the regular in right for the first half, is a natural first baseman. Ryan Doumit’s primary position is catcher.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
  • Thoma column: Twins are scoring lot of runs; can this continue? The Minnesota Twins entered Sunday's play with the American League's second-highest number of runs scored. And, they haven't had the advantage of hitting off their own pitching staff. OK, it's dreadfully early in the season, far too early to draw co

    April 14, 2014

  • Courrier: Masters is first sign that winter has been conquered Don't know if anybody noticed but it's been a tough winter, with brutal cold and piles of snow that are now just disappearing. If not for an exciting season of local basketball and hockey, it would have an unbearable four months. Minnesota State had

    April 10, 2014

  • Thoma column: We all know the Ryan Braun saga: Winner of the National League MVP award, flunked a drug test, convinced the arbitrator to toss his suspension on the basis that his sample was mishandled, was snagged anyway in the Biogenesis investigation, suspended

    April 7, 2014

  • Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall. The b

    April 4, 2014

  • Thoma column: For the remade Twins, 2014 looks like more losing The start of the baseball season is supposed to be about fresh beginnings, wide open promises and the hope that springs eternal in the human breast. I'm here to quash that kind of optimism among the followers of the Minnesota Twins. (I strive to be a

    April 1, 2014

  • Shot clock isn't answer for high-school basketball A few weeks back, the state's basketball fans were all riled up that during a state-tournament game, the Hopkins boys spent much of the four overtimes holding the basketball, preferring not to shoot until the final seconds of each extra period in the

    March 28, 2014

  • Thoma column: Projected lineup is Mauer, Arcia and a bunch of outs The Minnesota Twins begin play in earnest in less than a week -- weather permitting -- and wow, do they have lineup issues. They scored 614 runs last season, 13th in the 15-team American League and almost 100 under the league average (702). Justin Mo

    March 26, 2014

  • Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams. Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins' new deal with the Twins. The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed

    March 17, 2014

  • Courrier: No. 1 seed has brought no guarantees for MSU Since the Minnesota State men's basketball team started this nearly annual tradition of playing in the NCAA II tournament, the home team has almost been unbeatable in the regional. The Mavericks have played in nine of the last 10 national tournaments

    March 14, 2014

  • Thoma column: The many purposes of spring training

    March 9, 2014

Free Press news updates
Seasonal Content
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Poll