Sunday, February 07, 2010

The O-Dog's potential defensive turnaround

I probably won't be commenting on current Twins news/speculation here as much as I used to back in the day (that niche is plenty filled in the Twins blogosphere), but the most recent move I couldn't let slip by. The Twins signing Orlando Hudson to a one-year, $5 million contract to play second base is a fantastic move by the team and signals a big step forward for the franchise -- actually going out and procuring a veteran player at a position of need. And the best available player no less!

While many Twins blogs have done an excellent job breaking down the move (I happen to like Nick's analysis myself) I thought I'd share with you a little tidbit from Keith Law at The article is behind the Insider paywall, but here's the paragraph I found the most interesting:

Hudson had an unusually strong year hitting from the left side, but even if he reverts to his previous form at the plate will give the Twins more baserunners and more thump from a position where they were getting marginally more offense than they'd have received from sending a good-hitting pitcher to the plate. Hudson was a premium defensive player while he was with Toronto, but spent the last four years with teams that emphasized defense less than the Jays did, and his defense suffered, with traditional evaluations and defensive metrics agreeing that he was average or even a tick below. It's possible that was just a function of age, but it's also possible that Hudson needs to be with a coach (or staff) who works with him constantly on his glovework for him to be effective on defense; it's one area of the game where coaching can make a huge difference, including areas like positioning. The Twins have generally run good defensive clubs out there the last few years, and they've been willing to sacrifice some offense for better defense -- it's mostly speculation on my part, but I think there's a good chance that Hudson rediscovers some of his lost defensive value in Minnesota.
If there was any criticism of the Hudson signing, it's that, despite having an excellent offensive first half in '09 (he actually hit third for the Dodgers after Manny's suspension) and winning his fourth Gold Glove, he might be on the decline and in danger of falling off substantially. Law brings up an excellent point here -- even though the Twins defensive reputation as a "small ball" team that "does the little things right" has been undeserved for the past two years, it's hard to deny that Jerry White and the Twins' coaching staff makes a point to coach infielders; Corey Koskie, Jason Bartlett, Justin Morneau and others have made great strides defensively during the Gardenhire regime.

Perhaps a chance of scenery will in fact help the O-Dog rediscover his lost defensive prowess -- something to watch for as the 2010 season gets closer.