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Minnesota Twins: Pedro Florimon is the AL’s Best Defensive Shortstop

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COMMENTARY | When the Minnesota Twins selected Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles in December 2011, hardly anyone noticed. However, that quiet transaction netted the Twins the best defensive shortstop in the American League.

Florimon has shown very good range, great agility, and a very strong and accurate arm. Unlike the majority of his predecessors for the Twins, he has shown no holes in his defensive games.

His offensive game is another matter, which is why he has remained rather anonymous outside of the Upper Midwest. That's what happens to most players with a career .675 OPS in the minor leagues, including a .652 OPS in Class AAA.

If keeps up his defensive performance, he will make a name for himself as long as he isn't completely useless with the bat, which the New York Yankees found out on Saturday and Sunday July 13-14 isn't the case at this point. Florimon hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to break open a one-run game on Saturday and then had a double, single, walk, and an RBI in Sunday's win.

While his offense was a huge help in the Twins' first series win at new Yankee Stadium, his defense was probably more important. With the Twins protecting a three-run lead, he made an acrobatic catch of a throw in the dirt from reliever Casey Fien and kept his foot on the bag to get the first out of the eighth inning. He also got another out in the series on a wicked one-hopper to his left.

Defensive Metrics Agree that Minnesota Twins' Pedro Florimon Is AL's Best Shortstop

This was not just a one-series occurrence. All of the advanced metrics agree that Florimon has been the best in the AL in the first half of the season. Fangraphs' UZR, Total Zone's total fielding runs above average, and Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved above average all have Florimon ranked No. 1 among American League shortstops.

Florimon also is first in the AL in range factor and assists for shortstops. He is fifth in putouts. Of course, he gets plenty of chances playing behind Twins pitchers, who have the fewest strikeouts, the second-fewest home runs allowed, and the fourth fewest walks. This explains why the Twins have the highest percentage of balls put into play at 74 percent. Add in that the Twins have the fourth best ground ball to fly ball ratio, and that means a whole lot of ground balls for Florimon and his fellow infielders.

That shouldn't detract from what Florimon has done. In fact, it shows how important his defense is and how valuable Florimon is to the Twins.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a statistic that and both use to try to quantify in one stat the all-around value of a player by estimating how many more wins a team will win with this player than if it was forced to use a replacement-level player. It includes a defensive element as well as offense and base running for position players and pitching for pitchers.

Baseball-Reference's WAR (rWAR) and Fangraph's WAR (fWAR) are both calculated a little differently, so they will show different results for players, but usually only slightly different.

Florimon's rWAR is a solid 2.0, which would put him at solidly above average and even close to an All-Star level. Florimon's defensive rWAR is 1.9, which is the best for AL shortstops and second only to Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Florimon's fWAR is 1.7, which is still above average.

Florimon's value as a defender has gone largely unnoticed because of all the other problems surrounding the Twins in another lost season, plus Florimon has had enough errors to stay under the radar. Errors for fielders are like wins for starting pitchers or saves for relievers. They are the stats most often cited for these positions, but they are virtually meaningless.

Florimon's double-play partner, second baseman Brian Dozier, has also taken a lot of attention away from Florimon. Dozier has been sure-handed and is above average as a second baseman after making the switch from shortstop. He also has been one of the Twins' best hitters over the last six weeks, but that shouldn't take away from the fielding excellence of Florimon.

Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.

Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.

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