StaTuesday: Kepler again leads Twins in 2019 defensive index rankings

BY Ryan Lund • November 5, 2019

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) recently released its final update to this year's SABR Defensive Index (SDI), the organization's somewhat esoteric ranking of defensive prowess.

If phrases like "batted ball location-based metrics" and "runs effectively defended" are your thing, here's a more thorough explanation.

For everyone else: SABR aggregates several defensive metrics -- a sampling: defensive runs saved, runs effectively defended and ultimate zone rating -- and spits out a number that accounts for about 25% of the Rawlings Gold Glove selection process.

Now, the good stuff: In the absence of Byron Buxton, right fielder Max Kepler was the Minnesota Twins' best defender in 2019, per SABR's analysis, with a 5.7 SDI.

That's good for 18th overall in the American League and second amongst right fielders. Only four-time Gold Glover Mookie Betts was better. He was, however, a lot better, nearly doubling Kepler's rating with a 10.7.

Buxton, who appeared in just 87 games this year while dealing with a shoulder injury, last made the list in 2017, finishing second in the AL.

Kepler, however, has emerged as a strong defender in his own right. He finished 2018 with a 7.8, 11th in the AL and third amongst AL right fielders.

Back to 2019: Left-handed pitcher Martin Perez finished third amongst American League pitchers with a 1.4, behind only Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox and Mike Leake of the Seattle Mariners.

The Twins revealed Monday that they won't be exercising their club option for 2020, making Perez a free agent. All-Star right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who received a qualifying offer from the Twins, checks in at 13th (0.2) as the only other Twins pitcher to finish above zero.

Fellow right-hander Jose Berrios, the Twins' other All-Star and the Twins' only Gold Glove finalist, finished right at zero.

C.J. Cron ranks second amongst AL first baseman (2.5), while second baseman Jonathan Schoop (-1.4) and shortstop Jorge Polanco finished eighth (-1.9) at their positions.

Left fielder Eddie Rosario finished seventh (-5.7), catcher Mitch Garver finished 10th (-1.5) and third baseman Miguel Sano finished 12th (-6.7).

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