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Sep 7, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons (9) and second baseman Jorge Polanco (11) celebrate after the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Things didn’t go according to plan for the Minnesota Twins in 2021, but one thing which turned out pretty well was the team’s defense.

That’s according to the final rankings of the Society for American Baseball Research’s Defensive Index (SDI).

Since 2013, SABR has been keeping track of fielders with its SDI, which measures a player’s performance in comparison to his peers based on batted ball location-based data and play-by-play records. (For more details on how SDI ratings are measured, check this out.) SDI rankings are used for roughly 25% of the Gold Glove award selection process.

The Twins did have one Gold Glove finalist – shortstop Andrelton Simmons – and it was well deserved. Simmons had the third-highest SDI in the American League and fourth best in the majors at 11.8. However, one player who was ahead of him was fellow shortstop and 2021 Gold Glove winner Carlos Correa of Houston.

Simmons’ 11.8 SDI was also second among all major-league shortstops as St. Louis’ Paul DeJong topped National League players at that position with a 7.5 rating.

But Simmons wasn’t the only Twins player who performed well defensively.

Right fielder Max Kepler had the 18th-highest SDI in the AL at 5.4. That placed him fifth among AL right fielders.

No other Twins outfielder qualified for the SDI, but when we took at these rankings back in late June, center fielder Byron Buxton was 15th in the AL with a 2.9. 

Minnesota was strong up the middle defensively, and not just because of Simmons and Buxton. 

Besides having a career year at the plate, Jorge Polanco excelled despite moving from shortstop to second base, a position he had played just five times previously in the major leagues (and all of those coming in 2016). Polanco finished fourth among AL second basemen with a 2.8 SDI (for what it’s worth, he also had the fewest errors at that position in the league, was second in total zone runs and fourth in range factor among second basemen).

Catcher Ryan Jeffers, in his first full season as a major leaguer, posted a 1.0 SDI. For reference, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, a five-time Gold Glove winner, had a -3.6.

Only one Twins pitcher qualified in the SDI rankings and it was Jose Berrios, who was dealt by Minnesota at the trade deadline. Still, he made more starts with the Twins (20) than Toronto (12). Berrios had a 3.7 SDI, which is third-highest among AL pitchers.

Minnesota had two other players qualify: First baseman Miguel Sano (-5.6) and third baseman Luis Arraez (1.4). The latter ranked fifth among AL third basemen. Arraez played 121 games in 2021 with 55 of those coming at third (with 46 starts), 48 at second base, 27 in left field and four at designated hitter.

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