Perhaps you've noticed this, but no points taken off if you haven't--teams have been defending Adam Dunn in a very specific way in the infield. They're featuring a shift. I could describe it, but the Baltimore Orioles could just demonstrate it.
The 2nd basemen is playing a sort of 'Short Right Field' position, the shortstop is pulled over to the right field side of 2nd base, and the 1st basemen is hugging the line. Off-screen: the 3rd basemen is covering the entire other half of the infield; and he usually just stands in the middle of it.
It's unusual, but it's been very effective. As bad as Dunn's strikeout problems have been this year, a lot of his .206 batting average can be blamed on a .240 average on balls in play. As Hawk would say, "Adam's lost 20-25 hits to that shift", and in this case, the hard evidence is there to back him.
That outbreak of black and red dots on the right side of the infield? That's Dunn pounding grounders into the shift, only to have them sucked up for outs at a massive rate. It's really not helping him at all, but switching up his approach to spray the ball to left more doesn't jive well with what he's out there to do--crank dingers to right field.
So it caught my eye when the Twins decided Monday night to buck this nice bit of scouting that the rest of the league decided to do for them.
Pedro Florimon is certainly shaded toward the right field side, but he hardly seems to be making a special case out of Dunn. They're in standard double play depth. Maybe that's what stopping Ron Gardenhire from committing. Setting up a shift for Dunn is one thing, setting up a double play depth/Dunn shift hybrid is another.
Well, actually, that's not much of an excuse, because Detroit managed to combine these two interests just last Friday.
This screengrab from the 3rd inning of Friday's game--where Kevin Youkilis drew a leadoff walk in front of Dunn--is in mid-action, right after Dunn made contact on a bloop single. But here's betting Jhonny Peralta and Miguel Cabrera didn't sprint out of position in a half-second's time. The Tigers were set up for a double play up the middle, with Cabrera and Peralta guarding 2nd base, and Omar Infante sitting in a shorter version of the 'Short Right Field' position. Bless their hearts, they set up a multi-faceted plan for defending a prominent slugger in their division.
The Twins not having the shift on in the 1st inning wasn't just a failure to take into account a double play situation, though.
Runners at the corners, two outs in the 2nd inning...no need for double play depth here, and yet the Twins are playing straight up. Maybe the runners on base are affecting their plans?
Sorta. With no one on at all for Dunn in the 5th, Jamey Carroll moved out a couple steps onto the outfield grass. It's not quite the 'Short Right Field' position, though, and no one else has significantly altered their positioning. Florimon is standing in nearly the same spot Miguel Cabrera was standing in on Friday...only he's the shortstop.
It's not typical policy to critique opposing manager strategy, and while it's possible that the Twins significantly hampering their ability to keep Dunn off-base could come up in a critical situation during the remaining five games against them, the impact is likely small. But there's an extra bit of fun in catching the Twins Way looking foolish.
I used to think that was the fault of Ozzie Guillen lionizing Minnesota's baseball culture (it probably played a part), but this feeling is also similar to what's churned up when Detroit's inattention to infield defense in their roster-building costs them games, or the feeling I get seeing that the Indians are the most disciplined hitting team in baseball, and still kind of bad at offense. Even some of the Royals' prospects hitting skids feels like a sort of validation of the White Sox veteran-heavy approach.
Divisional play allows for the chance to get real familiar with the approaches and philosophies of every team in the AL Central, and before long, you want to see them all fail. Their flaws are what the path to the playoffs are paved with, and familiarity breeds contempt.