Two of my favorite current Minnesota Twins are Denard Span and Ben Revere. I've been a huge fan of Span since the day he stepped onto that Metrodome turf, and what's not to like about Revere? With the departures of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Jason Repko; the addition of Josh Willingham; and the seemingly complete return to health of Denard Span this spring; there has obviously been an enormous shake-up across the entire outfield looking ahead to 2012. Manager Ron Gardenhire has basically already named Denard Span his starting center fielder for opening day, but I like I'm sure many of you Twins fans would question that move if he indeed is in CF against the Orioles April 6th.
Denard Span is the obvious "veteran" of the two, having started a total of 306 games out in CF over the last 4 years. 151 of those starts came in 2010, and every game Span has played in the last 2 years has been in center. Ben Revere, on the other hand, made his Twins debut in 2010, and has started 92 of his 117 career major league appearances in CF - 88 of those coming last year while Span was on the disabled list. These factors alone give Span the upper hand when it comes down to decision time for Gardenhire. Advantage: Span.
From a visual standpoint, I think would be stating the obvious in saying that Revere is faster than Span - but not by a whole lot. At the same time, Span has a better arm than Revere - again, maybe not really by that much either. Basically, the two center fielders are the exact opposite of Vladamir Guerrero when it comes to running and throwing. Span, at times, can be more tentative than Revere out in CF, which I believe is Span's biggest downfall and biggest frustration out in the field. It's not too often we see Revere pull up for a fly ball in the gap, expecting the RF or LF to make the catch. It probably relates directly to Span's concussion issues, but maybe even a little before the concussion, we would see Span pull up when he starts running toward a teammate or the wall. Advantage: Revere.
Now, forgive me if I interpret any of the following incorrectly, as I am still opening up to these stats you baseball junkies call "sabremetrics". According to Fangraphs, let's look at the last 2 seasons' worth of fielding metrics, 2010 and 2011.
Player Innings ARM RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
Span 1,935 -5.7 18.9 0.2 13.5 8.9
Revere 995 -3.8 15.9 -1.9 10.2 13.6
As we can see here, Span has the advantage with his arm (if you doubled Revere's innings his ARM would be -7.6). Revere holds a big advantage in his range (again, double Revere's innings and his RngR would be 31.8). Span looks to be a little better with the glove, but when you combine everything, Revere is a significantly better defender according to the stats (13.6 UZR/150 to 8.9). The main reason is because his range is so great. Advantage: Revere.
When you think about a defensive center fielder, what's the first thing you think of? I want my CF to cover ground and take charge of the outfield. Revere's legs and personality seem to do that better than Span's do. Span has started 100 games in RF and 45 in LF in his career, so I don't think it would be a major adjustment to move him to one of the corners - I would put him in RF mainly because Josh Willingham has spent more than 95% of his time in the big leagues in LF. Let Revere run around like a crazy man in center, and this would maybe even take some pressure of Span all around as he fights through his comeback from his concussion. I think the Twins will be ok no matter what combination they use in the outfield, but I'd like to see it go: Willingham/Revere/Span, left to right. What do you think?