Mackey: Ben Revere shows why range matters more than arm strength
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- It seemed like a forced, unorthodox fit when the premise was first broached in spring training, and maybe it still is.
Ben Revere -- with one of the weakest throwing arms of any outfielder in baseball -- as an everyday right fielder.
"It's not an ideal right-field arm," Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan said on March 27 as the team was attempting to find a spot for Revere. "But it's not an ideal left-field arm either."
Ryan went on to say, "I like Ben. I like Benny a lot. His arm strength is not going to hold him from making this ball club. Don't worry about that. He's got other attributes that he provides for this club besides worrying about his arm so much. There's a lot of guys in the major leagues that had pretty good careers that don't necessarily throw well."
Not much has changed regarding Revere's arm strength over the past three months. He still keeps a football in his locker and throws it around the outfield prior to batting practice two or three times per week -- an exercise he implemented last offseason to help improve arm strength.
Even so, in 218 innings as a right fielder this season Revere hasn't thrown out any baserunners, and in a late-May game at Target Field the Detroit Tigers went from first to third three times in the fifth inning alone on base hits to right field -- no hesitation.
Yes, Revere's arm is an issue in right field. But his range -- which is unquestionably among the best of any outfielder in the game -- more than makes up for his lack of a cannon. That's because for every one baserunner that runs from first to third, Revere is tracking down fly balls and recording outs on what would normally be singles, doubles and triples.
Revere is covering much more ground than slow-footed right fielders like Michael Cuddyer, Nick Swisher and Nelson Cruz, and he showed off that elite range on Sunday.
In the top of the 11th inning, with the game tied 4-4, Revere made a diving catch on the warning track, nearly face-planting into the Century Link logo on the padded wall, to rob Norichika Aoki of an extra-base hit that would have put the Milwaukee Brewers in prime position to score the go-ahead run off Brian Duensing.
It was a catch only a center fielder playing right field could make.
"It was tailing away pretty quick," Revere said, "and I kind of just reached my glove out and saw the ball just go in my glove and land on the warning track. It burned my leg a little bit. It kind of hurt, but it's just one of those plays where I was trying to keep the game going."
That wasn't the only tough catch he made on Sunday.
In the top of the ninth inning, Revere, at full-speed, tracked down a deep liner by Brewers slugger Aramis Ramirez just in front of the warning track. In the eighth inning, Revere made a running, sprawling catch on a sinking line drive by Taylor Green.
Two more plays most right fielders don't have the range to make.
"He made about two or three catches that were unbelievable, really, today," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's really tracking the ball. They hit some balls hard with top-spin, and diving, and he just ran them down. That was a heck of a performance by a defensive player."
According to defensive data tracked by BillJamesOnline.com, Revere's range more than makes up for any throwing shortcomings. The website ranks him among the best right fielders in baseball this season, saving eight runs above what the average right fielder saves -- a measurement that takes into account range, arm strength and baserunning.
And per BillJamesOnline.com, opposing baserunners have taken the extra base on Revere 59% of the time when presented with the opportunity (first to third on a single, second to home on a single, etc.).
But by comparison, other right fielders -- some very good -- aren't holding runners as often as perception suggests. Opposing baserunners have taken the extra base only 35% of the time against Ichiro, but 58% against Justin Upton, 62% against Jason Heyward, 50% against Andre Ethier and 47% against Corey Hart.
"I don't think it matters who's out there, if you pull the ball past the first baseman they're going to keep going most of the times on most outfielders," Gardenhire said. "But that can become a problem. Teams really try to take advantage of that. ...
"(Revere) is doing a better job of throwing the ball to the relay man, rather than trying to make those long throws. That's kind of what we want him to do, make sure he throws the ball to the relay man. ... Let them handle it."
Perhaps most importantly, Revere finished Sunday's game 2-for-7 with two singles which gives him a batting line of .328/.353/.397. He also has 11 stolen bases.
Might it make more sense to play Revere in center field and Span -- rated as an above-average center fielder -- in right? Maybe.
But playing Revere in right field is not the square-peg-in-round-hole situation many thought it would be.