Trevor Plouffe is not the answer at third base; he's Danny Valencia
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Having spent some time this baseball season covering the Baltimore Orioles, I've got a comparison that Twins fans might not like to hear.
After falling out of favor with the Twins, Valencia has been on the roundtrip, non-stop shuttle between Triple-A and the Major Leagues this season for the Orioles. But if nobody told you he isn't in the Twins lineup any longer, you might not believe it.
The Twins former "third baseman of the future" and their current "third baseman of the future" are strikingly similar. And I might add that neither, in my opinion, is actually the third baseman of the future.
Until a few weeks ago, I hadn't watched a lot of Plouffe this season. But I'd seen him last year, including his reign as the greatest hitter in baseball for more than a month.
Plouffe was Albert Pujols for an extended stretch last season.
Danny Valencia is a fringe Major Leaguer; a DH with power who can hit lefties off the bench.
That appears to be juxtaposition but hang with me, because they're the same guy.
The first and most obvious comparison is their defense. Valencia was pretty terrible defensively and ended up as a DH and part-time player with both the Red Sox and Orioles. Plouffe, I'll argue, is worse. I think advanced defensive metrics have too many shortcomings to compare the two head-to-head, so I won't try to convince you with that. But you can watch the two similarly struggle with reaction times at the hot corner, both with clunky hands and without arms big enough to overcome those weaknesses.
The argument for each player was that their bat would be good enough to compensate for some shoddy defense. Plouffe, a former shortstop, especially needed the offensive boost once he moved off one of the most difficult positions on the diamond.
If you're still with me, let's dive into the numbers for a closer inspection. Through games completed Tuesday, Plouffe had played 315 games; Valencia, 309. Now that we've set that parameter, let's all agree it's a fair time in their respective career arcs to compare the two, apples to apples.
Thanks to his Babe Ruthian stretch last season, Plouffe has 46 homers to Valencia's 30. He's also scored 144 runs to Valencia's 117.
I'm not a proponent of using RBIs to describe a player's worth to his team, but just for the heck of it, Plouffe has 134 career runs driven in, 10 fewer than Valencia.
Neither is much of a stolen base threat. Combined with defensive ineptitude, pretty much all the value each player provides is directly tied to his bat.
Valencia strikes out a little less than Plouffe (17.5 percent of plate appearance, compared to 21.1 percent for Plouffe). To atone for that drop-off, Plouffe hits more home runs and walks a little more (7.3 percent of plate appearances vs. 5.8 percent).
Here are their batting lines (for those unfamiliar, I'll use batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. It's my belief that these lines do a much more complete job of describing a hitter than batting average alone):
Plouffe has hit .231/.294/.412 with 53 doubles and three triples.
Valencia has hit .256/.296/.399 with 59 doubles and four triples.
Finally, neither can hit righties to save their job. The lines?
From 2010-12, Plouffe hit .218/.279/.387 against right-handed pitchers.
Over the same span, Valencia hit .232/.271/.355.