The advanced tools we have for looking at fielding is one of the great advances in watching and understanding baseball today. Thanks to John Dewan of Baseball Info Solutions, and Bill James we now have a clearer understanding of how to judge the defense of individual players and as a result, the team.
I sum it up to folks this way: in order to first make an error, you have to first get to the ball. Stats like Rtot or UZR measure whether you get to the ball and then looks at what you do with it. It is in essence measuring the number of runs saved by defensive plays. If you are average in the field you are at zero while good range and defense results in a plus numbers ( runs saved) and bad range and defense results in negative numbers (runs lost).
Let me give you an example that I think you can picture in your mind as to the value of looking at the range of a player in saving runs. I’ll start by giving you some numbers to ponder about this player so you can see his diminishing range
- 2008: 18 Rtot
- 2009: 11 Rtot
- 2010: 6 Rtot won the Gold Glove (the most meaningless off season award)
- 2011: -4 Rtot
This outfielder made just three errors and had only one assist. Now, with this data in your mind, think about the line drive single that Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford couldn’t reach, didn’t block, and the runner he didn’t throw out, that ended the Red Sox season. No error on the play, but decreased range tells the story.
With that in mind, take a look at the teams that did make the postseason.
- Tigers: 103 errors – .983 – -21 Rtot
- Yankees: 102 errors – .983 – 14 Rtot
- Rangers: 114 errors – .981 – 24 Rtot
- Rays: 73 errors – .988 – 36 Rtot
I think the most shocking number was the minus 21 of the Tigers. This is a team number that includes in the equation Miguel Cabrera‘s minus 8 at first base and Jhonny Peralta‘s plus 10 at shortstop. When Ryan Rayburn is in left he has a plus 10, but Delmon Young is minus 8. Austin Jackson in center is plus 7, but when Magglio Ordonez is in right, he is minus 12.
As for the Rays, here’s no surprise: Evan Longoria is plus 11.
As for the Yankees, it’s a surprise that Mark Teixeira is now minus one, last season he was +8 and in 2008, he was +17.
- Diamondbacks: 90 errors – .985 – 30 Rtot
- Brewers: 111 errors – .982 – 24 Rtot
- Phillies: 74 errors – .988 – 26 Rtot
- Cardinals: 116 errors – .982 – -6 Rtot
Things to watch for the Brewers, Prince Fielder is -7 and Rickie Weeks is -3 which makes the right side of the infield weak. However, Corey Hart, is +10 in right. The difference in center between Nyjer Morgan and Carlos Gomez is significant. Morgan is -4 and Gomez +14.