Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fielding Report Card

About a quarter of the season is in the books and it's been a surprising year in many respects. The Rangers are certainly a surprise (though they took it on the chin from the Yankees on Monday). The Indians are just as surprising on the other end of the spectrum. There are so many things to look at, which is what makes MLB the bomb that it is. But for today, let's look at fielding and see how the teams are doing compared to last year.

The statistics that will be presented are from FanGraphs, a terrific stat site. What you'll see below is FanGraphs' "Ultimate Zone Rating" ranking for each team. The first number will be where each team ranked in 2008. The second number is that same team's ranking for 2009 and the third number is the movement from the first number to the second:

Bay Rays: 1/1 0
Phillies: 2/14 -12
Athletics: 3/17 -14
Red Sox: 4/25 -21
Astros: 5/12 -7
Cardinals: 6/15 -9
Mets: 7/28 -21
Blue Jays: 8/13 -5
Giants: 9/11 -2
Brewers: 10/2 +8 Our first climber!
Indians: 11/23 -12
Cubs: 12/10 +2
Royals: 13/24 -11
Nationals: 14/30 -16
Orioles: 15/26 -11
Angels: 16/7 +9
Marlins: 17/29 -12
Braves: 18/18 0
Twins: 19/17 +2
Mariners: 20/7 +13
White Sox: 21/26 -5
Pirates: 22/3 +19
Diamondbacks: 23/9 +14
Padres: 24/16 +8
Rockies: 25/20 +5
Tigers: 26/4 +22
Reds: 27/6 +21
Yankees: 28/18 +10
Dodgers: 29/19 +10
Rangers: 30/4 +26

As you can see from that list, the Rangers are the most improved followed by the Tigers and the Reds. The Red Sox and the Mets have fallen farthest in the standings.

The Rangers have improved greatly at first base (since Chris Davis settled in full time), second base (Kinsler is far better than last year), shortstop (Elvis Andrus is fantastic as is his backup, the great Omar Vizquel), third base (Young is slightly better than the eight guys who occupied the spot last year) and the outfield is greatly improved.

The Tigers are also much better in outfield play this year. Ordonez is about the same, but Granderson is much better this year and Josh Anderson is getting most of the playing time in left and is much better than anyone they threw out there last year. Cabrera is much better in his second year at first base. Polanco has upped his game at second. Surprisingly, Adam Everett is faring worse than Renteria did last year in a year that was universally panned. Inge is a significant upgrade at third over Guillen.

For the Reds, the combination of Dickerson and particularly, Laynce Nix has been dramatically better than Adam Dunn. Willy Tavares is much better than last year's centerfielder, Corey Patterson. Jay Bruce has settled in nicely in right field and is much better than an aging Junior Griffey of a year ago. Third base is still a problem as Encarnacion is atrocious over there. The Reds fare better when Hairston plays third, but he doesn't hit as well. At short, Gonzales has slowed down a bit but he's much better than Keppinger who started last year. Brandon Phillips has been outstanding at second but Votto has slipped a bit at first.

The improvement of the fielding of the Reds, Rangers and Tigers is just one factor of their big improvement this year in the win/loss column over last year.

On the other side of the coin, the Red Sox have fallen 21 spots in defensive rankings. Don't blame Youkilis as he improves every year and this year is significantly better than a great year last year. Pedroia is also better than the great success he had last year. Shortstop is a big problem. Last year was aided by sparkling defense by Jed Lowrie. He got hurt this year and Green and Lugo have been abominable. Mike Lowell has fallen off a lot with his defense at third. Last year, he had a UZR/150 of 15.6. This year, it's -7.3. Jason Bay will never be a good left fielder. But he's slightly better than last year. Ellsbury is very capable in center. J. D. Drew is off dramatically from his UZR of a year ago.

The Mets have also fallen 21 spots from a year ago. Ryan Church has fallen a lot from last year in right field. Beltran is off from last year's numbers quite a bit. This year's left field by committee is as good as last year's large collection. Jeremy Reed has been real good, but he can't hit. David Wright is not having a good year with the glove and is off a lot from last year. Reyes is also off a lot from last year at short. Luis Castillo hasn't been good at second for a long time. Tatis has been getting most of the work at first base since Delgado went down and he is a much better fielder than Delgado.

Special mention has to be made of the Pirates who have gone from 22 to 3 in team UZR rankings. Adam LaRoche is much improved at first. Freddie Sanchez isn't that great with the glove, but he hasn't regressed since last year at least. Jack Wilson is always great and short. Andy LaRoche is doing well at third. Xavier Nady was the regular right fielder last year until he was traded to the Yankees. Brandon Moss holds that position now and has been terrific in the field and is a huge upgrade. Nate McLouth is doing much better in center than a year ago. And last but not least, Nyjer Morgan is like night and day over Jason Bay in the field. Morgan has been terrific.

The Marlins, Nationals and Indians have fallen in the rankings significantly, and the question then becomes: Is their pitching as bad as it is with the poor fielding, or is the poor fielding a result in so many more balls put in play?

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Very cool post. You rarely see such an in-depth analysis of defense. The metrics for defense are still sort of new to me. But it's definitely something I'd like to familiarize myself with.