Great piece based on some nice information gathered from The Fielding Bible – Volume 2.
In 2008, it wasn’t close. The New York Mets clearly had the best defense, based on Defensive Runs Saved from The Fielding Bible–Volume II. Outfielders saved 56 runs for the Mets last year. Using the rule of thumb that the value of a win is about 10 runs, that’s five to six extra victories based on outfield defense alone for the Metropolitans in 2008. Fielding Bible Award and Gold Glove winner, Carlos Beltran, led the way in center field. He was flanked most often, on either side, by defensive stalwart, Endy Chavez. Beltran saved 21 runs, but Chavez saved eight runs in left field and eight more in right, for a total of 16 runs. That’s just a few runs less than Beltran in over 100 fewer games started in the outfield. That’s defense.
The Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians were the American League leaders. Baltimore outfielders saved about 45 runs and Cleveland’s saved about 37, both well short of the Mets total of 56. The leading American League outfielder in defensive runs saved was the Fielding Bible Award winner in right field, Franklin Gutierrez of the Tribe. He didn’t start as few games as Chavez, but his runs saved total was equally remarkable. He saved 22 runs in 85 starts in right field in 2008.
For those of you following the transactions, you may know where this is going. Endy Chavez is no longer with the Mets and Franklin Gutierrez is no longer with the Indians. Where are they? Both of them are now members of the Seattle Mariners. Add Ichiro to the mix and you have a pretty good idea of where the best defensive outfield in 2009 is going to be. Gutierrez is moving to center field where his right-field-class arm will be a tremendous asset and his pure athletic ability will serve him, and the Mariners, well.
The Fielding Bible–Volume II is all about runs, just like the game itself. We’ve taken our defensive methods that we’ve developed and converted them into Defensive Runs Saved. For outfielders we measure range with the Plus/Minus System and use baserunner kills along with the frequency of baserunner advancement to up come with runs saved based on arm strength. We’ve done the same sort of thing for other positions factoring in defensive ability fielding bunts, turning double plays, preventing stolen bases on the part of both the pitcher and the catcher, and the catcher’s ability to hold down his pitcher’s ERA by calling a good game.
The top defenders based on runs saved at each position in 2008 were:
Pitcher – Kenny Rogers, 15
Catcher – Jason Kendall/Jose Molina, 12
First Base – Mark Teixeira, 17
Second Base – Chase Utley, 33
Third Base – Adrian Beltre, 24
Shortstop – Jimmy Rollins,15
Left Field – Carl Crawford/Willie Harris, 13
Center Field – Carlos Beltran, 21
Right Field – Franklin Gutierrez, 22
John Dewan’s Stat of the Week