The Problem With Overvaluing Fielding Percentage

After the 2015 season, there was a big debate amongst Mets fans: Should they re-sign Murphy or let him go to free agency? Many fans would have happily taken Murphy back even before his air-ball revolution, defensive shortcomings and all. But Murphy set a standard, being if you are going to be a terrible fielder in this league, then you must hit.

The problem with this Mets infield is they do not hit well enough to make up for their defensive shortcomings.

The Mets have one of the worst infield defenses in baseball. The Mets infield has accounted for a -32 DRS, meaning they have cost the team 32 runs.

Not everyone on the Mets infield is to blame though. In fact, two guys can be blamed for most of the mess – Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes. Jose Reyes has a total of -9 Defensive Runs Saved between third base and shortstop while Asdrubal Cabrera has a total of -15 DRS between shortstop and second base. That is a total of -24 DRS between those two players, or roughly 75% of the of the infields -32 DRS.

The two of them have combined for -15 DRS at shortstop alone. Jose Reyes has -5 DRS at the position while Asdrubal Cabrera has -10 DRS. Reyes has 42 starts at shortstop while Cabrera has 43. If Reyes played 145 games or so, Reyes would be at -17 DRS or so which would make him one of baseballs worst defensive shortstops, if not the worst.

Amed Rosario would be a vast upgrade over these two. Yet, many could look at Rosario’s 2017 statistics and point out his 15 errors. Jose Reyes has 2 errors this season and a .987 fielding percentage. Reyes is on pace for around seven errors if he played a full year.

The way to look at this is simple: You can’t make an error on a ball you can’t get to. Rosario has 15 errors, but most of that could be attributed to awkward throws he has to make due to his great range. Players with more range are just more likely to make errors.

For example, I take you back to a Mets-Marlins game on June 29th. Leading off the third inning, Curtis Granderson hit a weak grounder into no-man’s land on the infield. Marlins shortstop J.T. Riddle somehow got to the ball and had Granderson out at first but his throw drew Justin Bour slightly off the bag. Granderson was ruled safe and Riddle was charged with an error.

Most shortstops would just eat the ball and toss it back to the pitcher. Yet, Riddle was given an error on that play. Riddle as good enough to think that he could make the play on that ball, a ball that Cabrera or Reyes would never have had the slightest chance on. Riddle, for reference, has eight errors on the season in 56 starts at shortstop, but 8 DRS.

Platinum Glover Andrelton Simmons had 14 errors in 2013. Simmons had 41 DRS that year. Reyes would have had roughly seven errors if he played 145 games at shortstop, but also -17 DRS. Simmons’ 2013 fielding percentage that year was .981, lower than Reyes this year. Despite seven more errors than what Reyes would post in a 145-game pace and a lower fielding percentage, he still graded out as the much better defender. (For those of you still concerned about Rosario’s 15 errors, Simmons had as many as 28 in one minor league season).

Francisco Lindor had ten errors in 98 games in 2015 and his fielding percentage that year was .974. Despite that, he had 10 DRS in 2015. Brandon Crawford had 13 errors in 2015 and 11 in 2016. He won the Gold Glove both seasons, combining for 39 DRS.

Obviously, making lots of errors and having a low fielding percentage does not always equate to more DRS. Asdrubal Cabrera has 11 errors and a -10 DRS at shortstop this season. That means that he has the range of a snail, and cannot make the plays anywhere near him. He is a poor fielder who does not hit enough to make up for his awful defense.

The Mets infield defense must improve, and one way of doing so is by making Amed Rosario the shortstop. He will make errors, but he will be a huge defensive upgrade. In summation, errors and fielding percentage are not accurate representations of a players’ fielding ability. If they were, the statistics would say that Jose Reyes is a far better defender than Rosario or other MLB Gold Glovers, which is simply not the case.

About Dilip Sridhar 311 Articles
I became a Mets fan in the 2008 season. Since the Alderson regime, I've embraced saber-metrics and advanced stats to back up my eye tests. I study computer science at Stony Brook