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Friday, June 30, 2006

Mid-season Defensive Statistics

SG over at Baseball Think Factory posted some initial Zone Rating-based fielding stats for games through June 22. Here's how our Reds look so far (qualifier=200+ innings at a position):
Position Name Innings Runs Saved RS/150 Games
C LaRue 226.3 1.5 9
C Ross 229.7 -1.4 -8
1B Hatteberg 467.3 3.5 10
2B Phillips 497.7 3.3 9
3B Encarnacion 425.7 -5.4 -17
SS Lopez 611 -7.5 -16
LF Dunn 578 -13.9 -32
CF Freel 233.7 1.6 9
CF Griffey -354.7 -4.8 -18
RF Kearns 596.7 2.8 6
A disclaimer should be made here, of course, in that these are only a half-season's worth of data, and fielding stats can fluctuate just as much as hitting stats over the course of a season. Furthermore, I'm not happy with Zone Rating as a means of capturing information about defense at catcher or first base, as it just measures the number of balls a fielder gets to off the bat. There's a lot more that goes into being a catcher or first baseman than fielding balls hit to you. Finally, this is only one fielding metric. It's decent, but is not my favorite--hopefully John Dewan will release some of his fielding bible plus-minus stats at some point this season...

Nevertheless, the aren't a lot of surprises here. First, the good. Phillips' excellence at second shows up here nicely, though to be honest I almost expect him to be better. Freel and Kearns continue to show excellence in the outfield, and Hatteberg has been picking the ball off the bat (at least) better than usual for his career.

Unfortunately, Lopez hasn't shown much improvement this year, and if anything may even be worse than last year. I was really hoping he might turn the corner this year, but what I've seen of him while watching games is pretty consistent with these numbers. Encarnacion's errors have led to a negative rating at third this season. I still think the kid has a chance to be a good fielder, but he definitely needs to become more consistent. Hopefully, when he returns from the DL, he can start fresh defensively.

Nevertheless, these data say once again that our biggest defensive liabilities are in the outfield. Despite his series of webgem catches, Griffey is still not covering ground like a centerfield should and is on pace for a league-worst -18 runs saved. And Dunn has been catastrophic in left field, on pace for -32 runs saved. It seems to me that he has been better of late compared to his disastrous start to the year, so maybe this number will come down a bit by season's end.

The conclusion is that the Reds are still not a very good defensive team. The right side of the field has been decent to good, but they've been bad to the left side and in centerfield. I'm going to continue to hope that the Reds will try to shift Griffey to left and Dunn to first base. Hatteberg's bat has made that a harder thing to root for, but I think a combination of Denorfia and Freel in center could make up for any loss in offense with their defensive performances.

EdE will probably still come around, but I'm honestly not sure what to do about Lopez. I wouldn't be opposed to trying to switch Phillips and Lopez between second and short, as Phillips has performed well at shortstop in the past. But that's probably not a practical solution at this point...


  1. Is it useful to compare what a player brings on a runs per game basis defensively and offensively? For example, have Lopez or Dunn made up for their defensive underperformance with offensive outperformance? This is a tenuous comparison, but it might shed some more light on Hatteberg vs. Dunn at first.

  2. It is, absolutely. If you trust your defensive statistic, you can compare it to something like Runs Created to see the total impact of the player. Lopez and Dunn (and Griffey) do tend to come out ahead, but their defense definitely hurts their overall contribution. Maybe I'll give a look at this later on though, it could be fun to see.

    JP over at Reds and Blues did something similar using a OPS-conversion earlier in the season, but I tend to like the Runs comparison better.