Monday, September 04, 2006

AL PLayoff Race: Defense

Team Defensive Efficiency

TeamDERAL Rank
White Sox.7034th

There are differing schools of thought on the use of DER, as it’s indicative not only of defense, but of pitching. However you choose to interpret it, there is no coincidence in the Yankees and Tigers being 1-2 in DER and 1-2 in the AL.

Two playoff teams last year had a DER in the range of Minnesota – Boston and New York. Judging by their results, the Twins don’t look to be in a favorable position right now. However, their overall DER number may be skewed because of the inconsistencies they’ve had across the diamond this year. Their individual breakdowns may prove more favorable.

It’s kind of pointless to do ZR for catchers, since they’re mostly at 1.000. However, Joe Mauer is at .875, second to last among qualified AL catchers.

Number in parenthesis represents number of qualified players.

SS (11)ZRAL Rank
Juan Uribe.8751
Bobby Crosby.8552
Carlos Guillen.8285
Derek Jeter.8119
Jason Bartlett.857n/a

Bartlett has been with the Twins for quite some time now, and although he doesn’t have the numbers to qualify, his Zone Rating is right up there. Note to Jeter fans: he’s ranked 9th of 11 in the AL in Zone Rating. And when you add in guys like Bartlett who are close to qualifying, he’s closer to the cellar in the AL. For reference, he was at .830 last year, which put him fifth out of 10 qualifiers. If there’s any justice, there will be no Gold Golve at shortstop in Yankeeland this year.

2B (13)ZRAL Rank
Placido Polanco.8872
Mark Ellis.8663
Robinson Cano.8257
Tad Iguchi.8188
Luis Castillo.80411

You know, I always thought Ted Iguchi was a good fielder, at least better than Cano. And when I looked at the ZR from 2005, it does appear that Iguchi was better than Cano by a decently wide margin (.834 to .818). But Iguchi was still in the bottom half of second basemen, and it appears that he’s regressed a bit in his second Major League season, while Cano has flourished just a little bit. The Tigers won’t be missing Polanco’s defense as much as you’d think; Neifi Perez has quite the glove. He’s just an abomination at the plate.

CF (10)ZRAL Rank
Brian Anderson.8893
Torii Hunter.8855
Curtis Granderson.8836
Johnny Damon.8747
Mark Kotsay.8579

Remember last year, when the Yanks were kinda sorta interested in acquiring Mark Kotsay? Yeah, totally glad that didn’t happen. Damon may rank in the lower half of AL center fielders, but having watched the majority of the games this year, I haven’t seen many that he would have caught with the speed of Torii Hunter. It’s good to see Brian Anderson holding his weight defensively, because he sure as shit ain’t handling himself at the plate. I wonder what Kenny Williams has in store for him this off-season, whether he’s still thought of highly as the future center fielder, or if his shaky 2006 has the White Sox reconsidering.

3B (11)ZRAL Rank
Brandon Inge.8321
Joe Crede.7864
Eric Chaves.7765
Alex Rodriguez.73610
Nick Punto.767n/a

Yes, it’s sad but true: Alex ranks second to last among qualified AL third basemen. He’s been better lately, though, especially since he ceased using his teeny shortstop glove. That could have made a difference, though his mental state seems to have taken a turn for the better lately (look at all those home runs last weekend!). Nick Punto may have a decent ZR as a third baseman, but he’s been seeing much more time at second this year. I’m not sure how ZR translates from one position to another, but he’ll have to improve on his current mark to hack it at second.

LF (6)ZRAL Rank
Scott Podsednik.8822
Melky Cabrera.8245
Nick Swisher.879n/a
Craig Monroe.854n/a

Podsednik’s glove = stellar. Podsednik’s bat = vomit-inducing. My questions actually surround Melky’s ranking of fifth out of six. Are his numbers skewed by his shaky start following his call-up? Are not as many balls hit to him as should be? You do n’t see him miss balls he’s close to very much, which leaves me very curious. Looking at other outfielders, it appears that he should have a higher rating if he is, in fact, a good left fielder. This may be grounds for further analysis.

RF (7)ZRAL Rank
Magglio Ordinez.8604
Michael Cuddyer.8565
Jermaine Dye.8497
Bobby Abreu.873n/a
Milton Bradley.906n/a

I’m not so much concerned about a right fielder’s range as I am his arm. Dye can cut it with his throwing, so I don’t think his Zone Rating hurts the ChiSox that much. But that’s just an opinion; for all I know he could be pulling a Bernie and missing routine fly balls.

A sure sign defensive stats are still in their infancy: when you look at the Zone Ratings and compare them to the team DER, the results don’t seem right. The Yankees have players who are near the middle of the pack or the bottom of the league, and the Twins seem league-average on a player-by-player basis. However, the Twins look terrible in team DER while the Yanks look to be flourishing. This leads me to believe that DER has more to do with pitching than many currently think. I do think we’ll get a better idea of defense when the numbers are compiled at year’s end, when guys like David Pinto, John Dewan, and Mitchel Licthman come out with their defensive stats.

For further reference: The Hardball Times. Thanks to Studes for the update.

The Hitters
The Starters