Small stat of the day: the defensive improvement

DMZ · July 28, 2008 at 8:18 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Since the M’s made their outfield alignment change to try and regularly get two good gloves out there at the same time, and began to regularly replace Sexson at first (even with Cairo and Vidro) I’ve been watching their defensive stats drift upwards with interest. And now Riggleman’s even used defensive subs for Ibanez (!) late in games, which is great.

While earlier in the year they were in the basement, one of the worst teams in baseball, before tonight’s game they were 21st in defensive efficiency which is just balls put into play (except HRs) turned into outs.

That’s a huge, huge swing. It means the Mariners have been playing legitimately good defense overall for a while now, and we’ve seen that pay off in a lot of ways beyond just outs: for instance, it’s made some Ryan Franklin-worthy starts by Jarrod Washburn look great, and that may help the team move his salary.

This has been a large and as far as I’ve seen generally unacknowledged part of the team’s improved record lately. That putting two legitimately good defenders in the outfield and taking playing time away from a terrible defender (and at a traditionally defensively neglected position) has helped swing things to the M’s side is another demonstration of the importance of defense.

Comments

41 Responses to “Small stat of the day: the defensive improvement”

  1. msb on July 28th, 2008 8:25 pm

    putting two legitimately good defenders in the outfield and taking playing time away from a terrible defender (and at a traditionally defensively neglected position) has helped

    wacky.

  2. halibuthank on July 28th, 2008 8:44 pm

    Thanks for the insight. It’s nice to have some sense of why the M’s are playing better ball of late. Is there any way that this stuff could be translated into Japanese and forwarded to Ichiro! for comment? I am so very curious about what he really thinks of the team. This has to happen.

  3. Pilots fan on July 28th, 2008 8:58 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to light. I’ve always been of the belief that defense was far too underrated as a part of a team’s success. The work you’ve done previously regarding the ’01 team demonstrated that well. Now we can see that even this team can benefit noticeably by a few small changes on defense.

  4. killer_ewok18 on July 28th, 2008 8:59 pm

    That’s great and all, but the M’s have to play .421 baseball for the remainder of the season in order to avoid losing 100 games.

    Honestly, what’s the difference between 100 and 110 losses?

    (Answer: Strasburg)

  5. DMZ on July 28th, 2008 9:10 pm

    What’s your point?

  6. msb on July 28th, 2008 9:18 pm

    Shannon asked Beltre about that play in the 8th, and Beltre said that he & Joh have a sign for the throw to third, and Joh flashed it and then made a perfect throw– and that the much-admired in the clubhouse block of third he made was an accident; that he wouldn’t normally do that, as it would ‘be dirty’ :)

  7. Mr. Egaas on July 28th, 2008 9:22 pm

    Say, how good would Melky Cabrera be in CF?

  8. Pilots fan on July 28th, 2008 9:27 pm

    Interesting: If you take a look at the link DMZ provided, and then take a quick simple avg. ranking for the A’s ’01-’08 the answer is 3.6 when comparing them against the other 30 teams in baseball. They were #1 or #2 4 times (including ’08 to date). Wow.

  9. aaron c. on July 28th, 2008 9:35 pm

    Say, how good would Melky Cabrera be in CF?

    The opinions I’ve heard that I think are worth listening to have him as being ~average, perhaps a tick below.

  10. Mat on July 28th, 2008 9:51 pm

    Interesting: If you take a look at the link DMZ provided, and then take a quick simple avg. ranking for the A’s ‘01-’08 the answer is 3.6 when comparing them against the other 30 teams in baseball. They were #1 or #2 4 times (including ‘08 to date). Wow.

    Not park adjusted, not worth all that much.

  11. CCW on July 28th, 2008 9:53 pm

    We of course shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from such a small sample, but does this tell us anything about Ichiro in RF vs. Ichiro in CF? If he’s a great RF but a mediocre CF, and we have an above-average CF to replace him with (e.g. Reed), then does that make his switch to RF justifiable?

  12. Mike Snow on July 28th, 2008 9:53 pm

    Of course, Cabrera need not even play a lot of center if we get him. I don’t know if there’s a huge difference between him and Reed defensively. It’s attractive mostly because you can move Ibanez to DH. Then you’d have three guys patrolling the outfield, all of whom can play a capable center field and it doesn’t matter so much which one of them actually does.

  13. joser on July 28th, 2008 9:53 pm

    This has been a large and as far as I’ve seen generally unacknowledged

    That’s because if you talk about “measuring defense” to just about anybody in the regular media, you get a bewildered “That’s like… total errors…. right?”

    Beltre said that he & Joh have a sign for the throw to third, and Joh flashed it and then made a perfect throw– and that the much-admired in the clubhouse block of third he made was an accident; that he wouldn’t normally do that, as it would ‘be dirty’

    It was a bitching throw. It wasn’t a dirty play in terms of the rules (there’s no obstruction when a fielder is actually in the act of catching the ball), but it may be according to the standards the players (or at least Beltre-class players) go by. Beltre certainly risked having his ankle get spiked or rolled (a la Felix).

    Say, how good would Melky Cabrera be in CF?

    Well, he might be better away from the Bronx and not distracted by the Bleacher Creatures.

  14. SequimRealEstate on July 28th, 2008 9:57 pm

    What do you support your assertion that Reed is an above average fielder in CF and Ichiro is mediocre? Ref: CCW #11

  15. DMZ on July 28th, 2008 10:00 pm

    Ichiro generally grades out as about average for center fielders. You have to consider his competition: a lot of other really fast dudes. In right, he can be the same fielder and come out way ahead of a lot of immobile mashers.

    Reed’s 04-05 CF numbers were quite nice, his 06 a lot less so.

  16. DMZ on July 28th, 2008 10:01 pm

    Check out the 03-07 UZRs that have been released for more. It’s quite fascinating.

  17. abender20 on July 28th, 2008 10:09 pm

    This implies that Balentien is not a good fielder (in addition to Wilkerson).

    Is there any point in trying to get him to play first? Lahair was good tonight, but he’s not Pujols by any stretch of the imagination. (And yes, I know Wlad is probably Wily Mo Pena.)

  18. CCW on July 28th, 2008 10:10 pm

    There you go. I do wonder if Safeco field, being so large (relatively), might highlight excellent corner outfield defense. When the M’s had Winn in LF, for example, he may have contributed as much defensively as a good CF would have in a typical stadium in center field. A corollary, of course, is that really bad corner outfield defense is magnified in Safeco…

  19. DMZ on July 28th, 2008 10:13 pm

    Oh, I totally believe that. Expansive outfields give you an opportunity to play serious fly catchers at each position and potentially get a lot more out of it than at a cramped one.

  20. abender20 on July 28th, 2008 10:29 pm

    DMZ – what sort of defensive prowess lies in the M’s farm system. I get the feeling that Michael Saunders can go get it, but naturally I have no idea if that’s true. More importantly, is there any OF in the minors that’s capable of playing at the major league level, outside of Balentien (who is debatable to begin with)

  21. bestofwest on July 28th, 2008 10:41 pm

    How is Lahair defensively?

  22. shortbus on July 28th, 2008 11:20 pm

    As for replacing Ibanez for defense…wow, I’m really not hating Riggleman. He just makes more of the obviously correct moves like that…which puts him head and shoulders above Hargrove and McLaren. People made all kinds of excuses for McLaren last season because it wasn’t “his team.” Well this isn’t any more Riggs’ team and he has the stones to tell Raul to sit the !@#! down in the ninth inning for the good of the team.

  23. DMZ on July 28th, 2008 11:24 pm

    Yeah, like batting Vidro cleanup!

  24. abender20 on July 28th, 2008 11:29 pm

    There’s a reason 22 was posted by someone named “Shortbus”.

    All kidding aside, I have been at least pleased with the team’s slow increases in aptitude. The defense has improved thanks to someone actually valuing it, and so far Pelekoudas hasn’t traded someone for nothing just to get them off the team. Wait, no, Sexson was cut and Cairo and Vidro somehow live to fight another day.

    Antonetti me

  25. Breadbaker on July 28th, 2008 11:34 pm

    Through 2006, the M’s in full seasons in Safeco were always top half of MLB in DER. Even the atrocious teams from 2004-2006. Only last year did they drop to the bottom of the table. If they stayed at 21, they’d have their second worst season ever in Safeco, still.

    At the Kingdome, they were always in the bottom half, win or lose. It’s the carpet, baby.

    So if you look at a “park adjustment” in the gross sense, until last year it was impossible to have a bad DER in the new park. So the improvement, while it might be real, is an improvement over something that should never have happened in the first place. Which happens when three infielders and two outfielders (now one outfielder) have no range at all.

  26. shortbus on July 28th, 2008 11:40 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vidro thing isn’t all Riggleman. Sure, he may believe the garbage about Pepe’s magical ability to make Raul a better hitter. But I’ll bet that the FO is forcing him to play Vidro for the equally ridiculous reason that they want to shop him for a trade. These guys believed, not that long ago, that Vidro was a major-league DH. They probably think he’s just “in a funk” and that he might get hot and attract some suitors for a trade. If so, you have to feel for Riggleman…having to come up with some cockamamie excuse for batting the worst hitter in the MLB fourth.

    I suspect Vidro’s gone after the deadline, along with any pressure the FO is putting on Riggleman to play with the lineup for trade purposes. If Riggleman keeps making dumb decisions and explaining them with reference to elves and fairies I’ll join the lynch mob.

  27. DMZ on July 29th, 2008 12:01 am

    Wait, what? It is or it isn’t all Riggleman?

  28. shortbus on July 29th, 2008 12:34 am

    Sorry for the double negative. I think the rest of the post makes my opinion pretty clear. You seem to enjoy young lice.

  29. b_rider on July 29th, 2008 5:10 am

    I wonder if Reed is good enough defensively to make up for his offense. How much offense should you be willing to give up in order to get good defense? Can you afford to play plus defensive players over others if the players in question hit like Reed and Cairo?

  30. DMZ on July 29th, 2008 7:17 am

    lice?

    This is going to seem like an obvious answer, but… it’s 1:1. If you find a center fielder who saves 20 runs on defense, you can give up 20 runs offensively. Richie needed to be a really good first baseman to make his overall contribution average, and he wasn’t, for instance. If Reed’s playing stellar defense out there, he’ll be above average. And on and on and on.

  31. cody on July 29th, 2008 7:32 am

    Let’s say we trade Washburn for Melky Cabrera.
    How much of an improvement would it be if we kept Reed in center, stuck Cabrera in left, and moved Ibanez to DH?
    (I know this would be a big improvement. I’m asking for a number, like, you konw, +20 runs or something like that.)

  32. shortbus on July 29th, 2008 8:03 am

    Nit

    –noun

    1. the egg of a parasitic insect, esp. of a louse, often attached to a hair or a fiber of clothing.

    2. the young of such an insect.

    [Origin: bef. 900; ME nite, OE hnitu, c. D neet, G Niss, Norw nit]

  33. DMZ on July 29th, 2008 8:31 am

    Yeah, I like lice because you put together a confusing comment where the first sentence completely contradicted everything you wrote afterwards and I got confused. That makes perfect sense.

  34. Paul B on July 29th, 2008 8:42 am

    began to regularly replace Sexson at first (even with Cairo

    The takeaway message here for the M’s is that if you move a player way over on the defensive spectrum (from middle infield to first base) you’ll get a boost in runs saved even though you lose a bunch in runs scored.

    No way Cairo should ever play first base, except as a late inning defensive replacement, but when your option was the 2008 version of Sexson, it made perfect sense.

  35. Colm on July 29th, 2008 8:54 am

    Oh, he’s accusing you of nit-picking.

    Am I slow this morning, or was that a bit abstruse?

  36. CCW on July 29th, 2008 9:06 am

    I find defensive quantification to be extremely difficult to pull off without a significant amount of effort. Is there a place that I’m missing that has all of the decent publicly available defensive metrics in one place? Those, averaged, converted into runs, and put onto on a spreadsheet, would be an awesome tool for amateur analysts to have at their disposal.

  37. DMZ on July 29th, 2008 9:10 am

    No.

  38. DMZ on July 29th, 2008 9:16 am

    And yes, I know that sucks.

  39. zackr on July 29th, 2008 9:26 am

    I haven’t been able to watch any games lately. Does Clement look like he’s improving with the glove, or bat for that matter? His line looks horrible every night he graces the lineup.

  40. Matt the Dragon on July 29th, 2008 9:40 am

    Let’s say we trade Washburn for Melky Cabrera.
    How much of an improvement would it be if we kept Reed in center, stuck Cabrera in left, and moved Ibanez to DH?
    (I know this would be a big improvement. I’m asking for a number, like, you konw, +20 runs or something like that.)

    Essentially this would be subtracting Vidro’s BRAA (say, -10) and Ibanez’ FRAA for LF (~-15) then adding Melky’s BRAA (-5) and his FRAA for LF (let’s call him an average 0)

    That’d equate to about 20 runs improvement (about 2 wins) across a full season.

    Those numbers are rough guesstimates and conservative ones for Melky (especially defense, he’s considered a tick below average in CF) so that’s probably a minimum improvement.

  41. don52656 on July 29th, 2008 10:45 am

    I have been tracking our DEF on a game-by-game basis all year. The uptick in DEF seems to be due more to the changes in the outfield than at 1B.

    M’s DEF before Ichiro switched to RF = .678
    M’s DEF after Ichrio switched to RF = .706

    M’s DEF before Sexson traded = .685
    M’s DEF after Sexson traded = .700

    I would also hypothesize that the Ichrio move to RF and the recent Washburn success might be related, as Washburn has the lowest AO/GB ratio of the M’s starters and would be most likely to benefit from an improved outfield defense.

    How much better would the rest of the starters be with above average defense from 2B and SS, I wonder…..

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.