looked at our infield defense last year using David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR) defensive charts published over at Baseball Musings. As you might remember, improving our infield defense became a hot topic as it quickly became clear that we were going to have multiple groundball inducing pitchers in our rotation (Carmona, Westbrook, and now Laffey, and to an extent Reyes). The PMR results last year showed that Peralta was actually better than expected going to his right, while Casey Blake's difficulty going to his left at the 3B position was going to be a big concern. Asdrubal Cabrera didn't have as much data last year, so it will be interesting to see how he rated in 2008, and of course the addition of Mark DeRosa will change things a bit. So without further ado...
I want to just look at fielding groundballs. Line drives, fly balls, and bunts seem too likely to be influenced by luck and positioning due to there being fewer of them hit.
Let me start off by pointing out that DeRosa accrued only 114 innings at 3B last year for the Chicago Cubs. So we have small sample size going, plus the fact that he was being moved around all over the place defensively. With the data available we can see that he did above expected to his right, but struggled a bit to his left (not unlike Blake's numbers from 2007). Because its worth looking into a bit further, I'm going to post DeRosa's numbers at 2B for Chicago last season, as he played 670 innings there and represents a better sized sample of his defense, albiet at a different position.
Almost perfectly fielded his position to the level that would be expected by Pinto's defensive model. Ok now consider DeRosa's 2007 numbers at 3B with Chicago, once again a small sample size, although at 287 innings played its a bit stronger of sample than his 2008 numbers.
Much better. So at this point I'm considering that at worst DeRosa will struggle with balls hit to his left because of the the shortened distance between positioning at 3B and the hitter versus at 2B and the hitter, which is no worse than Blake and actually looks like slightly better, and more likely that he is a solid defender at 3B all around and possibly above avg. either to his left or right (or all together!). I'm leaning towards believing the combined data and reports from DeRosa himself that indicates he is a better defender at 3B than 2B (and at least average at 2B).
Now onto our favorite defensive infielder, Johnny Peralta!
I have to admit that although I am a fan of keeping Peralta at shortstop for this season, I still didn't expect him to grade out this well (relatively well I should say). He looks to have been working hard on improving his defense to his left going into 2008 (an obvious problem in 2007's data) and it has paid off. He struggled a little bit to his extreme right, possibly because of overcompensating to his left, but overall a solid performance. Not a problem defensively, not spectacular mind you, and if Asdrubal Cabrera represents an improvement over him defensively it should be evaluated, but Peralta's range appears to be adequate to hold down the position while providing above average power from the position.
Asdrubal Cabrera plays a solid 2B. His reaction to his left can stand to improve, but if you are going to have a middle infielder struggle (struggle is probably too strong of word in reference to Cabrera though) to one side you want it to be the non-2B bag side. His range to his right is above what would be expected and is starting to document the type of defensive capability we have been hearing scouts and the organization talking about. Probably the strongest defended position in the Cleveland infield. If at any point they want to slide DeRosa over to second base, Asdrubal over to shortstop and give Peralta a chance to pick up some experience at third, they would likely remain strong defensively overall and improve the defense up the middle to a degree.
Garko is slow to react to his immediate left and his immediate right. Good positioning may be responsible for the adequate performances at the extreme left and right, I suspect its not his cat like quickness that is making that "W" appear in his chart. He is not horrible, but certainly stands out as the weakest fielder of his position of all the starting infielders.
With only 81innings played at 1B by Victor Martinez, he suffers from too small of a sample size to even bother looking at. Martinez is likely no worse than Garko at 1B and may in fact be better with consistent playing time at the position, which would allow Shoppach more time starting at catcher as well.
For sake of argument Andy Marte's PMR results at 3B from last season indicated he was performed far better than expected defensively. Is defense at one infield position enough to keep Marte around?
I think DeRosa replacing Blake coupled with improvements by Peralta to his left will result in a better overall defensive performance by our infield. More Victor Martinez as first base and keeping Marte over Barfield on the bench would further improve the depth and performance of our infield.