Posts in this series:
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base|
|Shortstop||Third Base||Designated Hitter|
|Left Field||Center Field||Right Field|
|Starting Pitching||Relief Pitching|
We've seen previously that the pitching staff doesn't strike out very many batters. Well, if that style of pitching is to have any success, you'll need to have a fantastic defense behind them. Before we get into the alchemical defensive formulas, let's look at a rather simple measure of team defensive ability: Defensive Efficiency.
This statistic measures the percentage of balls in play that resulted in outs. There's no play-by-play data here, no measurement of how hard the balls were hit; it's a crude (but effective) look at a team's defense. Oakland, as in most other defensive measures, is at the top of the chart, but the tradeoff was an anemic offense. But at least they had a tradeoff; the Indians had a bad offensive and defensive team in 2010.
The Indians did turn the most double plays in the AL with 179, but that was going to happen with a groundball-heavy pitching staff. They didn't field balls in play, partly due to errors, and partly due to not getting to the balls in the first place. Let's look at more detailed defensive stats to see exactly how bad this defense was.
This data comes from Fangraphs at this location. I've downloaded the data to Excel, and after a bit of cutting, posted it here. I've included the definitions from Fangraph's glossary for the statistics I want to talk about. For a detailed discussion of Fangraph's UZR, click here and start reading.
|ARM||Outfielder’s get credit (plus or minus) depending on what the runners do on a hit or a fly ball out. A runner can stay put, advance, or get thrown out. A fielder will get credit not only if he throws out more than his share of runners, but also if he keeps more than his share of runners from advancing extra bases.|
|DPR||The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, based on the number double plays versus the number forces at second they get, as compared to an average fielder at that position, given the speed and location of the ball and the handedness of the batter.|
|RngR (range runs)||The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity.|
|ErrR (error runs)||The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.|
|UZR||The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.|
|UZR/150||Ultimate Zone Rate per 150 games. The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games.|
First, the good news. The Indians were very good at throwing out runners from the outfield. Grady Sizemore's absence helped some, but Shin-Soo Choo was the main driver; the Indians' Right Fielders by themselves were +5.1 in ARM. The Indians were also about break-even in turning double plays compared to expectations, pretty good considering how many double play combinations the Indians were running out there.
Now the bad news. The Indians had a negative ErrR, or Error Runs, which should not be surprising. Whenever you hear announcers mention the Indians' defensive rank, they're referring to fielding percentage, or errors made. In the grand scheme of things, though, actual errors were not the big problem for this defense. Which is a lead-in to...
The ugly news: the Indians were the worst team in baseball, by a rather large margin, in RngR, or Range Runs. If you include all the National League teams, only the Pirates (-49.6) are close. Range was a major, major, problem for this team, especially in the infield, and specifically second base and shortstop.
The standard caveats for defensive statistics apply. UZR is (I believe) the best we have as far as defensive measures are concerned, and they've come a long ways in even the past couple years, but I still try to corroborate them with either personal observation, or independent scouting reports.
In this case, my observations generally agree with this season's UZR, and given how the front office kept bringing up defense in their end-of-season interviews, I think that yes, the ugly numbers above are pretty close to this season's reality.
Given these numbers, and the offensive stats, I'm actually beginning to think the Indians were lucky to lose just 93 games.