2010 in Review: Team Defense

Posts in this series:

Team Offense Team Pitching
Team Defense
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.

 

Tm #Fld R/G DefEff ▾ PO A E DP Fld%
OAK 49 3.86 .709 4295 1704 99 146 .984
TBR 36 4.01 .707 4361 1499 85 134 .986
NYY 43 4.28 .707 4327 1522 69 161 .988
SEA 46 4.31 .703 4314 1657 110 146 .982
TEX 48 4.24 .701 4366 1499 105 132 .982
LgAvg 43 4.42 .692 4332 1625 101 148 .983
LAA 46 4.33 .689 4348 1562 113 116 .981
BOS 53 4.59 .689 4370 1588 111 132 .982
MIN 41 4.14 .688 4358 1710 78 149 .987
BAL 45 4.85 .688 4309 1582 105 141 .982
TOR 44 4.49 .687 4322 1691 92 172 .985
CLE 44 4.64 .685 4299 1814 110 179 .982
DET 41 4.59 .684 4333 1668 109 171 .982
CHW 39 4.35 .677 4339 1663 103 157 .983
KCR 46 5.22 .676 4310 1588 121 138 .980
600 4.42 .692 60651 22747 1410 2074 .983
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2010.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Team

Inn OOZ ARM DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
Athletics 12885 418 -4.7 7.7 30.7 5.2 38.9 4.8
Twins 13074 386 1.5 -4.6 20.7 15 32.6 4.1
Rays 13083 487 2.9 -4.3 31.7 2.2 32.4 5
Tigers 12999 477 -1.4 4 18.3 -0.7 20.1 2.6
Yankees 12981 430 -1.6 1.7 -3.1 22.7 19.7 2.5
Mariners 12942 453 -4.7 0.1 28.4 -8.3 15.4 1.2
Rangers 13098 442 -0.3 -4.8 25.2 -5.2 15 1.6
Angels 13044 458 7.4 -3.7 3.4 -8.5 -1.4 0.6
Blue Jays 12966 451 5.3 3.1 -14.4 1.5 -4.5 0.4
Red Sox 13110 414 -2.5 1.9 -7.8 -0.6 -8.9 -1.4
Orioles 12927 423 8.2 0.6 -31.6 -2.4 -25.2 -1.9
White Sox 13017 427 -3.1 2.7 -27.2 -4.3 -31.9 -4.6
Royals 12930 392 -6.9 -8.9 -16.6 -11.8 -44.2 -7.3
Indians 12897 447 6.9 0.9 -57.7 -4.9 -54.8 -5.8

 

Glossary:

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.

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