Asdrubal's Defense


How good (or bad) is Asdrubal Cabrera's defense? This recent comment by johnf34 sent me off to Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and other sites on the interwebz to do some research. John thinks his defense is "poor at best"; I'm not so sure.

Droobs has played shortstop exclusively for the past 3 seasons; Fangraphs' UZR is pretty negative about his performance there.

2010: -7.7 (UZR/150: -13.4)

2011: -11.8 (UZR/150: -12.6)

2012: -9 (UZR/150: -10.3)

3-yr. average: -9.5 (-12.1)

So UZR sees him as a poor defender. Probably the best thing I can say here is that Jhonny Peralta was fourth best in UZR each of the last two seasons. I mean, really?

At Baseball Prospectus, FRAA had him slightly above average last year, but atrocious in 2011 and slightly below average in 2010.

2010: -2.7

2011: -19.0

2012: 2.5

The 3-year average is -6.4, heavily skewed by the terrible 2011.

Total Zone (which you can find at Baseball Reference as Rtot) looks better for Droobs. It flipped positive last year, leaving him perfectly average the last 3 years.

2010: -3

2011: -6

2012: +9

3-year average: 0

Defensive Runs Saved (Rdrs at BR) says he's basically average:

2010: -1

2011: 3

2012: -5

3-year average: -1

If you combine all four metrics for just 2012, he comes out at -3: a little below average.

I don't know who this blogger is, but he discusses problems with UZR and then says he will calculate his own Zone Rating and fielding runs from the simple RZR and OOZ figures at Fangraphs. This is how 2012 shortstops stack up according to his Zone Rating. The results end up looking weird. I won't bother with the fielding runs.

ZR = (PM + OOZ) / (BIZ + OOZ)

Ian Desmond: .874

Jhonny Peralta: .874

Mike Aviles: .871

Yunel Escobar: .869

J.J. Hardy: .868

Alexei Ramirez: .865

Brendan Ryan: .856

Clint Barmes: .855

Zach Cozart: .855

Brandon Crawford: .850

Ruben Tejada: .850

Elvis Andrus: .847

Everth Cabrera: .845

Jimmy Rollins: .838

Asdrubal Cabrera: .831

Jose Reyes: .831

Erick Aybar: .824

Starlin Castro: .819

Rafael Furcal: .816

Alcides Escobar: .791

Derek Jeter: .787

About the only thing that really makes sense here is Hardy being top-5 (defensive metrics usually say he's average at worst, often better, and they uniformly love his 2012 season), and Jeter being the worst. This makes Peralta look like a Gold Glove candidate, but in the real world, no one mistakes him for that kind of defender. Same goes for Desmond: he may be average, but he's not a world-beater. Droobs is tied for 15th here, but with the other problems, I can't trust this. The blogger admitted this will underrate players who make a lot of plays outside their zone of responsibility, and the rankings according to his calculation end up more messed up than UZR.

That little exercise was kind of futile, so let's do something else. Going back to Fangraphs: Droobs is at .750-.800 consistently in RZR, which is below average, but better than poor. However, he was tied with fifth in baseball with 77 out of zone plays. In 2011, he was fourth with 74. In 2010, he played only 825 innings, but among all five shortstops with 800-900 innings (Uribe, Hardy, Wilson, Furcal), he led easily with 42 out of zone plays. Obviously there are problems with this since things like defensive positioning could skew it, but it should probably be given a little consideration.

If you calculate Innings/OOZ for 2012 shortstops, Droobs comes in third. Here's the top 8:

J.J. Hardy: 13.20

Brendan Ryan: 13.45

Asdrubal Cabrera: 15.08

Rafael Furcal: 15.43

Mike Aviles: 15.59

Everth Cabrera: 15.78

Starlin Castro: 15.93

Elvis Andrus: 16.06

And bottom 5:

29.21: Ruben Tejada

28.48 Ian Desmond

28.42 Jimmy Rollins

26.06 Jhonny Peralta

25.18 Jose Reyes

What to make of this? In some ways the results make more sense than the previous exercise. Hardy and Ryan make sense at the top, because Ryan is awesome and Hardy had a great year. Aviles and Andrus are considered good defenders. Reyes has really declined, Desmond isn't known for great defense and has been bad in the past, Tejada is not a special defender, Rollins has declined, and the world has been turned right-side up again with Peralta. Furcal doesn't make as much sense; he was known for his defense but has been declining according to other stats. Castro and Everth Cabrera aren't considered defensive whizzes; FRAA is the only one of the four major defensive metrics that likes Cabrera, and Castro improved to league average according to the metrics last year.

This Tigers blogger used defensive metrics developed by Colin Wyers to rank 2012 shortstops. Here is his explanation of the acronyms and the table:

  • Inn = Innings
  • RZR = Revised Zone Rating
  • OOZ = Out-of-Zone Plays
  • PIZAA = Plays in Zone Above Average
  • OOZAA = Out-of-Zone Plays Above Average
  • PMAA = Total Plays Above Average
  • RSAA = Runs Saved Above Average

Table 1: Runs Saved by MLB Shortstops According to RZR, OOZ, 2012

J.J. Hardy BAL 1,439 .833 109 13 31 44 33
Brendan Ryan SEA 1,170 .816 87 4 24 28 21
Mike Aviles BOS 1,107 .839 71 11 11 22 16
Yunel Escobar TOR 1,250 .846 72 16 4 20 15
Alexei Ramirez CHW 1,392 .837 77 13 2 15 11
Elvis Andrus TEX 1,333 .811 83 3 11 14 10
Everth Cabrera SDP 915 .814 58 3 9 12 9
Asdrubal Cabrera CLE 1,161 .792 77 -3 14 11 8
Zack Cozart CIN 1,163 .824 66 7 3 10 7
Clint Barmes PIT 1,159 .832 61 11 -2 9 7
Cliff Pennington OAK 805 .840 42 9 -2 7 5
Rafael Furcal STL 1,034 .777 67 -8 11 3 2
Starlin Castro CHC 1,402 .779 88 -9 12 3 2
Brandon Crawford SFG 1,101 .830 49 10 -11 -0 -0
Jhonny Peralta DET 1,277 .853 49 16 -20 -4 -3
Ian Desmond WSN 1,139 .855 40 14 -22 -7 -6
Erick Aybar LAA 1,189 .793 57 -3 -7 -10 -8
Ruben Tejada NYM 964 .830 33 7 -19 -12 -9
Jose Reyes MIA 1,410 .805 56 1 -20 -19 -14
Alcides Escobar KCR 1,379 .750 73 -19 -2 -21 -16
Derek Jeter NYY 1,186 .747 61 -18 -3 -21 -16
Jimmy Rollins PHI 1,364 .815 48 5 -26 -21 -16

According to this, Droobs is actually above average.

What to believe? Well...decide for yourself, and use more than one metric. If you just want to use your eyes, fine. At best, he's a bit above average; at worst, he's poor. I think he's around average, or maybe a little below.

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