Wednesday, June 30, 2010
BIS: The defensive all-stars
By Ben Jedlovec, Baseball Info Solutions
The All-Star Game is right around the corner, and while it's usually the big hitters that get the majority of bids to the Midsummer Classic, that doesn't mean the slick fielders should be ignored. With that in mind, here are the top defensive players at each position thus far in 2010, using Defensive Runs Saved, a stat we've developed at Baseball Info Solutions that measures how each player fares relative to the average fielder at their position.
Pitcher -- Mark Buehrle, White Sox, +6 runs: Remember that between-the-legs flip on Opening Day? Well, Buehrle's defensive prowess is nothing new, and his greatest skill is controlling the running game. Since 2006, 60 percent (26 out of 43) of potential base stealers have failed against him, and 20 of those were erased via the pickoff.
Honorable mention: Ricky Romero, Blue Jays, +6
Catcher -- Miguel Olivo, Rockies, +9: He has thrown out 52 percent (17 of 33) of attempted base stealers this year, easily a career high for the nine-year veteran.
Honorable mention: Yadier Molina, Cardinals, +6
First Base -- Daric Barton, Athletics, +12: He’s played fewer than 300 games at first base in the majors but has 23 Runs Saved to his credit. Finally in the lineup everyday, Barton is comfortably pacing the league.
Honorable mention: Justin Morneau, Twins, and Russell Branyan, Mariners, +8
Second Base -- Chase Utley, Phillies, +15: Is there a more underrated superstar than Utley? He's been the best player on the Phillies for the past four years, and yet two of his teammates have won NL MVP awards. Utley has put up double-digit Runs Saved for the sixth straight season at a premium defensive position and leads all of baseball in Total Runs since 2005, his first full season.
Honorable mention: Robinson Cano, Yankees, +12
Third Base -- Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, +12: Last season’s Fielding Bible Award winner and Web Gem champion is no surprise here. Interestingly, converted third basemen Chase Headley and Jose Lopez are more than holding their own at the position, saving at least 10 runs each with their glove.
Honorable mention: Jose Lopez, Mariners, +11, and Chase Headley, Padres, +10
Shortstop -- Yunel Escobar, Braves, and Alexei Ramirez, White Sox, +11: Escobar isn’t really a surprise here, finishing with double digit Runs Saved in each of the past two seasons. Ramirez’s recent defense play has been a pleasant surprise for White Sox fans after saving just two runs last year in his first season at the position.
Honorable mention: Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays, +14
Left field -- Carl Crawford, Rays, +10: This three-time Fielding Bible Award winner recently leapfrogged Colorado’s Seth Smith for the positional Runs Saved lead, and don't expect him to relinquish the spot. With defense comprising a large portion of his overall value, Crawford will be an interesting free agent to follow this winter.
Center field -- Austin Jackson, Tigers, +14: Lost in the ninth inning of Armando Galarraga’s near-perfecto was Jackson's over-the-shoulder catch in the ninth inning. Those types of plays are par for the course for this rookie.
Honorable mention: Marlon Byrd, Cubs, +12
Right field -- Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, +14: While his arm isn’t what it once was, Ichiro is still the best defensive right fielder in the game.
Honorable mention: Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals, +8
Ben Jedlovec is a researcher for Baseball Info Solutions.