We've brought back the Defensive Player of the Month Award for the 2013 season, and our choice for April, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, was in the ESPN spotlight with a pair of stories on Tuesday.
Defensive Player of the Month
The Stats & Info Blog ran through Machado's defensive credentials since his recall. Breaking those down into those accumulated in the season's first month, they are:
--5 defensive runs saved, tied with Evan Longoria and Matt Dominguez for the most in the majors at third base.
--13 "Out of Zone" plays (in other words, plays made outside the zones in which third basemen most often turn batted balls into outs), tied for the most with Dominguez.
--6 Web Gems, the most of any player in baseball, and twice as many as any of the eight other nominees we considered combined.
The voting was handled by ESPN.com writers, baseball analysts and researchers from ESPN and Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), and includes Doug Glanville, Jayson Stark, Jonah Keri and Eric Karabell. Each voted for a first-, second- and third-place finisher, with points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis
Machado was a well-deserved winner, earning seven of the 10 first-place votes, but also getting defensive props for the month were:
Starling Marte, Pirates LF
Marte was the runner-up to Machado in our voting. He led major league left fielders with seven defensive runs saved, three more than any other player at that position.
One of the reasons that Marte rates so highly statistically is because he had two home run-robbing catches during the month -- in other words, plays that directly saved runs. They weren’t your classic Mike Trout, scale-the-wall leaping grabs. In each instance, Marte raced back to a low left-field fence and made a reaching grab to snag a would-be home run.
For more on Marte's impact this month, check out the ESPN Insider piece from Scott Spratt on the significant improvements to the Pirates' defense.
Evan Longoria, Rays/Matt Dominguez, Astros
This was a good month for third basemen. We mentioned that Longoria and Dominguez finished tied with Machado in runs saved at the position.
Longoria had three Web Gems, second most among our nominees, and was slightly better than Dominguez in terms of good play/misplay & error ratio (documented by Baseball Info Solutions' video tracking).
Aoki and Gomez both had great months from a statistical perspective. Aoki led right fielders with nine defensive runs saved. Gomez had the most among center fielders with seven.
It seemed odd to us that both had such high ratings, and in surveying Brewers fans on Twitter, we got a partial explanation why. The Brewers' coaching staff has been playing their outfielders, particularly Aoki, very deep. That's allowed them to take away a few potential extra-base hits, with a limited cost thus far.
That's reflected in both their numbers. BIS' range rating (a "plus-minus system") has Aoki taking away 17 bases above what the average fielder would take away on balls hit to the deepest parts of the park (in other words, a bunch of extra-base hits) and being five bases below average on balls hit to the shallowest parts of the outfield. Gomez has taken away 10 bases on deep balls, and one on the shallow balls.
It's an interesting strategic decision, and one that bears watching throughout the regular season to see if the numbers hold up.
Andrelton Simmons, Braves
This isn't the first time we've talked about Simmons' defense and it certainly won't be the last. Simmons led shortstops with six defensive runs saved for the month. He converted 92 percent of the balls hit into shortstop "zones" (the areas in which a shortstop gets outs more than half the time) into outs, second best in the majors to Cliff Pennington.
Simmons had an outstanding month. Machado just happened to be a little bit better.