Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Leaderboard of week: Infield knockdowns
By Mark Simon
Those watching the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels the last couple of days have probably been wowed by the defensive wizardry of Angels left fielder Mike Trout, who has made a couple of terrific plays to rob hits.
But a more subtle contribution has been made within the Angels infield.
Twice in Tuesday’s game, Angels infielders got close enough to balls to knock them down, prevent them from going into the outfield, and prevent a run from scoring. Erick Aybar made one such play in the third inning and Howie Kendrick made the other in the eighth inning.
At Baseball Info Solutions, a company that supplies defense and pitch-performance data to teams and media, they track the players who make such plays and give them a "Good Fielding Play" credit for "Keeping the ball in the infield to prevent the taking of an extra base."
For our purposes, let’s call them infield knockdowns, as in -- the infielder knocked the ball down, or fielded it cleanly, and in doing so thwarted potential baserunner advancement.
Not surprisingly, this is a shortstop-dominated leaderboard. The chart shows the leaders since the start of last season. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, whose defensive metrics are improved from last season, tops the list. Aybar, who won a Gold Glove at shortstop last season, moved into a tie for second place with his play.
Baseball Info Solutions has documented 313 instances of this sort of play since the start of last season, meaning the average team has around 10 such plays. Team-wise, the Twins lead with 20, followed by the Cubs (17), Pirates (16), Angels (14), and Mariners (14). The Rockies have the fewest (4), just ahead of the Dodgers and Athletics (6 each).