2018 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders

October 2, 2018
 With the 2018 regular season concluded, let’s look at the leaders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman finished as the overall leader with 29. Chapman dominated all season, with his work being particularly outstanding on balls hit down the third base line. The next-closest third baseman in Runs Saved was Adrian Beltre with 10.

It also helped Chapman that he had an excellent defender on the other side of the diamond to handle his throws. The leader there was his teammate, Matt Olson, with 14. With Olson and Chapman at the corners, the Athletics allowed only 20 ground-ball doubles, tied with the Red Sox for fewest in MLB.

The outfield leader was a surprise -- JaCoby Jones of the Tigers. Jones saved 21 runs, 11 in 55 games in left field and 10 in 67 games in center field. His 15 jumping catches (including a pair of HR robberies) tied for second in the majors behind Billy Hamilton’s 18.

The DRS leaders at the individual outfield positions were (from left to right) Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Mookie Betts. Cain’s 20 Runs Saved were a career-high, with the key reason being an 11-run improvement from last season in his arm rating (from costing the Royals six runs to saving the Brewers five). Gordon and Betts each led their position for the third time in their careers, with Betts having done it each of the last three seasons.

Andrelton Simmons was the co-leader at shortstop, joined by Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed. Simmons was a standout defender in both directions and tied for the MLB lead with four Double Play Runs Saved. Ahmed had his best season at the position, with his super-strong throwing arm helping him record the bulk of his Runs Saved on balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole. Kolten Wong of the Cardinals finished as the top second baseman. He had a 20-run improvement from 2017, finishing with 19 DRS.

The Diamondbacks led MLB with 157 Runs Saved, so it’s not surprising the team had three positional leaders. Joining Ahmed is catcher Jeff Mathis, whose 17 Runs Saved in only 523 innings were five better than anyone else there. Also, pitcher Zack Greinke finished tied with Julio Teheran and Masahiro Tanaka with each saving his team seven runs. Mathis was Greinke’s personal catcher and helped him with outstanding numbers in both pitch framing (9 DRS, one shy of the MLB lead) and pitch-blocking (he led the majors with a 96.4 percent blocking success rate).

Greinke, one of the better athletes among pitchers, will be trying for his first Fielding Bible Award. Those winners will be announced just after the conclusion of the World Series.

2018 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders
Position Name DRS
 C  Jeff Mathis 17
 1B  Matt Olson 14
 2B  Kolten Wong 20
 SS (tie)  Andrelton Simmons 21
 SS (tie)  Nick Ahmed 21
 3B  Matt Chapman 29
 LF  Alex Gordon 18
 CF  Lorenzo Cain 20
 RF  Mookie Betts 20
 OF (Overall)  JaCoby Jones 21
 P (tie)  Zack Greinke 7
 P (tie)  Julio Teheran 7
 P (tie)  Masahiro Tanaka 7
 Team  Diamondbacks 157

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Let’s also note that September’s top defensive player is Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The month represented a significant turnaround for Longoria, who struggled on defense early in the season, then was injured and missed 34 games from mid-June to late July.

In September, Longoria performed like the player who had 11 Defensive Runs Saved last season and who saved an average of 13 runs defensively from 2008 to 2013. He finished with 9 Defensive Runs Saved for the month, pushing his season total from -3 to 6. His six Good Fielding Plays tied for the most of any third baseman. Longoria totaled five plays by either sliding, diving or jumping in September. He totaled eight for the season prior to that month.

Defensive Players of the Month
Month Player Team, Pos
April Matt Chapman Athletics, 3B
May Lorenzo Cain Brewers, CF
June (tie) Trea Turner Nationals, SS
June (tie) Alex Gordon Royals, LF
July Keon Broxton Brewers, CF
August Adam Engel White Sox, CF
September Evan Longoria Giants, 3B
 
 

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
Who writes the 'subtitles' for the articles that appear on the home page?

I need to know because I need to cross-examine him. :-)
And probably to sentence him to 40 lashes with a wet noodle.

This -- believe it or not, everybody -- is the subtitle for this article:

Want to know who the league's best defenders were in 2018? Mark has the answers.

That's a great example of sabermetrics at its worst, and at its most arrogant, and most stupid.
I say sometimes that this-or-that is an embarrassment to the field.
That, folks, is an embarrassment to the field.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I see bullshit like that, I don't have it in me to take more than a cursory glance at the article itself. In this instance, I didn't read it at all except to see if there appears to be some implied smiley about the subtitle.
8:03 PM Oct 15th
 
cderosa
Hey DRS fans,
Does anyone have any insights about the very large spread between the best and worst run-saving teams this year (301 runs between the +156 D'Backs and -145 Phils)?

That's double the average range between the best/worst DRS teams, historically (149 between 2003 and 2018).

It doesn't seem as if the rise in the "shift" category can account for the unusually high deviation.

A related question is if those of you who were watching the Diamondbacks closely thought you were watching a truly historic fielding performance, or just good, or what?

Chris DeRosa
1:43 PM Oct 6th
 
OwenH
Matt Chapman's argument for the AL MVP award. He's not gonna win it, nor should he, but he had an MVP-caliber season.
4:25 PM Oct 2nd
 
 
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