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An Unlikely Defensive Runs Saved Champion

October 23, 2021
The 2021 team leader in Defensive Runs Saved was … the Rangers.
Yes, the 60-102 Rangers. That’s not a misprint. They finished with 85, three more than the second-place Cardinals.
The Rangers had by far the worst winning percentage of any team to lead the majors in Defensive Runs Saved. No other leader had won fewer than 75 games in a full season in the 18 previous seasons for which Defensive Runs Saved was calculated.


The next four teams behind the Rangers were all playoff teams: the Cardinals, Astros, Rays, and Brewers.

But we’re here to focus on what went right for the Rangers rather than what went wrong.

That starts in right field where Texas got 30 Runs Saved, the most for any team at any position this season. Joey Gallo had 13 of those before he was traded to the Yankees. After the trade, rookie Adolis García became the team’s everyday right fielder. He too finished with 13 Runs Saved there, doing that in only 51 games.

The Rangers’ top infielder was shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who was one season removed from winning the Gold Glove Award at third base. He finished with 10 Runs Saved at shortstop, which trailed only Carlos Correa (21) and Andrelton Simmons (14).

Kiner-Falefa played in 156 games for the Rangers, a luxury the Rangers didn’t have at third base, where they used seven players. But those seven combined for 15 Runs Saved, the third-most in the majors and the most of any AL team.

Three Rangers had 4 Runs Saved at the hot corner: Brock Holt, Charlie Culberson, and Yonny Hernández.

Though the Rangers were lacking in pitching, they had two solid catchers in Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim.

Rangers catchers finished tied with the Rays for second in MLB in our pitch-framing metric, Strike Zone Runs Saved, just behind the Dodgers. Both Trevino and Heim rated well in that stat and Trevino was also top-notch in pitch blocking.

In all, the Rangers got 14 Runs Saved from their catchers. Only the Pirates (20) had more.

The combination of catcher, shortstop, third base and right field proved key for the Rangers in pushing them to the top of the leaderboard. General Manager Chris Young has plenty of work to do this offseason, but he knows where his team’s strength lies.

Most Defensive Runs Saved – 2021 Season

Team DRS
Rangers 85
Cardinals 82
Astros 76
Rays 72
Brewers 65
Rockies 60

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

Not to be a wet blanket and all, but I'm not sure the Defensive Runs Saved stat is all the way baked yet. In 2019 the Mets were scalded with a score of -86, nearly double the ranked incompetence of the next NL squad. Their SS Rosario was hung with a -10.

The Mets traded Rosario and undertook a sweeping retooling of their house.

Then, in March of this year, the numbers were revised in a note on the SIS site. The Mets were now a mere -34 in DRS for 2019. The departed Rosario was upgraded from a gasp -10 to a meh -3.

This wasn't a mere changing of baselines....Rosario was the player most affected by the revision, and the Mets the team most affected.

So.....I believe that DRS is the wave of the future. I have severe misgivings about saying the future is now.
10:33 PM Oct 29th
I have a hard time thinking this team assessment is a good one. The Rangers had an ordinary BABIP against, .290 vs. league average .293. This isn't a hitters' park: BABIP was lower in Rangers' home games than in road. The team fielding percentage is a point above league average; the team turned DPs in 10% of chances, same as league average. The OCS rate was below league average; their outfield arm advance rate is average. They had an ERA of 4.79 and a FIP of 4.76 and allowed 72 runs more than league average.

In short, looking at the conventional metrics, the Rangers had a B- defense, not a league-leading one. And given that the team runs allowed and won-lost record do not support a league-leading defense, I'll go with the conventional metrics.
9:45 PM Oct 28th
The next four teams are playoffs teams. I didn't follow the Rangers much this season, but when they came to Coors Field I couldn't believe how bad offensively their lineup was. I would call this a Bill McKechnie team.

I looked at their final stats. Joey Gallo had a .869 OPS with a 139 OPS+. His OPS went up over 100 points after I saw him in June. He actually increased his slugging average by 100 points. He went from an average hitter from when I saw him, despite a .211 batting average to a 139 OPS.

Nathaniel Lowe and Adolis Garcia were actually hitting well at the time. More Garcia then Lowe. Garcia went down after that and his on base was below .300. However, he was an average hitter for the year according to OPS. Lowe made some improvement and ended up with an OPS plus of 113.

The other six starters had an OPS plus at 90 or below. Their non-pitchers OPS plus was 85. They were last in the league in runs scored by 34 runs. They were also last in OPS plus.
6:54 PM Oct 25th
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