The Best and Worst Defensive Teams Thus Far

April 24, 2016

As we inch closer to the second month of the season, defensive performance has begun taking form across the league. Several unexpected teams have flashed some leather in the early going, which has helped propel them to the top of their respective divisions.

Best Defensive Teams as of April 22
Team Runs Saved
Chicago Cubs 17
Los Angeles Dodgers 16
St. Louis Cardinals 15
Houston Astros 13
Texas Rangers 12

 

After snatching Jason Heyward, a back-to-back Fielding Bible Award winner, away from their division rival this offseason, the Cubs have opened the season on fire defensively, posting a league-leading 17 runs saved to date. The outfield duo of Heyward and Dexter Fowler has saved the Cubs four runs apiece, helping the team establish an early 3.5-game lead in the NL Central.

Despite losing Heyward to the Cubbies this winter, the Cardinals have still managed the third-highest runs saved total in baseball. In Heyward’s absence, Stephen Piscotty has emerged as the driving force of run prevention in St. Louis. Piscotty is tied for first in the majors with six runs saved over 116.1 innings this season compared to the five runs he cost them in 537.2 innings last year.

Due to his excellent range and positioning, Yasiel Puig has saved three runs for the Dodgers in right. It’ll be interesting to see how often baserunners test his cannon of an arm, as his arm strength has saved 11 runs more than average over his career. Yasmani Grandal has been stellar behind the plate, preventing another three runs for the Dodgers.

Here are five teams that got off to a not-so-hot start defensively.

Worst Defensive Teams as of April 22
Team Runs Saved
Atlanta Braves -20
New York Mets -13
San Francisco Giants -8
Oakland Athletics -8
New York Yankees -7

 

The majority of the Braves' runs lost, 19 of 20 to be exact, have come at the expense of their atrocious infield defense, battery mates included. The repercussions of shipping the best defensive infielder in baseball to the Angels are starting to show as Erick Aybar—Andrelton Simmons' replacement—has cost the team four runs so far at short. Aside from the troubles in the middle infield, both Adonis Garcia and A.J. Pierzynski rank among the worst defenders in baseball. Garcia has burned the Braves for five runs at third, while Pierzynski is tied for the league’s worst runs saved behind the dish at -3.

It was quite unexpected to see the Mets and Giants crack the list of DRS trailers after posting 13 and 44 runs saved respectively last season. In New York, David Wright’s range and positioning has been a problem at third to the tune of -6 runs, Neil Walker has -4 runs saved at second, and Curtis Granderson has cost them 3 runs in right field.

The Giants boasted the league’s best defensive infield in 2015 with positive runs saved outputs from Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik. Thus far this year all three have put up negative values. Posey, who saved 17 runs for the Giants behind the dish last year, is tied for a league-worst -3 at the catcher position this April. On the right side of the infield, Belt has been worth -2 runs and Panik has -1.

Keep in mind that these are early returns, and defenders can perform very well or very poorly in small sample sizes early in the season and then settle in to their true skill level as the season moves forward.

 
 

COMMENTS (5 Comments, most recent shown first)

RipCity
Not surprised to see Atlanta at the bottom. I watched almost all of their three-game series against St. Louis early in the season, and they played the worst defense I can remember seeing. Tons of balls that could have and should have become outs did not.
9:10 PM Apr 27th
 
steve161
Brock: I wondered about that as well. The infield's been kicking the ball around like Real Madrid, though the range seems good. And the young outfield has been pretty impressive. It would be interesting to see the breakdown by position.
6:31 AM Apr 27th
 
jimgus
Hi, John.
While the Braves certainly are going to feel the pain of sending away Mr. Simmons, on the plus side, they have added a strong outfielder in Mr. Inciarte. Please refresh my memory... how does Ender rate in your system? In mine, he was "Elite" in CF in 2014, and "Excellent" in both CF and LF last year. As an occasional attendee at The Ted, I was VERY pleased to see Ender added to the roster this year.
8:48 AM Apr 26th
 
Brock Hanke
I have no idea how the Cardinals, with several young players in the starting lineup, and using their third and fourth shortstops all year, and with Jose Oquendo having to coach from home, have turned in a real good defensive month. Molina can't be that good all by himself.
2:46 AM Apr 26th
 
OldBackstop
Break up the Cubs...
9:31 AM Apr 25th
 
 
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