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Who Will Be the Best Defenders in 2012?

March 1, 2012
One of the new features of The Fielding Bible – Volume III (arrived at the publisher today!) is a section on defensive projections.  The calculation is simple: prorate each player’s three-year Defensive Runs Saved over the number of innings we forecast them to play at each position in 2012.  In this week’s Stat of the Week, we’ll take a look at the projected leaders at each position and the top-projected defensive teams for 2012.
The projected 2012 Runs Saved leaders:
Position Player Projected 2012
Runs Saved
P Mark Buehrle, Marlins     
C Matt Wieters, Orioles 8
1B Albert Pujols, Angels 10
2B Ben Zobrist, Rays 16
3B Evan Longoria, Rays 15
SS Brendan Ryan, Mariners 16
LF Brett Gardner, Yankees 20
CF Austin Jackson, Tigers 15
RF Jason Heyward, Braves 11


Even though Mark Buerhle is taking his talents to South Beach, we fully expect him to continue his fielding dominance in the National League, as a member of the Marlins.  We also expect Buehrle’s fellow-reigning Fielding Bible Award winners Matt Wieters, Albert Pujols, Brett Gardner, and Austin Jackson to maintain their high level of play in 2012.  Two members of Florida’s other team, the Rays, are projected to be the top players at their positions.  The gloves of Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist were a big part of the reason why the Rays led baseball with 85 Defensive Runs Saved in 2011.  We expect the Rays to duplicate their fielding excellence in 2012 and they are the top-projected team.  Here are the top defensive teams for 2012.


Team Projected 2012 Runs Saved
Rays 42
Mariners 32
Reds 29
Rangers 26
Angels 22
A full season of Franklin Gutierrez in center field should elevate the defense of the Mariners, who finished with just one Run Saved as a team in 2011.  In the National League, the Reds will be bolstered by their defense at shortstop.  Paul Janish and Zack Cozart, who we expect to split time at shortstop for the Reds in 2012, are projected to save nine runs for the Reds defensively.
You can find a complete overview of each team’s projected defense in The Fielding Bible – Volume III, available now.

COMMENTS (9 Comments, most recent shown first)

Another follow-up to Rich's question - why is LF the only position that doesn't come close to matching the normal defensive spectrum breakdown? Everything else looks pretty good - not catcher but that isn't hard to understand.

Does this measurement mean that potentially teams could save more runs by putting their best outfield defender in left rather than center? Or does it just mean that there are so many awful defenders in left that putting up a huge number is easier?

If the latter is the case then is there any chance that the bad def/good off trade that is frequently being made in left is somehow flawed?

4:39 PM Mar 7th
There may be a third possibility you haven't considered, though it ties into (b). Perhaps Maddon has stumbled on the next Market Inefficiency, a super substitute who can play a number of positions effectively without stumbling on either offense or defense, thereby adding value through resting other players and squeezing more out of a small market team's limited resources.

We're all so SURE that penciling the same guy into the same position 150+ times a year is the 'right' way to do things, the same way we used to be 'sure' that RBI and BA were the best ways to measure offensive effectiveness.

I happen to agree that Joe Maddon is not an idiot.
9:55 PM Mar 4th
Ben Zobrist's defensive numbers are very curious to me. They've been reported as outstanding both here and elsewhere, yet Joe Maddon has been strangely reluctant to give him the full-time job at second base. Last year was the first time Zobrist ever played as many as 100 games at second base, and Maddon still had him playing right field in 38 games. If Zobrist is really the best defensive second baseman in baseball, why won't Maddon just stick him out there for 150 games a year?

It seems that either (a) there's something hinky in Zobrist's numbers, like maybe he only plays second behind certain pitchers, that consistently makes his stats look better than he actually is, or (b) Joe Maddon is an idiot. I don't think Joe Maddon is an idiot.
4:33 PM Mar 3rd

Sadly, I'm not anything nearly as respectable as a defense attorney - I'm a politician. ;)

But I appreciate the props!

12:46 PM Mar 3rd
if you are a defense attorney, could you please send me your card? i want to keep it on file. that's the style i want defending me.
12:39 PM Mar 3rd
Sure, bill byrd, because you watch every inning of every game played by both Teixeira and Pujols, and then systematically determine using a standardized process precisely how many plays they make, how many they don't, and how each performs relative to expected performance at the position.

What's that? You don't do any of that? You just 'know' Teixeira is better because John Sterling, Michael Kay, and your own eyes tell you it's true? My mistake.
10:20 PM Mar 1st
And to continue Rich's comment: it makes me wonder how bright the Cards were signing Molina to that $75M contract.
9:44 PM Mar 1st
Rich Dunstan
I realize I'm years behind the conversation, so forgive a rookie question. But I'm surprised to see that the best left fielder is projected to save more runs than the best shortstop. Does this reflect the fact that Gardner is farther above the MLB average left fielder than Ryan is above the average shortstop, or is something else happening here that I don't understand?
6:11 PM Mar 1st
bill byrd
Teixeira over Pujols defensively any day... or, well, most days.
2:39 PM Mar 1st
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