Examining Infield Defenders

Last week Getting Blanked compared the various advanced defensive metrics for outfielders, registering some pretty interesting results. There were some interesting results, generating some pressing questions. Mixed results for groups of teammates caused me to wonder if the camera angles at certain ballparks caused a great deal of disagreement. Today we look at infielders and introduce a whole wack of new variables.

As previously stated, the main reason for comparing various defensive metrics is to shine a light on the differences between the various systems. Mainly because two of the systems are the foundation of WAR, it is important to determine where and why they disagree. If you want to brush up on the two systems, read about UZR here and about Defensive Runs Saved (Dewans +/-) here.

The good people at ACTA sports, the company behind DRS, released their 2011 defensive projections. An interesting list, they project the Mariners as the best defensive club in baseball. Among the best individual defenders they list Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Utley, and Jack Wilson. How does that compare with past results and UZR? Nerd away below the cut!

Chase Utley is good at baseball. Ryan Zimmerman excellently toils in obscurity. Every joke you’ve ever heard about Yuniesky Betancourt is true. Did I miss anything? Again, these two metrics are both video based which causes a lot more clumping than we see below. What about the disagreements?

Orlando Cabrera is a homing beacon for a certain type of baseball fan/writer. A lot of older school types (especially those with Expos ties) love to talk about how he’s a winner, the kind of player who consistently contributes to playoff teams. Others, like myself, consider him a passenger. He used to be an excellent ballplayer but now he just happens to show up in the playoffs.

He’s the kind of guy who calls up the official scorer to complain to after being assessed an error. He’s the kind of guy who snaps at an umpire during a high-pressure situation because he knows the ump doesn’t want to inject himself into the outcome by tossing his chirping ass. But I digress.

Derek Jeter continues confounding expectations. After a few bad years in the field, we heard a lot about his renewed focus on defence ahead of the 2009 season. UZR thinks so, DRS doesn’t buy it. Guys like Robinson Cano and Orlando Hudson are interesting because one system loves them while the other doesn’t and the two systems don’t even agree on who they like! Troubling. What about the two systems that power WAR? Total Zone versus UZR below.

Let us take a moment and reflect on the monumental awfulness of Yuniskey Betancourt. All systems are unanimous in ranking him so piss poorly, he almost ruins the graph with his outlier status. I cannot think of one baseball player who is, across the board, looked upon so terribly. And yet he should probably get it worse.

Looking at these comparisons I have one conclusion I’m pretty comfortable making: accurately assessing first base defence is nearly impossible. A vast majority of the first basemen have some degree of disconnect between the respective numbers. Both systems look upon Lyle Overbay positively but TZ ranks him as one of the very best defenders in the game.

The other name (other than Scott Rolen) that jumps out at me is Ryan Zimmerman. My eyes tell me he’s a great defender, so does every person with a keyboard. Total Zone isn’t feeling it. Let me know if any names jump out at you in the comments. Real baseball is coming soon, I promise.