Archive for the ‘Defense Matters’ Category


Garbage in, garbage out. This is an everlasting truth of just about any system. If you’re writing code or brewing beer, the quality of your ingredients and inputs greatly effects the quality of your product.

When we’re evaluating baseball players, the quality of the inputs has the same impact on the product that comes out on the other end. For fans arguing in the bleachers or front offices carefully weighing their trade options, there is no way around this. Many folks balk at the comprehensive measures like Wins Above Replacement because of the cryptic and unreliable nature of defensive measurement. It is much easier to take offensive stats at face value. The math is just as gory but the events are discrete and easily countable.

This is slowly changing, of course. As we saw earlier this week (read Ben Lindbergh for a deeper look at what the new tracking system can do), the manner in which we measure and monitor defensive contributions are changing but quick. Beyond the “zone” based approach of most defensive measures, we can track the reaction time, running speed, distance traveled and overall “efficiency” of the route each fielder takes to a batted ball.

It’s a huge step in an incredibly promising direction, though one with a future very much in doubt. How much information will trickle down to the fans? What will this information mean for the way we watch the games?

For now, this remains a bit of a mystery. Fangraphs unveiled a new tool to better tackle the present as we patiently wait for the future to arrive. Inside Edge and their video-based fielding carefully pours over each and every ball in play, grouping plays based on their likelihood of being fielded.

Fangraphs and Inside Edge make use of six different buckets, grouped by the chances of fielding a given ball in play: impossible (0%), remote (1-10%), unlikely (10-40%), about even (40-60%), likely (60-90%), and almost certain/certain (90-100%). While it is a less precise measure than the tracking systems provide, it does offer a window into how we think about players.

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

Baseball took the final tentative steps to effect real change in their game this week as the home plate collision rule finally received the endorsement of the players union. The rule set off discussion all around the league, as players weighed in on the new legislation. (Read about the full rule and implementation here.)

For better or worse, Buster Posey is the face of this rule change. Though it is an association Posey explicitly did not want, in the minds of many fans and players, it is the injury suffered to one of the game’s finest player that motivated the removal of home plate crashes from the game.

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Collision Course

When not weighing in on the Dodgers/Cardinals moral battle for the future of America, home plate collisions seem to be the topic du jour among baseball writers and fans. Game Five of the ALCS brought this discussion to a head, as concussion-suffering catcher David Ross trucked Tigers catcher (and fellow concussion sufferer) Alex Avila at home plate. Ross went home on the contact play and was out by a significant margin. He buried his shoulder into Avila but was still out, as you can see above.

It wasn’t the only time two objects collided at home plate last night. Miguel Cabrera moseyed his way around third on a second inning single but Jonny Gomes threw him out by…a lot. Cabrera didn’t quite run through Ross, the Red Sox backstop, but he did deliver a solid shot in the process of getting tagged out.

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If you asked J.J. Hardy, he would say he’s happy his team got the win. Because the Baltimore Orioles did, in fact, beat the Los Angeles Angels by a score of 3-2 tonight. The O’s pushed across the go-ahead run in the 8th inning and then held the Angels from scoring with two on in the bottom of the ninth.

But if you asked J.J. Hardy if, in his heart of hearts, he wasn’t a little peeved with the Angels outfielders, he’d be lying if he said anything other than “yes.”

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I can honestly say I’ve never, ever seen this before. Bare-handing a base hit to the outfield? Crazy. Just crazy. But awesome! You go Gerardo Parra, you go and make crazy/reckless plays in the outfield for my entertainment.

Also crazy and fun to think about: how long would Kirk Gibson bench Parra if this play somehow went sideways? If he couldn’t corral the hop and it rolled to the wall? Or if he jammed his finger and had to miss time? Ole Gibby would run him out of town on a rail, of this I am sure.

And it was pretty much amazing. Who says defense doesn’t matter any more? Fools, that’s who.

How good was this catch? Even Hawk Harrelson gave Josh Reddick begrudging credit for making a terrific play when it, quite literally, mattered most.

Besides, if defense didn’t matter, what good would Josh “.190/.281/.306″ Reddick be?

Coming into the season, hopes were high for Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves. He put on a show at the World Baseball Classic, demonstrating the skills that made his injury-shortened 2012 season.

While the power he displayed when facing random Taiwainese pitchers is yet to materialize in the big leagues, the defense that helped him essentially rise from single-A to the Show in one year has been on display pretty much every night.

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