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Over at The Hardball Times, David Gassko has a new article up summarizing (and crunching) some of the zone rating fielding data from Baseball Info Solutions for the first ten weeks of the season.  David mentions only the leaders and trailers in his article, and there's only one Blue Jay who gets a look in, Alex Rios who is the #1 overall rightfielder in the majors.  I thought it would be worthwhile to grab the data and see how the rest of the Blue Jays have fared... many thanks to David and THT for obtaining the data and boiling down the numbers into runs above/below average.

Everyone should keep in mind the obvious caveat that ten weeks is too small a sample size to draw conclusions about ability.  However, I think it's important to remember that BIS and its data collectors do a pretty good job with their data collection (which John Dewan and Bill James showed in the first edition of The Fielding Bible) so this is, given the limitations of ZR, a very good record of performance in the field over the first 40% of the season.

First Base

  • Lyle Overbay, +4 (6th in MLB)
  • Matt Stairs, +1
  • Jason Phillips, -1

No surprise that Lyle Overbay ranks so well, I think (even though UZR doesn't track his best ability, saving errors on errant throws).  Matt Stairs being above average so far is certainly a surprise, although again UZR doesn't track his worst feature - the inability to do the same.

Second Base

  • Aaron Hill, +4 (8th in MLB)

Hill ranked quite well, only one run back of Alex Cora for the best AL mark.  This seems about right to me.

Third Base

  • Troy Glaus, +10 (4th in MLB)
  • Jason Smith, +3
  • John McDonald, 0

I think most of you will be shocked by this.  Personally, I am not... I have always thought Glaus was a decent third baseman despite being slightly less limber than a coconut tree - a strong, accurate arm covers many sins at the hot corner, and Glaus has one. He also has pretty decent hands into the bargain  John McDonald, on the other hand, has marvelous hands on 98% of plays (about one chance in 50, his head gets ahead of his hands, but that's hard to complain about) but his arm isn't a wow.


  • John McDonald, +3 (12th in MLB in part-time play)
  • Jason Smith, +2
  • Howie Clark, -1 (in what, one inning?)
  • Royce Clayton, -1

Again, I don't think this is off.  John McDonald has had a pretty good year by his own standards, and Clayton doesn't impress me in terms of his positioning or his ability to make plays in the hole.  Clayton eats a lot of grounders.

Left Field

  • Adam Lind, +4
  • Reed Johnson, +1
  • Matt Stairs, -1

Well, if you think it's going to continue I think you're mad, but Adam Lind has, in my mind, been prefectly good performance-wise this year.  I think he's been lucky at times with bad reads, but he does seem to get to a lot of balls you think he won't.  He's not a patch on Sparky with the glove, but there is absolutely no way this kid is a pure DH as some have suggested.

Center Field

  • Alex Rios, 0
  • Vernon Wells, -4 (7th worst in MLB)

Yes, Vernon's had an off year with the glove.  He almost never lets a high fly bounce behind him, something I've seen on multiple occasions this year.  And he's never been particularly strong on balls hit in front of him, he had a good year last year in that regard but has slipped.  But -4 runs below the average center fielder?  Some of this is sample.

Right Field

  • Alex Rios, +8 (#1 in MLB)
  • Matt Stairs, -4

I always hate comparisons like this, but the kid really is the new Clemente.  I'll end on that note, because I'd rather not talk about Matt Stairs.

I'm sure there will be 80,000 comments from the peanut gallery on this one, so fire away, boys and girls...


Blue Jays Defensive Numbers Through June 14 | 16 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Bruce Wrigley - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:01 PM EDT (#169869) #
I should clarify, I don't think Glaus is really THAT good, but it doesn't surprise me that he could play that well over 45 games or however many he's played at third.  +10 is obviously a statistical outlier, very unlikely to be repeated.
Mike Green - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:15 PM EDT (#169871) #
With that clarification, I agree completely with Bruce.  I think Hill is somewhat better than his number so far, but he is especially proficient on the DP pivot, and that ability is somewhat masked by Clayton.
Ron - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:19 PM EDT (#169872) #
It's funny how the numbers can vastly differ from what I see with my naked eye. I've watched almost every single inning the Jays have played this season and I consider Rios to be a average RF. He sometimes takes strange routes to balls (sort of like a better version of Johnny Gomes) and while he has a strong throwing arm, it's not accurate. Despite these faults, he's able to cover some of his mistakes because he's fast. So when a player like Gomes misreads the ball in the air/off the bat he's often SOL where as a player like Rios uses his speed to recover and track the ball down.

Magpie - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:19 PM EDT (#169873) #
a strong, accurate arm covers many sins at the hot corner,

Especially when combined with the fastest release of the ball since Dan Marino (or Tony Batista, anyway!). And while Glause is only slightly more mobile than a coconut tree, the demands of a corner infield position are a little different - reaction time, soft hands, throwing ability.

After all, does anyone remember seeing Brooks Robinson run? I don't blame you. There was nothing memorable about it. (See also Graig Nettles, Buddy Bell - and on the other side of the diamond, Keith Hernandez and John Olerud.)
Magpie - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:21 PM EDT (#169874) #
a player like Rios uses his speed to recover and track the ball down.

If you can out run your mistake (and make the play) - is it still a mistake?

Kind of a Zen question, I guess.
scottt - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 04:54 PM EDT (#169876) #
Derek Jeter  -14,  3rd worse SS in MLB. Good enough for a few gold gloves it seems.

Ron - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 05:31 PM EDT (#169880) #
If you can out run your mistake (and make the play) - is it still a mistake?

Good question. If we were just going to judge by the end result (an out), than I guess it shouldn't be considered a mistake.

Bruce Wrigley - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 06:01 PM EDT (#169882) #
Once again, guys, remember this is a 10-week sample.  Especially in such a sample, production does not equal ability.   John McDonald is hitting .294 and Rocco Baldelli is hitting .204.
Chuck - Thursday, June 14 2007 @ 06:13 PM EDT (#169884) #

production does not equal ability

While that is certainly true and therefore serves as a major caveat about using the numbers to date (offensive and defensive) as a basis for a balance of the season forecast and for playing time decisions, the numbers do answer the question "what have you done for me lately?" (where lately is defined as the last two months).

John McDonald has performed at a higher level than Vernon Wells to this point in the season, albeit in half the playing time. There's no way that this continues for the next four months, but the fact of the matter is that thus far this has been the case.


Craig B - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 10:20 AM EDT (#169914) #

According to the above numbers, which don't include all of the Jays to play defensively this year (I assume the others total up to around +/- zero), the Jays are +28 runs defensively over average this season.  The Jays are about average in fielding percentage and third in the AL in DER, so I don't think +28 is a realistic measure of their defensive prowess this year.

Adding in 28 runs to the Jays' RA would raise it from 4.55 to 4.98 (from above average to below average).

Looking at the overall AL numbers this year I noticed something very strange. Other than the Blue Jays, it seems almost every team in the AL is running much more than last year, and also with much more success.  The AL stolen base percentage this year is a fantastic 75.3%  It was good last year and then it was only 71.5%.

  • Boston stole 51 bases last year, this year they're on pace for 90.
  • Cleveland stole 55 last year, this year on pace for 85.
  • Texas stole 53 last year, this year on pace for 113.

Last year the AL stole 1252 bases, this year they're on pace for 1381 but with a considerably higher SB%.  We're in a basestealing renaissance!  Why has no one noticed!?   (It can't all be because of Jason Phillips...)

Mike Green - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#169916) #
Good point, CraigB.  Runs scored are down, so it is not surprising, I suppose, that use of one-run strategies would increase, but aside from the hometown troubles, I had not noticed.
Craig B - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#169924) #

In fact, I forgot that runs scored were down, and a big part of that is fewer XBH.  Fewer XBH mean more runners on first (and more runners on base generally), so more basestealing should not be a surprise...

Although stolen bases are up 10.3%, a bunch of that is due to the uptick in the SB rate.  Stolen base attempts are only up 4.6%.  Let's check how much of the 4.6% increase in attempts is due to having more runners on first to begin with...

Craig B - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 01:23 PM EDT (#169925) #

Teams averaged 9.859 runners on first base (singles, walks and hit batsmen) last year and are averaging 9.903 this year, or 0.4% more runners on first. Taking DPs into account actually reduces that number to 0.3%. So not all the 4.6% increase in basestealing is explained by more runners on first base - teams are choosing to run more frequently.

Mike Green - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 01:30 PM EDT (#169926) #
Sure, because the success rate needed to make the stolen base a worthwhile option declines as runs become scarcer.  Catchers with good throwing arms become more valuable...
Mike Green - Friday, June 15 2007 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#169928) #
Craig, you mentioned that the numbers total +28.  You don't have the catchers there, and it has been pretty clearly the achilles heel of the defence.  BP has them (mostly Phillips) at -8. With the Jays having a DER of about .15 better than league average and with about 1700 balls in play, that would equate to about 25 fewer hits.  The number is roughly in the right zone, it seems to me. 

It should be noted that there are no park adjustments to the BIS data.  The data in past years has suggested that opposition DER in the Rogers Centre is better than league average, and therefore that some downward adjustment of the figures is appropriate.  Now if I could only find the link...

Craig B - Wednesday, June 20 2007 @ 12:04 AM EDT (#170159) #
Mike, the BIS +/- numbers are, as I understand it, already park-adjusted.
Blue Jays Defensive Numbers Through June 14 | 16 comments | Create New Account
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