Thursday, 22 May 2014

2014 Nationals' Fielding Review #2

Here is an update to last time's fielding numbers. My source for this is Fangraphs, which includes all the main metrics that interest me except for Michael Humphreys' Defensive Regression Analysis.* From Fangraphs, I've used Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating, my personal first choice of the 'converted-to-runs-play-by-play' metrics, and my preferred measure of RZR. The last is Revised Zone Rating, which is like a fielding average but counts balls hit into a zone, rather than those the fielder actually reached. I have included the MLB positional averages for RZR, to help give the players' numbers some context. DRA is added to these two, while I have dropped Dewan's Defensive Runs Saved. Note that catchers do not have a Zone Rating. Instead, I have used the runs saved by framing, supplied by

Player              UZR    Change    RZR   Change    MLBaverage     DRA    Change   PFr
Lobaton (C)         n/a      --      n/a     ---         n/a        6.1     +0.2   -2.1
Span (CF)          -2.6     -2.2    .932    +.010       .915      - 4.0     -1.1    n/a
Espinosa (2B)      -0.3     +0.7    .766    +.009       .786        3.5     -0.9    n/a
LaRoche (1B)       -0.2      --     .846     ---        .813      - 4.0     -0.8    n/a
Harper (LF)        -1.5     +0.3    .875     ---        .868      - 3.4     -0.5    n/a
Desmond (SS)       -4.5     +0.1    .762    +.042       .772      -11.5     -2.8    n/a
Werth (RF)         -1.3     +0.6    .955    -.004       .888      - 2.8     -1.6    n/a
Rendon (3B)        -4.0     +1.0    .696    +.054       .720      - 0.5     +1.9    n/a
minimum 120 innings

Depending on which end of the chart one looks at, it's either good news or bad news. DRA, the method using traditional fielding statistics, thinks the Nationals have been getting worse. UZR and RZR, generally see improvement. A change that the table does not show, which is possibly relevant to this discussion, is in the MLB RZR averages by position. These fluctuate as well. In fact, UZR and DRA are both liable to be affected by the play of the rest of the league, as those plus/minus numbers are compared against the league average, which is constantly changing as games are played.

If one sums the UZR changes, the Nationals' regulars have improved by about +0.5 of a run. That isn't very much, but they are improving slightly in the infield, which is where they need to improve. Doing the same with the DRA numbers nets you a minus 5.6 runs, or almost half a win. My own impression aligns more with DRA I'm afraid. Last night's game turned on Kevin Frandsen's muffed play at third base, although the blame for the loss really belongs to the Nationals' hitters, who should manage to score more than one run a game.
* These are available at the Baseball Gauge of Humphreys wrote the excellent Wizardry, which is a way of looking at fielding using only the traditional statistics, and not the newfangled play-by-play metrics.

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