Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 Giants: April DRS defensive metric

I'm giving it a shot at reporting on the Giants defensive numbers on a monthly basis.  My focus will be on the stats provided on baseball-reference.com, and mainly DRS, but I'll see where my muse takes me.

ogc thoughts

The Giants in April was on FIRE!  They had a total of 15 DRS, which is roughly slightly under a 90 DRS seasonal rate, or roughly worth 9 wins.  At least, that's under an average scoring environment:  when the Giants pitchers are doing well, like in 2009-2012, the run environment in Giants games is lowered and the teams needs less runs to win games, and improved fielding adds more to winning.   Clearly, the fielding defense is much improved so far (last season, the team overall was only barely over average, or zero).

Team leaders in DRS (drs/yr for those with over 100 innings):
  • Pence:  5 (23)
  • Hicks:  4 (29)
  • Sandoval:  4 (21)
  • Casilla:  3
  • Affeldt:  2
  • Hudson:  2
  • Perez:  1
  • Posey:  1 (7)
  • Sanchez:  1
  • Vogelsong:  1
There were a few negatives, some surprising:
  • Arias:  -3 (-35)
  • Morse:  -3 (-22)
  • Petit:  -2
  • Crawford:  -1 (-6)
Basically, it is the defense of Pence, Hicks, Sandoval, and Casilla that gives us such a big bump up over last season.  Since most were not that great last season, it is fair to question whether they can continue to be so good going forward.  Some thoughts:

  • Pence was actually pretty good early in his career, but for some reason he declined and was in fact strongly negative, though not costing his team one win per season with his fielding, so not horribly bad.  The Giants, meanwhile, has been able to use their proprietary advanced fielding defensive metrics to enable water buffaloes like Burrell and Huff to record positive defensive value while with the Giants.  He's not going to continue at this pace, but there is a learning curve to RF in AT&T, I'm sure with its intricacies, and it makes sense that he should be better, given his tools, so he should be able to stay positive in a good way this season.
  • Hicks, as Shankbone astutely noted on his blog, had played mostly at SS in the minors, and thus his poor defensive rep might be driven more by lack of familiarity than any inherent lack of skill defending 2B.  Like Pence, not going to keep up this great a rate all season, but he should not  be a drag either.
  • Sandoval when he was in great shape in 2011 had a great DRS, heads and shoulders above everyone else.  Had he merely been average offensively plus that good defensively, he probably would be a gold glove all-star every year.  That is, had Project Panda continued.  Instead he regressed to be pretty bad.  So this is not a mirage nor something to rely on since his ability to stay fit is questionable until he proves otherwise.  Given the big money stakes, his brothers and agent will probably keep him in line and thus I think he will probably continue at this pace.  
  • I have no idea how a pitcher can generate so much runs saves via defense, but I don't see how that's sustainable either.  Hopefully he can bank the 3 runs and play average defense the rest of the season.  Still, a lot of pitchers are in the positive, not just Casilla.  

About the negatives:

  • I'm not surprised by Arias being there, just by how badly.  It is probably because he has played so much at SS and 2B, where he hasn't been that good defensively, he's only good, per DRS, at 3B, good enough that in his career, he was worth 1.6 wins defensively at a seasonal rate.  In fact, 2012-2013, at a 650 PA seasonal rate, he was worth 2.3 WAR, and thus he would be an OK bridge in 2015 from Sandoval to the next 3B (Posey?) should Pablo decide to leave us, though he probably should be paired with a lefty hitter (like Adrianza) to help keep his BA higher.
  • Morse is not a huge surprise given all the negative press he got when he signed.  Still, Morse is so good offensively that he is on a 6-7 WAR pace right now, even with that huge defensive drag on his WAR production.  He has basically paid off his contract with his performance so far, he could add no more WAR and still have earned his contract.  The thing that minimizes his defense is that out of 280.0 innings so far, he has only fielded 192.0, or 68.6%.   And with 10 games in AL parks, where he'll probably drag most DH assignments, he'll maybe play about 105-110 equivalent games in LF defensively.   And his hitting so far is not that surprising, he showed in 2010-2012 that he's a good hitter, plus he has a career BABIP of .330, which usually results in good BA for him given his contact rate, his main problem has been staying healthy over a whole season.  
  • For pitchers, once you make a mistake, it's going to cost you big since they don't play that many games, so hopefully Petit can be as average as he was for his career before this season.  However, he has been negative in 3 of 4 seasons where he appeared in at least 10 games, and with one more game this season, that would push him to 4 of 5 seasons.  The good news, again, is that he has been average his whole career up to this season, so I expect some regression to average (or 0) DRS.  
  • Crawford is the big surprise, given how good he is in the highlight reels, and that wonderful video of him being the Professor and doing all sorts of fielding tricks, a la Harlem Globetrotters.  Given how sensitive DRS to good and bad plays, as seen with the pitchers, I expect him to improve by season's end.  He played at roughly a 1 win rate in his first two seasons, but wasn't as good last season, but I'm excusing him thus far because of his finger injury last season.  
  • In addition, about Belt not being in the positives given his good rep for defense at 1B, his performance in 2012-2013 suggests that he's worth about 5 DRS per season, or roughly 1 per month, and given how pitchers were so positive with few innings, he just needs a couple DRS in May and he'll be right back on track.
  • Another mystery is Blanco's 0 DRS so far, given his very nice over 10 DRS seasonal rates in LF.  Again, it is similar to Belt, not enough innings under his belt yet to necessarily register any DRS.  He might not register anything in another month of play and then get a bunch, like the pitchers did.  

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