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Defense: The Brewers and UZR

Fangraphs has added UZR to all of its player pages. It's not a perfect stat, but it is one of the best estimators of total defensive value, and now it's nice and easy to find. For the explanation, here's the fangraphs article:

RngR (range runs): The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity.

ErrR (error runs): The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.

UZR/150 (ultimate zone rate per 150 games): The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games.

So here's a chart of the Brewers' starters last year. Finally we have an accessible metric that balances errors and range!

Player 08 UZR/150
Prince Fielder -7.5
Rickie Weeks -5.3
J.J. Hardy 12.5
Bill Hall 9.5
Ryan Braun -4
Mike Cameron 13.3
Corey Hart -0.7
Craig Counsell (3B) 5
Gabe Kapler (OF) 9.3
  • Fielder has been about that bad his entire career, between 7-10 runs below average, so we can figure on him being a win below average in the field going forward.
  • Weeks was terrible in '05, better in '06, nearly average in '07 (-1 run), and slipped a bit last year. I'd expect him to be just slightly below average next year, I think he's better than most people think.
  • Another metric that really likes Hardy. I think we undervalue him. It's like 3/4 metrics have him as a very good defender and 1 doesn't like him.
  • I also think we underestimate Hall's D at third, and UZR reaffirms that. If Gamel is a Brewer 3B in '09, I wouldn't mind Hall playing a '07 Counsell role-- coming in after 6 innings when the Brewers lead. Note to Brewer managers: this assumes that Gamel is not hitting at a MVP-caliber level.
  • UZR doesn't like Braun's range in left, because he had no errors this year. That's understandable, and I'd expect him to improve next year with more experience. Contrast it with his -37.3 (!) UZR/150 at 3B in '07. That's over a 3-upgrade just by moving Hall and Braun and signing Cameron last season.
  • Another solid year for Cameron in center. Surprisingly, UZR had him at -7.2 with the Padres in '07. I wonder if the move from a big park like Petco to Miller Park helped him defensively and offensively.
  • Corey Hart just had a terrible year. After being 5 and 10 runs above average/150 in '06 and '07, he was slightly below average this year. If he gets back to normal levels defensively, that could be a half-win upgrade just by itself.
  • Counsell dropped off from his awesome '07, but still was a plus defender this year. I wonder if there is a deal on the table for him.
  • UZR likes Kapler as well. I doubt he's back, but some team will get a good player when they pick him up.

This is really fantastic that we have a catch-all metric available on player pages. Here's a few more random things I found playing with this:

  • Possible 3B Mike Lamb is a career -3.4 UZR/150 at third, leading me to believe there are better options for the lefty half of the platoon and that Gamel might be worth a shot if Lamb is the 1st option.
  • Manny Ramirez was consistently in the -20 run region with the Red Sox, but he turned in a -6 overall this year. Maybe there was something to his effort failures in Boston.
  • Mike Jacobs: -17 per 150 last year. That is some incredible suckitude to be 1 win worse than Prince Fielder. 
  • Please sign Raul Ibanez, Cubs. For lots of money, preferably. -11 last year, -23 the year before. 28akex2_jpg_medium

    via i27.tinypic.com (lookout landing)

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    via assets.sbnation.com (lookout landing)

  • Evan Longoria, 17.7 at 3B, is a monster.
  • Everybody's favorite Gold Glove Winner, Nate McLouth, was -15.5 by a metric that uses errors in its evaluation method.
  • Trade target David DeJesus is +5 career in CF, +20 in LF. I like him more now.
  • Adrian Beltre was worth 16 runs in the field last year. If we're going after a good 3B, make it be him. 
  • Carlos Lee was only -2 in LF this year, and it appears he's not as bad as I might have thought he was. He's not in the league of Burrel, Dunn, Ibanez, and Ramirez.
  • The worst player I have found is Brad Hawpe, at -47.7 runs/150 games. That is unbelievable. 5 wins below average on defense. The difference between Carl Crawford for 150 games or Hawpe in the outfield is 70 runs or 7 wins.
  • Defense is still undervalued, but hopefully being able to access stats like UZR easily with Fangraphs will help in the defensive enlightenment. Can anyone else find anything interesting with UZR?
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