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Nate Silver on Ryan Braun

At BP Unfiltered, Nate analyzes Braun's defense.  It's not pretty.  Pick your metric of choice: it's still not pretty.

Some points of reference:

...this would imply that Braun's UZR falls somewhere between Miguel Cabrera's -28, and 75% of his 2007 VORP, which works out to -43. So here again, Braun ranks as one of the worst four or five defensive players in baseball, challenged only by Pat Burrell's -34, Manny Ramirez' -33, and Raul Ibanez` -30. By consensus view, Braun was probably the very worst defensive player in baseball in 2007; the only real competitors for the title might be Ramirez, and perhaps Burrell.

When people start talking about your defense in the same sentence as what Manny Ramirez does when he's not hitting (I hesitate to use the d-word to describe that), it's bad news.

But, Nate makes the interesting point that the average right fielder last year was actually worse than the average third baseman.  It's something I've noticed over the last few years: for whatever reason, right fielders aren't, as a group, the mashers you'd expect them to be, especially compared to their brethren in left.

That leads him to some ideas:

Braun, in spite have never played the position professionally, is probably much closer to being an adequate defensive corner outfielder than an adequate defensive third baseman. He runs reasonably well, and while his arm is not accurate, it is probably strong enough to deter baserunners from advancing on him Johnny Damon style. And the good news is that there are any number of permutations that would allow the Brewers to improve their defense without really losing any ground at the plate.

He offers some ideas to do just that, which are worth reading.  Some are just plain not going to happen, like signing Mike Lowell, which I suspect would be prohibitively expensive.  (But it would answer the question:  who could we sign to play left field?  Lowell to third, Braun to left.)

What I'd like to do is a much more thorough analysis of how much some of our starters--Cappy in particular--were hurt by Braun's arrival.  It's a research project that will probably have to wait a while, but I do have the data--hit location for every batted ball in 2007--to see just who was hurt the most by Braun's subpar defense.  If his fielding was really almost as bad as his hitting was good, it's a concern the Brewers will have to take very, very seriously.