I have always casually sidestepped fielding statistics. Leave it to the experts. When I accidentally navigate to fielding stats on Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference, my eyes gloss over the jagged acronyms and my brain atrophies.
I suspect many others react similarly. When it comes to evaluating players for their defensive abilities, I’m the guy who waits for someone else to tell me what to think. My only quasi-original thoughts about defense are borne of the eye test.
Carlos Gomez runs fast and seems to catch a lot of balls.
Khris Davis sure makes a baseball look heavy.
Rickie Weeks makes every popup a heart attack.
That's about as educated as it gets.
Enough of that. I want to figure it out. I’m going to methodically break down some of the most popular standard and advanced defensive statistics in a Brewers context to help you, the Brew Crew Ball community member, to adequately arm yourself for fielding percentage arguments with your friends and family. Because that’s what this is all about.
Solidifying Fielding Stats You Should Know Without Thinking
The progression of this series will start with the real basics of fielding statistics and slowly work its way up to more advanced stats. I hope this can be a good resource for absolute beginners to build up their knowledge of fielding statistics from the ground up without having to wonder where to look next—and more palatable than reading straight from the rule book.
We'll start with putouts and assists.
You, maybe: I know enough about putouts/assists. Why do I need to know this?
Me, definitely: So you can better defend your position against fielding percentage and counting stats in general!
Putouts and assists are straightforward but feature a number of caveats hardcore baseball fans ought to know. Your friends will be super impressed with you when something weird happens in a game and you know how to score it. It doesn't really matter, but damn—you'll feel cool.
A defensive player gets a putout when their action causes an out:
- A tag out
- A force out
- Securing an out on an appeal play
- Catching a fly ball
- When a runner is called out for interference (the closest defensive player to the runner gets credit)
A catcher gets credit for a putout when the following occurs:
- A strikeout
- Batter is called out for an illegally batted ball
- Foul bunt with two strikes
- Batter is touched by his own batted ball
- Batter interferes with the catcher
- Batter bats in improper order
- Batter is called out for refusing to touch first base after a walk, hit by pitch or catcher's interferenc
- Runner is out for refusing to advance from third to home.
Some rarer occurrences, handy for a team with Jean Segura on the roster:
- When an infield fly is not caught, the official scorer credits the putout to the fielder who the scorer believes could have made the catch.
- When a runner is called out for being touched by a fair ball, the official scorer rewards the putout nearest to the ball.
- When a runner is called out for running outside the base line, the fielder the runner tried to avoid gets the putout.
- When a runner is called out for passing another runner, the fielder nearest the point of passing gets the putout.
- When a runner is called out for running the bases in reverse order, the fielder covering the base the runner left in starting his reverse run gets the putout.
- Here's a fun one: When a runner is called out for interfering with a fielder, the fielder with whom the runner interfered with gets the putout—UNLESS: the fielder was in the act of throwing the ball. In this case, the fielder for whom the throw was intended gets the putout, and the thrower gets an assist.
- When the batter-runner is called out because of interference from a preceding runner, the first baseman gets the putout. If the fielder interfered with was throwing the ball, they get an assist. But only one assist can be handed out on the play.
Milwaukee Brewers Facts
|Brewers' best all-time||Cecil Cooper: 11,599|
|Brewers' best year||Cecil Cooper (1982): 1,452|
|Brewers' worst (among qualified)||Ryan Braun (2007): 61|
|Trivia fact||Cecil Cooper, George Scott and Mike Hegan are the only Brewers to average at least one putout per inning in a season, among qualified full-time players. Cooper did it 8 times.|
A defensive player gets an assist when they contribute in getting a batter or runner out.
- A player’s "contribution" doesn’t have to be flattering. If a worm burner spikes, whacks the second baseman in the noggin and it lands in the first baseman’s glove for an out, the woozy 2B is awarded an assist.
- A contributing fielder gets an assist even if no out is recorded because of an error by another player. So, if a 1B drops a throw from the SS and no out is made, the SS still gets an assist.
- The pitcher does not get an assist on a strikeout—unless they field an unsecured third strike and complete the out.
- Let’s say a SS makes a wild throw to first into foul territory and the runner attempts to advance, but the 2B jumps on it and throws out the runner at second base. The SS does not get credit for an assist on the errant throw, even though you can argue it technically "contributed" to the out being made.
- A player who records a putout does not get credited with an assist.
Milwaukee Brewers Facts
|Brewers' best all-time||Robin Yount: 4,794|
|Brewers' best year||Robin Yount (1979): 517|
|Brewers' worst (among qualified)||Robin Yount (1991): 1
Rick Manning (1983): 1
Marquis Grissom (1999): 1
Outfielders can't rack up assists like infielders. Especially in the live ball era. Chuck Klein has the live-ball era record with 44 in 1930. Roberto Clemente had 27 in 1961. No one has topped that number since.
Ben Oglivie (1980) and Sixto Lezcano (1978) share the Brewers record with 18 apiece. Ben Oglivie and Sixto Lezcano were awesome. Always remember that.
What Putouts and Assists are Good For
Putouts and assists are recording stats and nothing more. They give you a general idea of what happened during a single play. Putouts and assists have very little to do with player skill. They're a matter of circumstance, not ability. They are good for recordkeeping—That's it.
You probably aren't going to run into many people trying to cite putouts or assists to evaluate players as defenders. However, they are key components in fielding percentage and range factor, two relatively common potentially useful-sounding stats you might hear someone try to use as evidence for something.
Range factor, in particular, sounds nice. Range. Yeah, that's a factor for fielders for sure. Range factor. Sounds legit.
We’ll get more into fielding percentage and range factor in the future, but understand that refuting common arguments using these statistics requires a fundamental understanding of putouts, assists, and another scourge of the fielding statistics world—errors.
Errors are up next. In advance—I'm so sorry.