My recent post on UZR and Jon Jay got me to thinking that it would be interesting to see what UZR actually is good for, which from what I've heard is looking at a minimum 3 year window of defensive ratings. What players are rangey, responsive, and agile defensively (as well as effective in preventing runs). (DRS means defensive runs saved, and I think OOZ means out of zone plays but not 100% on that)
So, I am setting the range at 2009-2012, which is actually over 3 years of data. I've decided to go by UZR/150, and I will cross out any players who don't have all that many innings using the strikethrough feature (keeping two tabs open, I'll compare with UZR totals for each player... if they are not a leader in total UZR then they probably haven't been around for very long). Without further adieu...
- Franklin Gutierrez, CF for Mariners ... 19.2 UZR/150 this rangey outfielder with a slight + arm is at 48 DRS
- Adrian Beltre, 3B for Mariners, Red Sox, Rangers ... 16.3 UZR/150 extremely rangey infielder with 57 DRS
- Brendan Ryan, SS for Cards, Mariners ... 13.1 UZR/150 ... the best def. ss in MLB has 86 DRS! 242 OOZ
- Evan Longoria, 3B for Rays ... 12.9 UZR/150 ... another superb third baseman has 59 DRS
- Carl Crawford, LF Rays, Red Sox ... 12.7 UZR/150 ... the rangey vet has only 16 DRS but 247 OOZ!
- Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies ... 12.4 UZR/150 ... the best def. 2B in MLB (maybe not anymore though) 36 DRS
Martin Prado, UT, Braves ... 12.3 UZR/150 but not as much PT ... rangey, 78 OOZ, 15 DRS, great arm
- Placido Polanco, 3B, Phillies ... 12 UZR/150 ... 18 DRS and 89 OOZ, borderline strikethrough (innings)
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox ... 12 UZR/150 ... arguably the best def. 2B now, 42 DRS, 128 OOZ
- Jason Heyward, LF, Braves ... 11.8 UZR/150 ... not that great an arm, but everything else is good
Switching over to total UZR now, and looking at positions (players not on the above list):
- Nyjer Morgan is an elite defender, rangey with a pretty good arm with a ton of OOZ and not so many DRS
- Ichiro Suzuki has played a ton of innings in the outfield since 2009, and has similar range and even more OOZ plays, but not as good an arm
- Michael Bourn - honestly I can't tell why he's not rated higher by UZR, other than his RngR is not as good as Morgan's, but I don't even know what that is. to top it off, Bourn has an excellent arm
- Gerrardo Parra is not as rangey as these other guys, but has the best arm so far by quite a bit
- Jay Bruce is pretty rangey with a decent arm, kinda surprised he has this many UZR
- Justin Upton is supposedly just as rangey as Morgan and Ichiro, but has a noodle arm
- Alex Gordon is the opposite, absolute cannon but not very rangey. decent DRS though.
Thought it might be interesting to see the leaders in Arm stat... Francoeur's reputation for having an amazing arm is legit. Somehow he can throw it nearly twice as hard as the second best outfield arm in MLB, Jose Bautista. Neither are very good at defense though beyond that, both with negative UZR. Surprisingly, Ankiel is not rated extremely well in this stat, but he is amazingly accurate out there as far as I can tell. Another good defender with a great arm that I'd be remiss to not mention is Josh Hamilton.
One might be surprised to hear that Alfonso Soriano has the most UZR of outfielders since 2006. This is backed up by a 13.3 UZR/150. Crawford, Bourn, Randy Winn(!) also elite defenders in the outfield, as well as the aforementioned Heyward, Gordon, and Parra all showing up on the extended list.
Elite defenders at third base that were not mentioned in the top ten defenders are Kouzmanoff at 11.4 UZR/150, Zimmerman, Inge, and Casey Blake. Not sure why Kouz is rated more highly than the other guys. Zimmerman has the most OOZ of all third basemen and 26 DRS. Headley is also quite good at the hot corner.
Using more data, it backs up Longoria's greatness at third, then Longoria, Polanco, and of course Beltre and Rolen. Let's not forget Pedro Feliz!
We all know Boog is the best defensive shortstop in recent times, but who else is great? This is an era that doesn't have as many elite defenders at the premium defensive position, right? As it turns out, it's sort of true, but JJ Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, and Elvis Andrus are all pretty damn great defensively. Only Ramirez comes close to Brendan Ryan's OOZ, but no one comes even remotely close to Boog's DRS.
JJ Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus, and Jimmy Rollins are historically good defenders at shortstop since 2006.
As much as I find him annoying, Brandon Phillips is actually a pretty great defender. Great range, just not as many DRS as guys like the aforementioned Utley and of course Pedroia, and also not as many DRS as Kinsler and Ellis. He does have a high OOZ though. I eagerly await the day for more advanced defensive metrics that are more accurate, but I think this gives us a pretty good idea of who is amazing at what position.
Since none of these guys have been mentioned yet, and are perhaps underrated since they play a defensively non-premium at all position, here they are:
- Adrian Gonzalez is by far the best defensive first baseman these days, 26.9 UZR since 2009
- James Loney sort of redeems himself, being the best defender at first in the NL now
- Mark Texeira is damn good at defense, and can also hit
- Albert Pujols... we have all seen firsthand how good he is at first, he's just gettin' old; at one time best D
- Joey Votto... yeah, he's good too
- Adam Laroche is sort of a less extreme version of James Loney at 10.9 UZR
- Derrek Lee
Going back to 2006, Pujols has by far the most UZR of any first baseman, and the highest UZR/150 over Kotchman and Votto. Gonzalez has a bizarre history of UZR, quite different each year and ranging from pretty bad to really good. In the last two years or so, he seems to have grown defensively quite a bit.
I'm a bit puzzled at how to read defensive metrics for catchers on fangraphs.com, but Yadier Molina has caught the most innings since 2009 and is tied with Matt Wieters in DRS, and has one higher in rSB. Suffice it to say, they are the best defensive catchers in each league.