I love the Hardball Times. I literally could spend hours wading through stats there, and they just keep improving, this time adding defensive stats by John Dewan. Dewan, former CEO of Stats INC and owner of Baseball Info Solutions has an improved version of his Zone Rating metric. For those of you who don't know, and I'm quoting this almost verbatim from THT's definitions, ZR basically is the proportion of balls hit into a fielder's zone that he successfully converted into an out. A fielders "zone" is considered to be the areas on a ball field in which at least 50% of batted balls are handled for outs. Zones are standardized and defined separately for each position. The revised version of ZR lists balls handled out of the zone separately and doesn't include them in the calculation, and also doesn't give players extra credit for double plays. These new improvements are believed to have improved ZR quite a bit.
I thought it would be interesting to note how Cardinal fielders faired in this system compared to their peers.
The "glider" Juan Encarnacion glided his way to a .642 ZR, good for a tie for 3rd highest in the NL with Brian Giles. He also made 15 plays classified as out of his zone (OOZ), the 5th highest mark in the majors at his position. His touted strong arm didn't make much of a difference, he was at the bottom of the pack when it came down to holding and cutting down advancing base runners. Unfortunately, Jim Edmonds, Chris Duncan and P-Dub didn't log enough innings to qualify for the system, so I don't really have anything to say about them. I'm sure most of you by now have seen some of the other metrics out there regarding how they fared. It would've been interesting to know how they did in this system, especially for all the fans out there who are fretting over Duncan's glove.
Scott Rolen continues to be the golden standard at third and the stats agree. His .767 zone rating was the highest in the NL for third-sackers and 2nd to only Brandon Inge out of all MLBers. His 66 plays out of his zone was the most of any third baseman and 4th most out of any major league player regardless of position.
David Eckstein has been more then adequate at short, his .841 ZR was 7th overall for major league SSs. His 43 plays out of the zone was middle of the pack. He also started and turned 42 double plays.
Adam Kennedy was a tic below average with a ZR of .817. His '05 campaign was much better when he posted a .843. '04 his ZR was .821. I've heard everything from AK is well below average to brilliant at the keystone. ZR says he's average, and usually the truth is somewhere in the middle. We'll find out in time. Don't discount the Jedi Master Jose Wan Oquendo factor, who's always taking on young padawan infield learners and has helped the game of many.
Albert Pujols had the 2nd highest ZR of any NL first baseman with .831. Nomar Garciaparra had an .835. But what really stands out is Albert's 93 plays that he made out of his zone, the most of any player at any position in the game by a whopping 25 plays. Any thoughts on why that is? I know he plays somewhat far to the right of the bag and all, but that's just nuts. The 2 players behind him are Willy Tavares (68) and Juan Pierre (67), both speedster center fielders. Albert's amazing, maybe that's the explanation. I have an email out to Studes asking what's up.
We know Yadi has a rocket arm, but I didn't know how good he was at blocking the plate. His wild pitch plus pass ball per game percentage was .28, 2nd in the majors behind Brad Ausmus (.21). That's in an improvement from his .39 in 2004 and .32 in 2005, and not a far cry from Mike Matheny's '04 rate of .27. His '05 caught stealing percentage of 55% is far and away the highest of any catcher's cs% in the last 3 seasons, and his 41% CS last season was the 2nd best in the majors behind Pudge Rodriguez. He held runners in check, they only attempted .55 steals per game, the best in the NL. His 77 assists was the best in the majors. Now if he could hit at least as well as he's projected to...
Bottom line, any free agent pitcher is nuts for passing on coming to the Lou, because the supporting cast is terrific. It's a big reason why the Cardinals year in year out win despite having a pitching staff with less then dominant stuff. (Carpenter aside, of course.)interesting input in the comments. Goold at Birdland is mulling the same things, and I quote his theory::
Helton has multiple Gold Gloves and Gonzalez is the true challenger to Pujols and Derrek Lee as the National Leagues best defense first baseman. But how to explain the startling gap between Pujols’ OOZ and every other position player? One obvious possibility is the tighter zone assigned to first base, meaning any first baseman who strays just a bit from his designated zone can accumulate OOZ. The other is that Pujols is channeling his inner All-Star debut and plays a little second base from time to time. Already this spring we’ve seen him move to his right, cut in front of the second baseman and make the play. He often dashes over to glove and start a double play. He’s quite deft at doing it, and quite eager to do it.
Between larry and derrick's (and his other brother derrick?) answers, I'm satisfied.