Much has been made of the struggles of the offense, but at the quarter pole, I wanted to take a position-by-position look at the defense. JinAZ (jinaz-reds.blogspot.com) and Doug (redsminorleagues.com) have done far better stuff on defense in the past, but I think this works as a quick-and-dirty look. Defensive stats are notoriously effected by small sample sizes, especially over a quarter of a season, but I think there's something to be gleaned from what the stats say so far. The main basis of comparison I'm using is THT's Revised Zone Rating (RZR), with bonus points added and subtracted for Out of Zone (OOZ) plays, Double Plays, and errors as applicable.
1B - Joey Votto ranks 9th out of 14 qualifying 1B in RZR. He's really at the back end of the "average" tier, though, as he's only .016 out of 7th, and almost .100 ahead of #11. He leads the NL with 20 OOZ Plays, and also leads the NL in assists. His Double Play numbers are right in line with the rest of the NL, and while he has the lowest FP of NL 1B's, the small sample size means that he's really only 1-2 errors away from average.
Bottom line - The low RZR and FP are concerning, but the huge OOZ and assist totals make him Average, with the potential to be better.
2B - No surprise here. Brandon Phillips is 1st in the NL in RZR. He's 2nd in the NL in FP (Iguchi has 0 errors, Phillips has 1), and his Double Play numbers are right around average. The only knock is that he only has 4 OOZ plays, but given the rest of the numbers, that's nit-picking.
Bottom line - Excellent. No debating that.
3B - Edwin Encarnacion is 8th out of 15 in RZR, dead average. Double plays are average, too. Unfortunately, he's 2nd to last in OOZ Plays, and tied for the most errors in the NL. While this may seem like a poor performance, it's actually a big improvement from EE, as he's ranked at or near the bottom in RZR the last 2 years, while still last in FP and OOZ.
Bottom Line - Below Average but, as noted, improving.
SS - Conventional wisdom suggests that Jeff Keppinger has held his own at SS. Statistical analysis shows that's not the case. He's 2nd to last in the NL in RZR, 3rd to last in OOZ plays (9. The only guy below him in RZR has 26). The FP is solid, but it's tough to make errors when you don't get to any balls. Double plays are significantly below average, too.
Bottom Line - Poor. Kepp deserves an everyday shot somewhere, but not at SS.
LF - For all the beatings he takes, Adam Dunn's defense looks to be improved this season. He's typically among the bottom 5 in RZR with the Burrells and Carlos Lees of the world. So far this season, he's 6th out of 11, but his raw numbers show him in the middle tier with Juan Pierre and Ryan Braun, significantly ahead of Burrell, Lee and the like. He's also dead league average in OOZ plays, where he's typically brutal. He has 1 more error than league average, but interestingly, both of his errors have been on throws this year.
Bottom Line - Surprisingly Average.
CF - Corey Patterson has a reputation as a guy who can really go get them in Center. As terrible as his bat has been, the defensive reputation is borne out in the stats. He's 2nd in the NL in RZR (.003 behind the leader, Rick Ankiel), and has 16 OOZ plays, slightly below average. He has 2 OF assists, and 2 errors, which pretty much cancel each other out.
Bottom Line - Excellent
RF - Ken Griffey, Jr. has lost many, many steps. Last in the NL in RZR, 2nd to last in OOZ plays, 2nd to last in FP. There's really nothing else to say. He's awful in Right.
Bottom Line - Poor. Very, very poor.
How to fix it? That's the good news. The defense has been at least decent at 7 of the 9 positions. RF and SS look to be really dragging us down. I'm told there's a RF at AAA who looks to be solid defensively. He's supposed to be able to hit a little, too. Deal Griffey, bring up The Boss, problem solved. SS is a little trickier. Alex Gonzalez's 2007 rates Above average defensively (Excellent RZR, solid OOZ, poor FP), but we're not sure when he'll be available. I think we could deal Griffey to Cleveland for Josh Rodriguez (SS prospect) and Chuck Lofgren (power LHP). Rodriguez might not be ready yet, but I think he could be a long-term answer. The good news is that the defensive issues are no longer team-wide, and can be significantly improved with upgrades at only 2 positions.