Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Practicing primary prevention.
Maybe there's some kind of uncertainty principle involved, since the more we measure defense, the less we seem to agree on the caliber of a player in the field. I don't think there would have been any disagreement on Brandon Phillips if BBRef didn't yawn at his defense.
BP, for his part, seems to think there's a consensus around the fact that he's the best defensive second baseman, though Darwin Barney has had a monumental season by the numbers. Whether or not you trust those metrics might predict where you land on Barney v. Phillips (at least outside this blog).
Acknowledging that defense is a highly subjective, I wanted to see if there was a consensus around the Reds' best defender this season. In theory, this would be the player that provided the most value to the team with his glove - value that should be enhanced by how many chances the player sees and the number of potential runs that player saves his team. Getting to a ball in the hole to turn a potentially first-and-third situation into a double play is obviously more valuable than catching an infield fly. And so on.
How you weight range, game context and degree of difficulty makes a huge difference. Luckily, the simple act of watching your favorite team nearly every day can give you a pretty accurate perception of defensive value.
In the case of catchers, it's a completely different beast. We'll try our best here.
It was apparent that Cozart was a slick fielder early into his major league career. His arm strength was a potential weak point, but his accuracy at least seems to have improved. Even if he can't get the ball all the way there, it's usually pick-able. And he's making throws off plays a lot of short stops wouldn't make in the first place. He's sure-handed, can make acrobatic dives and turns double-plays with Phillips as if they'd been paired up for years.
I'm under the impression BP has gotten better as a second baseman over his time as a Red, but some of the bravado and Web Gem appeal could be obscuring limitations in hist range. It's hard to have perspective on him when he routinely makes creative plays that make me loudly curse - on 4-3 assists and double-plays alike - but it's possible he's weaker going to his right than we'd admit.
Joey has probably had the most noticeable improvement in defense in his time as a Red, but at a position where defense is least-valued. He's gone from being mediocre at digging out off-target throws, to well above average. The kind of back-handed grabs and glove-flip plays he's making now would have been hard to imagine in his klunkier days. Given the numbers he's put up, it's possible 1B defense gets short shirft.
I think we can probably dispense with the fielding numbers altogether and just say that Ryan Hanigan - a co-conspirator in Homer's no-hitter - is one of the best all-around backstops in the game. WAR is a blunt object for evaluating catchers, but the fact that Hanigan gets twice the WAR from defense as offense sounds about right to me. Not only has he distinguished himself as a pitch-framer and game-caller, he's also leading the league in CS% - though he might have to thank Cueto for some of that.
Stubbs' ability to run down a ball has never been disputed. His routes and arm strength/accuracy are more questionable. I think he's suffered some bleed-over from his struggles at the plate, not unlike how Taveras received little recognition for his great defense during his horrible 2009 campaign. Stubbs isn't Mike Trout, but I'd still put him in the Top 5-7 CF in the game.
I took it as a given that Rolen would lose a step (or two) over his Reds' career. But his injuries haven't been to the shoulder on jod throwing arm. And they don't seem to affect his footwork. Rolen is still the Reds' Best Thompson Gunner from third. And his technique alone puts him in elite company at the hot corner, even if you allow for a weak current crop of 3B.
Who was the Reds' most valuable defender this season?
Joey Votto (4 votes)
Zack Cozart (24 votes)
Ryan Hanigan (180 votes)
Brandon Phillips (93 votes)
Scott Rolen (9 votes)
Drew Stubbs (7 votes)
317 total votes