Defensive Improvements

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    In May, just past the quarter-season mark, I showed the Cardinals defensive metrics according to FanGraphs. Here is what I wrote:

    All offseason, the Cardinals stressed they were going to get better by improving their defense. They made one defensive improvement, letting Matt Holliday go and acquiring Dexter Fowler. So, let’s see how their commitment to defense is paying off:

    Dexter Fowler

      – CF – As of today, Folwer is worth -6 DRS and -17.7 UZR/150. He is tied for third worst among qualified center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved. His UZR/150 is second worst. Keep in mind, the only years Fowler posted anything approximating average defense were at Wrigley Field. Busch Stadium’s outfield is 8% bigger than Wrigley.

      Stephen Piscotty

    – RF – Because Stephen has been injured for a substantial portion of the year, he is not “qualified” in right field. So, I set the minimum number of innings at 200. Stephen has been worth 0 Defensive Runs Saved and has a UZR/150 of -13.7, good for second worst among right fielders. Keep in mind, UZR is affected by those playing around you, so if both a CF and RF have a chance at catching a ball, and one of them does, the other will be positively affected. If neither catches the ball, they will both be adversely affected. In 2016, Stephen was worth 4 DRS and had a UZR/150 of 5.2. It looks as though

    Stephen’s defensive ranking is being adversely affected by Fowler’s defense in center.

    Randal Grichuk

      – LF – Grichuk is not qualified in left field because he has covered both CF and RF due to injuries. So far, Grichuk has been worth -2 DRS and -17.3 UZR/150, both of which are 4th worst. This compares to his 7 Defensive Runs Saved and -1.8 UZR/150 in CF last year.

      Conclusion: The only years Dexter Fowler approximated league average defense in CF were when he was playing Wrigley Field for half of his games. He is hurting the collective outfield defense. The idea that the Cardinals could make up for his defense by surrounding him with Piscotty and Grichuk is wrong. The Cardinals need to move Grichuk back to CF and move Fowler to LF.

      My usual caveats about how outfield defensive metrics still apply, however, this is the only source of information we have to compare performance.

      Jedd Gyorko

    – 3B – Defense at 3B last year was atrocious, namely because it was predominantly manned by Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta. Gyorko was actually our second best defender at the position last year. Nevertheless, the Cardinals named Peralta starter coming out of spring training (???). Then he got hurt. And we have been able to witness some good defense at 3B to go along with some good hitting. Gyorko has been worth 4 DRS and 7.2 UZR/150. Not elite, but good. Especially when you consider his hitting thus far.

    Aledmys Diaz

      – SS – Diaz has been worth -4 DRS and -4 UZR/150 so far this year. That compares to -3 DRS and -11.4 UZR/150 last year. I guess we can say there is marginal improvement there. About what the Cardinals were expecting.

      Kolten Wong

    – 2B – Wong is a great defender!!! Gold-glove caliber!!! Our defense will improve by having Wong play 2B the entire year!!! At least that’s the narrative. So far, Wong has been worth -2 DRS and -12.7 UZR/150. His UZR/150 ranks third from the bottom.

    Matt Carpenter

      – 1B – 2 DRS and -2.8 UZR/150. Adequate, I guess.

      Perhaps the bullpen issues are not entirely the fault of the bullpen
      You don’t get better on defense by spending all offseason saying you are going to get better on defense. You either have to work at it in the offseason, like Gyorko does, or you have to change the personnel.



    Here is the update, just past the halfway point. I chose to limit it to players that played at least 80 innings at a position (roughly 10 % of the season):

    • Tommy Pham – 167.1 Innings, 6 DRS, 22.4 UZR/150
    • Dexter Folwer – 532.2 Innings, -9 DRS, -11.9 UZR/150
    • Stephen Piscotty – 532.2 Innings, 5 DRS, 0.4 UZR/150
    • Randal Grichuk – 146.1 Innings, 0 DRS, -4.4 UZR/150
    • Tommy Pham – 285 Innings, 3 DRS, 7.4 UZR/150
    • Randal Grichuk – 322.2 Innings, 0 DRS, -10.9 UZR/150
    • Jose Martinez – 119 Innings, -2 DRS, -11.4 UZR/150
    • Greg Garcia – 95.2 Innings, 1 DRS, 5.2 UZR/150
    • Jedd Gyorko – 557.1 Innings, 11 DRS, 3.7 UZR/150
    • Jhonny Peralta – 114 Innings, 1 DRS, -5.7 UZR/150
    • Paul DeJong – 111 Innings, 2 DRS, 26.6 UZR/150
    • Aledmys Diaz – 589 Innings, -9 DRS, -2.5 UZR/150
    • Paul DeJong – 158 Innings, -1 DRS, -5.9 UZR/150
    • Kolten Wong – 391 Innings, -2 DRS, -7.0 UZR/150
    • Greg Garcia – 132.1 Innings, -1 DRS, -7.2 UZR/150
    • Matt Carpenter – 626 Innings, 4 DRS, 1.8 UZR/150

    • Dexter Fowler still ranks 3rd lowest by DRS and 2nd lowest by UZR/150 among qualified CF’s
    • Out of 30 2B’s that have played at least 350 innings at 2B, 7 rank lower than Wong according to DRS and 5 rank lower according to UZR/150


    Paid - Annual

    I still think a little context is needed here. UZR is still rating all four of our main outfielders (Grichuk, Pham, Fowler, and Piscotty) as having below-average arms, Fowler and Piscotty getting hit the hardest. I just find that hard to believe. They all seem like very competent throwers with good arm strength. Grichuk and Pham would grade out as above-average without the “arm” component dragging them down. Fowler would still be below-average, but much closer to average.

    UZR has Wong with a very below-average error rating. He has always had issues there, even though his range has been elite or close to it.

    With DeJong looking pretty legit as a SS option with the bat, perhaps this limited data is accurate regarding his defense being above-average. That helps. Moving Fowler to LF and having Pham (or Sierra) in CF will help too. (Grichuk as the 4th OF)



    Well, in watching Fowler in the field, I don’t think they are dinging him nearly enough for his range…

    You are correct, Wong has always had error issues, but this year it is at a higher rate than his career average…Which is why he has gone from a little above average to bottom third…

    Brian Walton

    Paid - Annual

    This particular measure suggests defense may not be a big problem for this Cardinals team.


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