Looking at the most recent UZR stats, the Mariners are apparently the 4th worst team in all of baseball when it comes to defense. Their combined UZR is -16.3, but something here smells fishy. If you watch the games, then this is probably pretty surprising. While the Mariners haven’t been an incredibly good defensive team, I don’t think they’ve been that bad either.
Granted, LF has been especially bad all season. Milton Bradley was nothing more than a traffic cone out there, and Carlos Peguero hasn’t been much better, but that would be the only position that I would say has been bad enough to be ranked among the worst in baseball.
This just doesn’t pass the eyeball test to me.
Looking a little closer, the negative UZR total is the product of 4 players: Bradley (-7.4) Peguero (-3.3) Ryan Langerhans (-6.6), and Ichiro (-8.4). Bradley and Langerhans are gone, so perhaps that’s part of the reason that M’s defense looks to be better than the stats say it is.
The other alarming thing is that Ichiro’s name is on that list. This is a guy who’s won 10 straight gold glove awards. (Yes, I know the gold gloves aren’t the best measure, as often bad defensive players get them based solely on reputation, but Ichiro has also picked up a pair of fielding bible awards, so we can debate the gold gloves another day.) In fact, Ichiro’s UZR is 5th worst in all of baseball. His UZR is telling us that he hasn’t just been bad, he’s been a downright defensive liability.
To put this in perspective, Ichiro’s UZR/150 (projecting UZR over 150 games) is 8 worse than Peguero’s UZR/150, -24.1 to -16.1. If you’ve ever seen Peguero attempt to run down a fly ball, then you’d understand just how insane that is. Peguero is genuinely bad defensively; Ichiro is not.
Yes, Ichiro is starting to show his age and has lost a step, and yes, he has misplayed a few balls this season, and yes, there have been a lot of balls dropping in front of him for hits this season. But I just don’t buy that he’s been that bad. He still has great instincts, takes good routs to balls, and has above average speed. At worst, I’d put him as a league average defender at this point in his career.
It just goes to show you how much work still needs to be done in refining our defensive metrics.