So as you know I’ve had a lot about defense on the mind lately. Talking a lot about gathering fly ball data and that whole crappy project that I’m sure other people have done and will end up being another one of my more futile efforts. But it’s got my brain working and spinning and thinking of things that are fun and interesting. Such as did you know according to Fangraphs and UZR that the Mariners were saved 85 runs by their defense alone in 2009.
That’s a lot of runs. It’s the most by any team in the past decade going as far back as UZR goes all the way back to the simpler time of 2002. Yes, I remember those days. My baggy jeans, graduating high school, listening to the new and “popular” Bad Religion album while being over joyed by the latest Ben Afflect movie. Don’t judge me we all do stupid things in our youth.
The point is that the 2009 Mariners, led not just by Franklin Gutierrez (+30) but a whole cast of defensive wizards. Ichiro (+8), Adrian Beltre (+14), a left field that was solid behind a +21 combined run saving performances of Michael Saunders, Endy Chavez, Ryan Langerhans and even surprise Wladimar Balentine.
According to John Dewan’s DRS the team might have been closer to 110 defense runs saved. Either way the 2009 season was an increadible performance out on the field and while they did take a step back in 2010 it was still rather impressive to see how much they were able to accomplish in compairson to other teams. But while they set a new bar for defensive excellence and even manage to win 85 games they took so many steps backwards in 2010 and 2011, you would have thought they were playing red light, green light and caught moving on a red light (I hate that).
The 2010 Mariners were a bit of different creature. While still a “good” defensive team the Wilson twins (Josh and Jack) hurt the team with their defense at short and neither of them were good enough to make up that lost value at the plate. Then again while Jose Lopez, who was a nice surprise posting a +8 UZR , moved nicely into third in lieu of the departed Beltre it was at the expense of Chone Figgins posting an eye gouging -12 at second. Then there was all the little cuts and scrapes that came with the play of Eric Byrnes, Mike Carp, Casey Kotchman, Matt Tuiasosopo and even Justin Smoak adjusting.
Last year was worse. A lot worse. Left field a lone cost the team a whopping -16 runs. This was bad but not nearly as bad as the -21 that an unknown and unfamilar someone cost the Phillies. The Mariners as a whole ranked 21st in the league but at a price of -13 runs as a team. Though again the “Mr. Positive” ever rainbows and sunshine, basically the Bill James projection system defensive equivelent, Defensive Runs Saved had them at 16. You did have some nice moments with Brendan Ryan at short, Saunders around the outfield and even Ackley at second.
Still this year should be better, and here is why. The Mariners have 3 good defensive outfielders of what looks to be 4 that should make this team defenders of 5 if you want to throw either Darren Ford or Michael Saunders a long for the ride. Figgins while frustrating both defensively and offensively posted positive numbers out at third, last year. Both DRS and UZR had him as being worth +2 runs in the field. While not earth shattering being able to supply average or even above average defense at anything is worth something.
Then you get both Ackley and Ryan back for another year, who could become one of the better defensive double play combonation in the league, and are underated if not great defenders at their respective positions. This leads me to the thought that if this team is to out perform their true talent level then I would suggest that it all starts on defense. This team wasn’t a great offensive team in ’09 and they dont need to be to post what I believe would be a successful win total. If they can get back to playing good defense and keep
There is the thought that this is the same team that is also fielding John Jaso and Miguel Olivo behind the plate. Two that are arguably the worst defenders at their position and a very unknown varible in Jesus Montero who at the VERY best is an average defender. This is going to hurt the team and it’s one of the reasons why I pulled so hard to cut or just casto off Olivo early in the off-season in favor of a more reliable defender. Catcher is easily the hardest position to quantify in terms of how much they contribute to the defense. But by very primitive metrics both leave a lot to be desired.
There is also the ever questionable Mike Carp in left. I’m tired of talking about it and I generally think that he’ll be below average but not kill anyone or himself in left. He could end up being replaced in the late innings by either the 5th outfielder or even Casper Wells. I generally feel as though people really underate the defensive prowess of Wells. The guy was considered to be the better defenders in the organization and was ranked by Baseball America (in consective years ) as having the best arm.
There is of course a few question marks, but there is a lot of positive things going into this season. It should be a lot of fun to watch as the season goes forward.
Topics: Adrian Beltre, Brendan Ryan, Casey Kotchman, Casper Wells, Chone Figgins, Darren Ford, Dustin Ackley, Endy Chavez, Eric Byrnes, Franklin Gutierrez, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, Jose Lopez, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo, Miguel Olivo, Mike Carp, Mike Saunders, Ryan Langerhans