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May 6, 2003

by Larry Mahnken - Working the Count: The Season of Soriano - New York Yankees Coverage

I was hoping for some speculation on why Soriano has improved so much this year when I clicked on this article, but it's just a rundown of his numbers, without any real analysis. This part stood out to me, though:
Offense is great, you might say, but a sure handed second baseman is vital to a team’s success. Soriano’s defense has been criticized in the past. Well, there’s improvement there as well. Soriano has made only two errors thus far this season, and is projected to make 10 this season (down from 23 last season). His fielding percentage is currently at .986, up from .968 in 2002.
His Range Factor, however, is 4.53--23rd among eligible second basemen in MLB--and down from 4.55 last season. His Zone Rating is .769--24th among eligible second basemen in MLB--and down from .813 last season. Perhaps Soriano's defense has improved, but it's not showing up in the numbers yet.

With defense, errors and flashy plays are overrated. The primary job of a player on defense is to convert every ball hit into his area into an out. Almost every ball that drops in for a hit is an error on his part. And getting to the ball and recording the out is the important part, not how flashy you make it look. This is likely why Jeter has a reputation as an excellent defensive shortstop: He doesn't make as many plays as he should, but he pulls off a lot of flashy plays.

Defensive statistics are severely flawed (See Mike Emeigh's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 part series on Baseball Primer), but if you're gonna use them, at least use the better ones.