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June 12, 2006

American League Defensive Stats Through June 11
by SG

I don't have much to say about the Yankees right now, mired in a four game losing streak. With the amount of injuries they've suffered to this point, a streak like this was inevitable, but hopefully they can get Jason Giambi back tomorrow and continue dumping the problem people from the roster. With the demise of Scott Erickson, it is time to set up a new watch. I'm leaning towards Aaron Small, since I don't have the heart to disrepect Bernie Williams after all he's done for the Yankees over the year. I must say that I was very happily surprised to see them go with the unproven Matt Smith over the veteran-ness of Erickson. A rare case of talent prevailing over experience in Yankee-land, and hopefully a good sign going forward.

I pretty much write about only the Yankees here, which I suppose makes some sense since this is a Yankee blog and all, but I thought it may be interesting to some to look at how some other players in the AL have been playing defensively this season using the Zone Rating system that I have been using to evaluate defense, which is a combination of the systems devised by Chris Dial and Sean Smith over at Baseball Think Factory. Below are the defensive stats for all players who have played at least 200 innings at a position so far this season for the only league that matters.

In the charts below, YTD INN and Runs are actual innings played and runs above/below average. R/150 is the amount of runs the player would save over 150 games, and Pace INN and Runs are what the player is on pace for based on their playing time to this point.

Not much of a surprise that Jason Giambi is the worst defensive 1B in the AL on a rate basis, although ZR does not measure all the various aspects of playing 1B, primarily scooping ability.

Robinson Cano has fallen off a bit from his earlier pace, when he was around +12, but he's still slightly above average.

Mike Lowell is going to make the Red Sox front office luck into looking like geniuses, isn't he? Alex Rodriguez has had a rough few weeks defensively, he was on a +10 pace last month.

Catcher's defense is not based on ZR, but on a bunch of factors like SB, CS, PB, etc., Jorge Posada's defense was also better earlier in the season. It could be regression or a manifestation of his hamstring injury.

Johnny Damon's been very solid defensively so far, much better than he was last year (around -15).

I miss Hideki Matsui's bat. I don't much miss his defense.

Bernie Williams missed the 200 inning cut off in RF, but he was -4.4 runs in 188.1 innings, which is a -31 R/150 rate.

Take heart Derek Jeter fans. There are three AL SS who are worse defensively.

These defensive stats have some limitations due to the minimal amount of publically available statistics as well as the sample size of 200-500 defensive innings. Also, some people feel that a ZR based stat does not give enough credit to players with very good range, who will often make plays outside of what is typically defined as that defensive position's zone. However, I think it can be a useful thing to look at.