With limited video and a no advanced defensive metrics, there isn’t a great way to judge which team has been the best defensively in Spring Training. Heck, even if there were advanced metrics available, those metrics would scream at you for trying to use them to “prove” anything of substance, given the small sample and erratic nature of Spring Training play.
That said, the Chicago Cubs’ fielding percentage as a team this Spring – .984 – is tied for third best in baseball, and it comes on more total chances in the field than any other team in Spring Training. Does that put the Cubs at the top of the heap?
Well, numbers or not, Dale Sveum thinks so.
“You’d be hard-pressed to think there was a better defensive team in Spring Training this year,” Sveum said, per the Tribune. “We’ve played really good defense all the way around. Our catching has been outstanding, obviously our infield play has been off-the-charts, and our outfielders have done a good job. When you play good outfield in Arizona, you can play outfield anywhere.”
Ultimately, you probably put more stock in Sveum’s eyes-on evaluation than fielding percentage, which isn’t a great defensive metric, for a variety of reasons. Then again, managers can be overly optimistic, and will generally frame these things in the most positive light. So, I guess if we combine the fielding percentage with Sveum’s comments, we can conclude that the Cubs have been very good defensively this Spring, even if not necessarily “the best.”
Does it even matter if the Cubs have been the best defensive team in Spring Training? Eh, I mean, it’s probably better than being the worst, but I’m not sure it tells us that the Cubs will definitely be an above-average defensive team this year.
The Cubs do have a strong defensive infield, and an outfield that could be strong in all ways except for range. Castillo and Navarro are solid behind the plate. And Matt Garza is starting the season on the DL, so the pitching defense might be average. (Sorry, Matt.)