Advanced defensive metrics aren’t always useful in a small sample, and, in the world of defensive metrics, even a season’s worth of stats is often discredited as a small sample. So, all of this has to come with a grain of salt.
That said, my position has always been: when my eyes tell me one thing, and the numbers tell me another, I take a second look. When my eyes and the numbers agree, however, I think there’s probably something there.
He’s so good that ESPN just named him the defensive player of the month for September, noting that he ranks fourth in baseball for defensive runs saved at second base this year … AND at shortstop, with 9 DRS at each position. That’s a cumulative stat, and he’s done it even though he’s started just 84 times at second base and 50 times at shortstop. As a funny aside: when you look at the list, as of today, of DRS for the season of all players and all positions, Russell ranks both 35th and 36th. If he weren’t splitting positions, he’d be in the top 10. Only Anthony Rizzo, with 10 DRS saved total (all at first base), shows up higher on that list than the two Addison Russells.
Russell has been the second best defensive second baseman in baseball by UZR/150, behind only Danny Espinosa. At shortstop, among players with at least 400 innings there, Russell has been the best in baseball by a mile (24.7 UZR/150, next is Adeiny Hechavarria at 17.6).
I think you could make an exceedingly strong case that Russell has been the best defensive middle infielder in all of baseball this year, and that was made an even more difficult task by asking him to learn second base on the fly.
Because Russell split his time between positions, I don’t think he’s got a realistic shot at a Gold Glove this year, which is kind of stupid. If there were a multi-position Gold Glove, he’d deserve it without question. As it stands, he may have to settle for the less well-known, but probably-better Fielding Bible Award, which just introduced a multi-position winner last year.
All this at age 21, while positing a respectable 90 wRC+ in his rookie year, after spending just 14 games at AAA in his career. In a less rookie-heavy year, Russell would probably have an argument for Rookie of the Year consideration. He’s been the defensive equivalent of Kris Bryant’s offensive breakout this season. That’s how good Russell’s been.
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