New Defensive Metric Says the Cubs Have a Stellar Middle Infield, So It Must Be Right
Today, Baseball Prospectus unveiled its statistical answer to Statcast’s Outs Above Average (OAA) and Sports Information System’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), among others. It is a significant update to its comprehensive advanced defensive metric called Deserved Runs Prevented (DRP), and it modifies the way the range component of that metric is calculated (Range Defense Added, RDA).
Range value, being of outsized importance to any advanced defensive metric, understandably merited its own discussion, and that’s what Baseball Prospectus got into here. It’s complex stuff, but at its core, DRP and RDA attempt to use Statcast data to better evaluate defender performance, and create better year-to-year reliability in the statistical score (something we know is notoriously poor for advanced defensive metrics). By BP’s calculations, their new metric(s) are a little bit better at year-to-year reliability than those of OAA and DRS (which are each miles better than UZR, which has fallen out of favor). Again, you can read their write-up for the math of it – they used players who changed teams, thus eliminating a lot of the noise, which seems smart to me – but it makes superficial sense, at least.
Anyway, the part you’re most interested in is the part that confirms things you already wanted to believe: namely, that the Cubs’ middle infield is awesome.
Over at the leaderboards, you can do various sorting methods, where you’ll learn that the best defensive shortstop in baseball last year by DRP was none other than Dansby Swanson, at just over 12 extra defensive runs provided (DRS had him at 9, for what it’s worth; and OAA, which is outs rather than runs, had him at 20). Nico Hoerner, at just over 6, was tied for 5th among regular shortstops.
So, by this metric, the Cubs’ middle infield could consist of two of the best five or six defensive shortstops in baseball. That sounds pretty good! This stat must be smart!
The Cubs’ corner outfield duo of Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki actually rate out in the top six among full-time corner outfielders last year, so that’s interesting. We knew Happ rated well by the other metrics – and deservedly won a Gold Glove – but Suzuki not as much. Maybe he was underrated? Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger actually rated out very mediocre in center field last season, for what that’s worth.
Eric Hosmer rated quite poorly at first base, as expected, though so did Paul Goldschmidt, so maybe it’s not as good at capturing first base defense?
Not too much else jumps out when I review the ratings, other than more confirmation that Christopher Morel’s numbers in center field were rough.