Moneyball D-Specialists


 Q:  So now you think that Curtis Granderson, Mike Cameron and Franklin Gutierrez are the New MVP?

A.  No, but I do think that impact defensive players who can hold their own with the bat ... those are players you can win a pennant with.

Since the year 1900, managers have intuited that you can win with no-stick, great-glove players at four positions:  C, SS, 2B and CF.

Shortstop and second base get 5 outs* per game.  Center field gets 3.  These guys are in the middle of the action.  They get lots of chances to change games.

You don't have to be Ozzie Smith or Willie Mays to win a game with your glove.  Any SS, 2B, or CF who is excellent among his peers, is a guy whose glove can carry his bat.

John McGraw believed that, Casey Stengel believed that, Earl "3-Run Homer" Weaver believed that, Bill James believe that, and Dr. D doesn't argue.  :- )


That's a lot different than putting no-hit, good-glove players at the corners, running an 84 team OPS+ and calling it avant-garde.

Your glove carrying your bat in CF, sure.  Your glove carrying your bat in LF, don't be silly. 


Q.  But you do admit now that Franklin Gutierrez is an 80 glove?

A.  No, but he doesn't have to be. 

He is better than most major-league CF's, and that's plenty good enough.  Give me a "plus" or "plus-plus" glove at CF, SS, or 2B and I will cheerfully agree that he is winning games with his glove.

If the Mariners could score J.J. Hardy, I wouldn't care too much whether his bat rebounded or not.  Those 6-3's would be reason enough.

Gutierrez' extra catches in the gaps are reason enough.  There doesn't really need to be an argument whether he's "80" or "65."  EITHER way, he's key to the new Mariner era.


Q.  Suppose Gutierrez is a 65 glove and a 100 OPS+.  What do you have?

A.  You have a player you can win a pennant with.   Managers dreeeaaaaam about slick gloves at CF-SS-2B who can OPS+ 100.  Such a player is a big part of your pennant plan.

But in Gutierrez' case, you are ALSO talking about a guy making $455,000.

AWESOME that Cleveland baked the cake here.  They invested time in Gutierrez, kept him part-time, while he learned to hit, so here we are with a full-blown ML starter making minimum* wage.

A young player at SS-2B-CF who has a very slick glove, who can compete with the bat, making peanuts, has been brought along slowly... it's the perfect "Moneyball" storm.

And the "perfect storm" of value in CF is a big reason the M's are fighting for the pennant.


Q.  Would you do the same thing at every position, if you could?

A.  If you had holes at CF, SS, or 2B, and you could somehow get a AAA glove specialist who really could OPS+ 100, then you would have 3 of those guys all the time.... provided you didn't have a true, bat-first blue-chipper there already.

You're not going to move a glove specialist ahead of Matt Tuiasosopo at 3B.  But assuming that you're thin at CF-SS-2B, and assuming you can get a true impact glove there for peanuts, sure.  It's a Moneyball opportunity.


Dr D


Sandy - Raleigh's picture

Another great read, Doc.
One quibble.  2b/ss/cf do not get 5/5/3 "chances" per game.  That's how many outs per game the positions generate, (in very generic terms).  Unfortunately, I haven't found a definitive source for "precisely" how many outs are attributed to each position, (assists vs. putouts complicates matters), but my own VERY rough breakdown looks like this:  (Outs per 27)
Pitchers: 7 (includes fielding)
Catcher: 0.5 (CS + non K POs)
First Base: 1.0 (assists, plus some for non-assistend POs)
Second Base: 5.0 (assists - some POs)
Shortstop: 4.5 (assists - some POs -- 2Bs actually get more TCs than SS)
Thirdbase: 2.5 (assists - plus some POs)
Leftfield: 2.0 (putouts -- assist totals are almost negligible)
Centerfield: 2.5
Rightfield: 2.0
It's not perfect, but that's a fair estimate of the OUT distribution.  While SS is a harder position, second actually gets more total chances, (800 for 2B, 700 for SS in round numbers).  These are based on TEAM totals.
But, only 30% of BIPs turn into outs.  So, ignoring the pitcher contribution, (7 outs), about 20 outs per game are generated by the defense.  Double plays, HRs and sacrifices mess things up a bit, but with teams generating 9.2 hits per game, you're talking about (in round numbers), 28 or 29 chances (depending on how you count it), for every 20 defense-outs.  So, the CHANCES per game for the MIs is actually around 7.  I also suspect that a significant portion, (perhaps even the MAJORITY) of the value for OFs, isn't in outs generated, but in base-suppression -- turning doubles into singles the primary.   (Does UZR - or any of the other defensive metrics - adjust for non-HR XBH variance?)

Uncle Ted's picture

Plus there needs to be some modifer for the outfield outs being worth more because they are more likely doubles or triples rather than the singles that infielderrs typically prevent.


5 outs, not chances, for the MI's.  Leading to a somewhat unknown number of chances.
How many 'marginal' chances a CF-SS-2B gets is the $64,000 question.  How many opportunities does a J.J. Hardy get to snag a ball that would have scooted by Ronnie Cedeno?
Your back-of-the-envelope going off of the .300 BIP makes sense, of course, but it's still difficult to tell how many balls that fall in that little geometrical ray of territory created by two extra strides...
At any rate, there have got to be a lot more balls falling in the "marginal" CF, SS, and 2B areas, simply because the entire sectors are so much more heavily trafficked...


Russ Branyan missed a fairly easy grounder that went into the RF corner for a double yesterday ... the corner IF's are diving for doubles in one direction and for singles in the other...
While OF's can and do make a lot of their 'marginal' catches in front of them...
Still, I wouldn't quibble a bit that more of an OF's 'marginal' catches are in the gaps rather than on balls they could keep in front of them ...


Yuniesky Betancourt was held out of the line-up tonight due to "an organizational decision" that Zduriencik refused to comment on.  MLBTradeRumors is all over this as is Baker...there is talk of a deal for either Freddy Sanchez or Jack Wilson to the Mariners being close to complete...chances are it would involve Yuni and one other prospect.  Your thoughts?


how 'bout yours?
At D-O-V we immediately opined that a trade for a SS was the necessary implication of Betancourt's demise, since Cedeno isn't an AL starter at the position and since Zduriencik can be confidently presumed to agree with this...

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