Friday, January 26, 2007

MLB Preview 2007 – Team Fielding

In the last post, I looked at team fielding in the AL West by doing a position-by-position breakdown of each team and developing a consensus ranking for each player. I have modified the process slightly for this post. First, while I am still creating consensus defensive rankings, I am using a straight formula now. The formula is as follows:

50% Chone Smith’s Zone Rating
20% Last Year’s Zone Rating
20% PECOTA Defensive Projection
10% Tangotiger’s Fan Report

Each player is given a consensus defensive ranking in terms of runs above or below average for his position. These rankings are then aggregated as in the last post to give a team defensive ranking. Each team defensive ranking is expressed in terms of runs per 150 games

You’re the Best….Around! These teams make the Karate Kid proud
Detroit Tigers: +34
St. Louis Cardinals: +34
Minnesota Twins: +29
Oakland Athletics: +21

These four teams outpace the rest of the league by a large margin (though, given the 9 run difference between the top 3 and Oakland, it’s debatable whether Oakland really deserves to be in the conversation). Continuing my opinion that fielding matters way more than most people think, notice that all four of these teams made the playoffs last year, and that the top two both made it to a little tournament known as the World Series. Getting a top fielding ranking basically requires average or better at every position. The only projected starter on any of these teams with significantly below-average fielding ability is Gary Sheffield.

Arizona Diamondbacks: +13
Pittsburgh Pirates: +11
Chicago White Sox: +9
Washington Nationals: +7
San Francisco Giants: +6
Baltimore Orioles: +6
San Diego Padres: +5

A few comments: I really like what Arizona is putting together. Last year they were about average defensively, but with all the young talent coming up, they should be very good to excellent. Young fielders often have a difficult transition to majors, however, so we’ll see if the D-backs can actually capitalize on their projection. I was somewhat surprised by the high ranking of the Giants (driven largely by Omar Vizquel and Pedro Feliz????) and the low ranking of the White Sox (who are hurt by Konerko and Pierzkkaaannsjha whatever). The Padres have got some good stuff shaping up. They are slightly above average both batting and fielding, and the combo makes them one of the top NL lineups.

Seattle Mariners: +2
Toronto Blue Jays: +2
Philadelphia Phillies: +1
Anaheim Angels: +1
Colorado Rockies: -1
Cincinnati Reds: -2
Houston Astros: -2
Kansas City Royals: -3
New York Mets: -3
Texas Rangers: -5

These teams will be neither helped nor hurt by their defenses. Cincinnati’s ranking assumes that the reported Griffey to right field goes through. If he remains in center, go ahead and put them in the negative category. Mad props to the Royals for improving all the way to average after being one of the worst fielding teams in the league for the last few years.

Softball League
Los Angeles Dodgers: -6
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: -6
Cleveland Indians: -6
New York Yankees: -8
Atlanta Braves: -9
Boston Red Sox: -9
Milwaukee Brewers: -10
Chicago Cubs: -14
Florida Marlins: -19

Although I’ve ranked all these teams in one group, they really go from meh (the Dodgers and Braves), to really atrocious (Marlins and Cubs). The Cubs are a trendy pick to win the NL Central this year after spending $300 million this offseason, but I think their team fielding is going to be a huge Achilles’ heel. The Red Sox are an interesting situation in that they are projected to be well above average in the infield, and absolutely terrible in the outfield. The big question is whether Coco Crisp is an average defender in CF. If he is, the Red Sox will sniff average. Like the Cubs, the Brewers are picking up some buzz as a potential NL Central contender, but based on fielding, I just don’t see it. You’ve got to have a really strong offense to overcome such a bad defense, and the Brewers offense is in no way strong. Thumbs down for a Brewers break-out.

Final Note:
You may have noticed that the numbers above don’t sum to zero. I think teams in general have a Plan A lineup that includes good defenders. All good plans eventually go awry which means that some of these players will underperform and others will get injured and be replaced by less talented fielders.

No comments: