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Dodgers: Looking At The 2019 Outfield Defense

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after making a catch during the tenth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game Four of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

One of the underrated problems for the 2018 Dodgers was team defense. According to FanGraphs the Dodgers dropped from 4th ranked in all MLB in 2017 all the way down to 23rd in 2018. When the defense suffers it causes the pitchers to work harder as they have to get more outs. A good defense helps the pitcher by getting the outs they should get and also some extra outs that might not normally have been gotten. We’ll take a look at the 2018 defensive statistics of the Dodgers and how they might be better in 2019.

Outs Above Average (OAA)

I created the table above from the link Mike Petriello provided in his tweet. To the table above I also added sprint speed, which is in feet per second. From the table, Tim Locastro, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp will not be on the team in 2019 with A.J. Pollock added. Just by switching out Puig and Kemp for Pollock the Dodgers gain 17 more outs. According to Outs Above Average, the only liability left is Joc Pederson. When Joc is platooned he will be replaced with Enrique Hernandez or Chris Taylor where both are much better. If Joc is traded then he will be replaced with Alex Verdugo, who would be an upgrade defensively. Verdugo is a bit faster and has an excellent arm.

FanGraphs Advanced Defensive Metrics

The table above lists each player who played outfield on the Dodgers in 2018, along with A.J. Pollock. It is sorted by the innings played at each outfield position and the statistics are from FanGraphs.

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ADVANCED DEFENSIVE METRICS

As with many of the advanced metrics there are a ton of which to learn. I keep it simple by finding a few key metrics and stick to those until I find better ones. The ultimate source for defensive metrics is FanGraphs and I am getting my information from them. The metrics I will be using are:

  • Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) – fromFanGraphs

“…players are measured in “runs” above or below average, and Baseball Info Solutions data is used as an input.”

  • Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) – fromFanGraphs

“UZR puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof).”

  • Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) – fromFanGraphs

“Defense (Def) is the combination of two important factors of defensive performance: value relative to positional average (fielding runs) and positional value relative to other positions (positional adjustment).”

Subtractions from 2018

Despite previously being a good defensive outfielder, Yasiel Puig slipped plenty in 2018. Sometimes, when a lefthander was on the mound Matt Kemp would be in the lineup either in left or right field.  I think Puig should improve in 2019 with the Reds but Kemp is a huge liability in the field and will only get worse. If Joc Pederson is traded his 4 DRS would be missed but his lack of speed and versatility wouldn’t be. Any replacement for Pederson would probably be better defensively in the long term.

MILWAUKEE, WI – OCTOBER 20: Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers makes a diving catch hit by Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Additions for 2019

It looks like Cody Bellinger will play more outfield in 2019 and, with his speed and arm, he should continue to improve the outfield defense. The only question about Bellinger would be about his playing right field regularly for the first time. A.J. Pollock is the new centerfielder and is an above average outfielder. More time for Chris Taylor in the late innings in left field would be a good idea whether it is for Pederson or Verdugo. Kiké Hernandez is above average at all three outfield positions.

Final Analysis

A starting outfield with Verdugo, Pederson or Taylor in left field, with Pollock in centerfield and Bellinger in right field is an above average defensive outfield. With Taylor in left it is a real strength. Verdugo has an excellent arm but I have not seen enough of him in the outfield (and the stats are a small sample size) to decide how well he’ll play out there. I’ve seen enough of Taylor, Hernandez, Toles, Pollock and Bellinger to know that, when they are in the outfield, the defense is a strength. In the National League West, all outfields in the division are vast. In 2019, with the subtraction of Kemp and the addition of Pollock, the Dodgers should be able to cover more ground than they did in 2018. All in all, the outfield defense should be better in 2019 than it was in 2018.

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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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  1. As usual great information Tim thank you.

    Stats you posted show Puig was erratic and Kemp while trying hard is not a speedy guy and never had a great arm.

    I am sure better defenders in those huge fields in Colorado will help.

    Pederson is a puzzlement to me as he looked to have played a solid CF his rookie year but has regressed after that. Peterson also stole 30 plus bases in triple A but has not been a threat in the Majors has he lost a step or two for some reason?

  2. Speaking of regression, how did Pederson(when he was in the minors) hit left-handed pitchers. I’m going to guess he hit LHP ok, otherwise he would not have made it to the Dodgers? Posters enlighten me.

    • The only stat I could find so far was in 2015 when he actually had a higher BA against LHP, albeit only .216 and against RHP that year .209. To sum it up he got here during the Sept. call up of 2014 and he did well enough to be brought up here but he has regressed it seems every year to the point he only had a handful of AB’s against LHP in 2018.

  3. I am dubious about Andrew Toles. Prior to his injury he was extremely erratic defensively in left. I think there should be pause as well Cody Bellinger in right field. The last time he played it in 2017 he was injured, he does not know the right field territory throughout the league, and I could see him struggling initially to find cutoff men properly. I’m definitely not sold on the proposition but yet I think that’s what they’re going to do. I believe Josh Peterson will be traded, making Alex Verdugo more than likely the left fielder, which is also not automatic. I would still platoon left with Chris Taylor. Or make the decision to get another outfielder like Marwin Gonzalez, or Josh Harrison. While the Dodgers will be athletic, The outfield is still an iffy proposition.

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