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)
2018 Outs Above Average spread goes from +22 (Cain) to -24 (Castellanos). Those are the extremes, but that's.. a lot of outs.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) February 11, 2019
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.
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.
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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