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Wednesday morning, Baseball Savant introduced a new metric to the baseball world: Infielder Outs Above Average. This is an extension to Outfield Outs Above Average, now applying the same Statcast based concept to infielders. Here’s how they describe it:
“Outs Above Average (OAA) is the cumulative effect of all individual plays a fielder has been credited or debited with, making it a range-based metric of fielding skill that accounts for the number of plays made and the difficulty of them. For example, a fielder who catches a 25% Out Probability play gets +.75; one who fails to make the play gets -.25.”
Keep in mind, the OAA number you will see on the left side is a cumulative statistic that goes up or down with innings played, while success rate added on the right side is rate based.
With that said, let’s take a look at how the 2019 Dodgers rank in this new metric, with some rather surprising results.
First base was a bit of a revolving door for the Dodgers in 2019. Cody Bellinger began the year there, and was good, but was able to provide more defensive value in the outfield. This gave the position up to Max Muncy, but with him also playing second base, several other Dodgers would get ample opportunity there.
Muncy and David Freese ranking average is no surprise, but a little concerning is Matt Beaty’s -3 OAA and -7% success rate. Beaty is already an iffy outfielder, and while first base defense isn’t terribly important, it’d be nice if Beaty provided positive defense somewhere.
Pederson is the laughing stock here, with a whopping -6 OAA and -23% success rate. This success rate is easily the worst in the league at any position. Of course, Pederson will never be expected to play another inning at first in his career.
Looking at second base gives Dodger fans plenty to be excited about.
Kiké Hernández ranks terrifically here, but this is no shock as Kiké’s defense has always passed the eye test.
The surprise is Gavin Lux’s 2 OAA despite only being up for one month. Lux was forced to play out of position last season with Seager occupying shortstop, yet still provided excellent defense, a positive sign going forward. Assuming Seager isn’t traded in the next few months, Lux will most likely play the lion’s share of his innings at second base in 2020.
The other notable name here is Max Muncy, ranking just a tick below average. While this is nothing to gloss over, Muncy is another guy playing out of position, originally brought up as a corner infielder. The Dodgers will happily take this level of defense from Muncy if he continues to rake like he has.
To me, this is by far the most interesting nugget to come out of Savant’s new metric. Most of what we’ve seen we already know from Fangraph’s DRS and UZR, but Justin Turner’s OAA goes against the grain.
Turner’s 4 OAA is good for 9th among 35 qualified third baseman, while Fangraphs’ DRS has him 33rd.
This is notable as a big talking point this winter has been moving Justin Turner off of third base for the likes of Anthony Rendon, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, etc. If Turner’s defense is as good at Savant has him, the need for these replacements diminishes.
Whenever metrics disagree, the good old eye test is a formidable tie breaker. From my vantage point, Turner’s defense has absolutely lost a step, but he still consistently makes routine plays and is by no means a liability there. He probably isn’t as good as Statcast has him, but isn’t as bad as Fangraphs has him. He’s most likely somewhere in the middle, close to the league average mark.
To round it out, here’s a look at the Dodgers’ shortstops by OAA:
Chris Taylor’s and Kiké Hernández’s metrics are a little discouraging, but Statcast ranks Seager highly, who is by far the most important player here.
While Seager can be iffy by the eye test at times, he is seen as an above average shortstop by all three advanced defense metrics. One thing to note, however, is this is a range-based stat, meaning arm strength is not factored in.
Seager’s weak relay throws to home plate have hurt the Dodgers on several occasions, but those are ignored by this metric. With that in mind, we can easily deduct some points from Seager’s overall score, but there is no ignoring he is still very good range-wise.
The majority of what we saw here we already knew, with the exception of Justin Turner. His case is the most interesting, given the large discrepancy of how different advanced metrics rank him. It seems likely that Andrew Friedman and company agree more with Statcast’s evaluation of Turner given their lack of activity in the third base market. However, I wouldn’t rule out a left-to-right infield of Muncy-Seager-Lux-Turner heading into 2020.