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Friday, September 21, 2018

Simon - Why Does Bryce Harper Have -25 Defensive Runs Saved?

Sounded some warnings about Bryce Harper’s defense in April. Here’s a revisit as the season nears an end. He’s at -25 Defensive Runs Saved, among the worst totals in MLB this season.

Jordan @metsfansince02
Do you think a move to first base next season is possible? I heard he was taking a lot of grounders there this year.

Mark Simon @MarkASimonSays
I think the money is in the outfield. The move to 1B comes later.

Bote Man Posted: September 21, 2018 at 08:05 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, defensive metrics, nationals

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   1. Bourbon Samurai, what price fettucine? Posted: September 21, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5748875)
this seems a bit fluky to me, but he definitely shouldn't be playing Center Field. I suppose if he stays with the Nats he can replace Zim at first base after a year.
   2. Rally Posted: September 21, 2018 at 01:06 PM (#5748936)
They mention the count of good fielding plays and misplays, with an example of a misplay being "taking a bad route to the ball". This is mentioned in a separate paragraph from his range rating. I wonder if there is any double counting going on. No way to tell unless you're the one working with the data.

Anyway, Statcast has Harper at -11. That number is comparable to all OF, so the position adjustment between CF and RF isn't needed. Looks like that's about evenly split between going back (-6) and coming in (-5).
   3. Bote Man Posted: September 21, 2018 at 02:59 PM (#5749052)
When does that poll come out that attempts to assess the "eye test" of fans watching their team? Did I miss it? That actually provides some useful inputs to this problem.
   4. villageidiom Posted: September 21, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5749078)
When does that poll come out that attempts to assess the "eye test" of fans watching their team? Did I miss it? That actually provides some useful inputs to this problem.
Voting is underway.
   5. Adam Starblind Recommends Posted: September 21, 2018 at 03:20 PM (#5749080)
My son is a big Nats fan and he insists Bryce is a plus fielder, mostly due to arm. My son is 8 though.
   6. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: September 21, 2018 at 03:29 PM (#5749092)
That's the output of a clown data regression, bro
   7. Dale Sams Posted: September 21, 2018 at 04:27 PM (#5749144)
Are they counting ejections somehow?
   8. Walt Davis Posted: September 21, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5749257)
Anyway, Statcast has Harper at -11.

Which is 79th out of 83 "qualified" OFs (no idea how "qualified" is defined). So the magnitude is much different but the ranking is about the same as DRS. Granted, a difference of 10+ runs in magnitude is a full WAR give or take. Nick Castallanos is so bad that his color-coded box is so dark I can't read the number below it (a tip to all you color-coders out there).

By the way, Schwarber's bad defensive past seems to have caught up with him. I recall statcast had him close to average in the first half but he's now at -9 on the year. Statcast doesn't have any arm rating while Rfield gives him a +8 on arm so he'd still grade out around average overall.
   9. RMc's Daps of the Dope Artists Posted: September 21, 2018 at 08:39 PM (#5749275)
Maybe they can put him back behind the plate?
   10. Dolf Lucky Posted: September 22, 2018 at 07:49 AM (#5749422)
The Nationals currently rank 7th in MLB in defensive efficiency. They are the only team in the top 10 for DER to have negative TZ runs and the only team in the top 8 to have negative DRS runs.

My questions are:

1) Is it possible for DER to overstate defensive value, at the team level?
2) Is it possible for TZ/DRS to have calculation quirks that would misstate the total team defensive value?
3) If DER is a meaningful metric (I'm not sure), is it possible for a team to have a solidly above average DER with a bad centerfielder?
   11. Walt Davis Posted: September 23, 2018 at 01:06 AM (#5749825)
1. Sure. Due to randomness or pitcher effectiveness, a team may benefit from a higher proportion of easier plays. For example, DER is based on all BIP so if a team generated a lot of IF pop-ups relative to the league-average rate, they'd get a boost to their DER that doesn't come from improved defense. Also GBs have a higher BA than in-play FBs so a GB-heavy staff will produce a worse DER. If you pulled out pop-ups and produced separate BAgb and BAfb (or their DER equivalents) then I suspect you'd have something that better reflected team defense.

But I don't want to overstate that. Team DER seems a perfectly reasonable place to start IMO and team Rfield/UZR should probably usually put you within spitting distance of DER. If not then I think the onus is on the fancy stat to be able to detail why it's so different.

2. Presumably although I can't say as I've ever seen anybody demonstrate what they are. But, for example, UZR underwent a fairly large recalculation earlier this year when they got access to data on hang time for FBs going back a few seasons. This generally resulted in some of the big UZR numbers (in both directions) being pulled back in some -- i.e. a particular OF happened to catch a lot more FBs in a tough zone because they happened to get a lot more that hung up in the air.

There's always been speculation that they have trouble with "discretionary" plays -- a good CF gets to a ball a regular CF wouldn't but the LF could have made the play too. That is, I think ... say there's a FB that gets caught 50% of the time by somebody, but it's a ball that only 20% of the time is caught by a CF but 80% of the time is caught by a LF. If I understand it, if your CF catches it, he gets credit for +.8; if your LF catches it, he gets credit for +.2; in reality, it's worth +.5. If you have good LF and CF but the :F cedes to the CF on such plays, then the team defense will look a bit better than it really is ... or vice versa.

What I think we do have some evidence of is that DRS is somehow over-stating the number/rate of difficult plays. Statcast and Inside Edge (available at fangraphs) both suggest the distribution of runs saved in the OF is more along the lines of -10 to +15 (after adjusting for position) than -25 to +25.

And nobody seems to know what's going on in the IF.

There's also speculation that it handles some parks poorly. I'm also not sure what they're doing about shifts these days -- at one point, at least for individual defenders, they were just ignoring those plays, at least for IFs.

3. I don't see why not. It would be tough to have a good OF DER with a genuinely bad CF -- it would require having very good LF and RF in which case you probably move one of those to CF -- but there's no reason a team with an excellent IF can't more than offset a below-average OF. A crappy SS and a crappy CF would be hard to overcome.

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