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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Friday, March 08, 2002
Rating the Defenses: AL West
Robert Dudek analyzes the Defenses a division at a time.
Fielding Run Average (FRA) is something that I developed last year, to answer a specific question. Separating out all the fielding-independent elements of defense (strikeouts, walks allowed, hit batsmen and home runs allowed) is there a way to rate the performance of pitchers/fielders in everything else?
That’s what FRA aims to do. For a detailed explanation of how it works, please read my article Measuring Team Defense.
To evaluate team defense, I used each teams’ raw FRA, adjusted for park and averaged together 2000 and 2001. Keep in mind that there is evidence that particular pitchers can influence FRA, so it can’t be considered a pure measure of fielding prowess. However, I am confident that a large majority of a team’s FRA can be safely attributed to the fielders.
A typical FRA is in the neighborhood of a run better than ERA. In 2001 the AL average was 3.596; in 2000 it was 3.754.
2000/2001 ranking: 1st in the AL
Kevin Appier should have a fine season with a good defense supporting him - the Mets’ 2001 defense was below average and the Angels of 2002 figure to be one of the top defenses in the league once again (even if they make Brad Fullmer their regular 1B).
2000/2001 ranking: 3rd in the AL
Safeco, as seen from its FRA Park Factors, is a great place to pitch and the
Mariners have put up great defensive numbers the last 2 years. John Olerud, Mike
Cameron and David Bell are all very good defensive players. Last year, the
Mariners defense soared to new heights with the addition of Ichiro and Bret
Boone. Even adjusting for park, they ranked #1 in the AL.
2000/2001 ranking: 7th in the AL
The addition of Damon and Dye improved the outfield defense by leaps and bounds. I’m sure that the improving numbers of the Oakland “young gun” starting rotation was aided by the defensive improvement.
T Long is apparently moving back to center, which I think will cost the A’s some. The infield is not bad, but it remains to be seen if Carlos Pena et al will be better, or worse than Big G defensively. I just hope that David Justice doesn’t get a lot of playing time in left field.
Like Safeco, the Coliseum helps the defense get outs (mostly because of the large foul territory area).
2000/2001 ranking: 14th in the AL
The Rangers pitchers of 2000 and 2001 suffered enough and to show what a kind-hearted soul John Hart is, he’s brought in a whole new starting rotation so that the previous bunch can hook on with teams that actually play defense.
When you think about how good I-Rod is at cutting off the running game, you start to really appreciate how badly things go when opposition hitters put the ball in play. Carl Everett should help a bit, but Izzy Valdes is probably in for the shock of his life (expect his ERA to go way up this year). Chan Ho and Dave Burba shouldn’t be as drastically affected, since Cleveland and LA were as bad defensively as Texas was in 2001 (though Chan is moving from an excellent pitchers’ park to one which seems to favor hitters).
The defense could actually get worse if Catalanotto becomes the regular 2B in Mike Young’s place.
Throwing out base-runners
As we all know, both pitchers and catchers differ in their ability to cut off the running game. What I like to do is compare a catcher’s throwing performance to the other catchers on the team. This is not a perfect approach, since in some cases particular catchers are in the lineup when particular pitchers are on the mound. As well, the backups themselves differ in their ability to throw out base-runners so we can’t really make firm conclusions looking at this data. All the same, it is interesting to look at.
As it happens, all 4 teams in the AL West had the same regular catcher in both years, so that is helpful. I couldn’t find pitchers only CS for 2001 so I lumped all CS together instead of segregating them into “normal” and the 1-3-6 kind.
The other starts were made by Jorge Fabregas (42), Matt Walbeck (38) Shawn Wooten (20) and Jose Molina (12). None of these guys had trouble throwing out base-runners and Wooten and J.Molina were good in limited trials.
Not only did Wilson extinguish runners at a greater rate than the subs, the opposition didn’t try to run on him as often. Ben Davis threw well for San Diego the last few years, so he should represent a defensive upgrade over Tom Lampkin who allowed runners to steal at a .705 clip.
Ramon was the busiest catcher in the division. His throwing did not differ radically from his teammates (mostly Fasano and Myers). For Oakland’s sake, I hope Hatteberg isn’t behind the plate too often in 2002 (with the non-slide-stepping Red Sox he produced an .872 over the past 2 years, versus a rest of team .744).
Now we come to the King of kings, or should I say the Gun of guns.
Without I-Rod in there, opposition runners saw the green light much more often. They were below break even, so the Rangers catching subs were not bad. The main back-up, Bill Haselman, allowed a .708 PCT. This was the largest difference I found between the main catcher and the subs in the American League (I haven’t checked the NL yet).
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