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Thursday, March 21, 2002

Rating the Defenses: AL East

Robert Dudek finishes off the AL East and finds teams who don’t necessarily rely on their defense.

This is the third in a series of 6 articles. I’ll be looking at
team defense, grouping the teams by division. The foundation of these
articles will be FRA (Fielding Run Average), a measure I developed
last year to look at how successful a given team’s fielders were in
terms of preventing runs. For a detailed description of FRA please
refer to my introductory article titled

HREF="http://www.mostlybaseball.com/Truth/teamdefense.htm">

Measuring
Team Defense.

Note: the listed park factors are not ordinary “general” park
factors: they are park factors for the FRA stat itself.

None of the teams in this division have particularly good
defenses. Boston and New York have pitching staffs chalk full of power
pitchers, which means that defense isn’t as important to them as for
teams like Toronto, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Let’s see how their
defenses have stacked up over the last two years.

Boston Red Sox

 

 

 

2000 FRA 3.522 rank 4 FRA PF 1.124 FRA+ 3.133 rank 1
2001 FRA 3.920 rank 11 FRA PF 0.998 FRA+ 3.928 rank 9

 

2000/2001 ranking: 6th in the AL (3.531)

Newcomers: John Burkett, Dustin Hermanson, Darren Oliver, Tony
Clark (1B), Johnny Damon (CF), Rickey Henderson (LF), Rey Sanchez (2B)

The Red Sox’ FRA PF was the most variable from 2000 to 2001 - an
object lesson in sample size, no doubt. The 2-year average FRA PF pegs
Fenway as a park that helps the FRA stat, but not as much as the
Metrodome or Kauffman Stadium.

As we can discern from the following table, most teams in this
division do not rely heavily on their defense. The Red Sox were 2nd
behind Cleveland in being the least reliant on the fielders; behind
the pitching of Pedro and Nomo, the Sox led the league in lowest BIP%
in 2001.

This chart presents the average percentage of balls in play per
batter faced in 2000 and 2001.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Lg BIP/BF
CLE AL .678
BOS AL .689
NYA AL .695
SEA AL .711
TBA AL .711
BAL AL .713
KCA AL .713
CHA AL .714
OAK AL .716
TEX AL .718
TOR AL .719
MIN AL .724
ANA AL .724
DET AL .734

 

The Indians, Red Sox and Yankees were significantly less reliant
on their defenses than the rest of the American League. There was a
greater difference between 3rd place New York and 4th place Seattle,
than there was between Seattle and 13th place Anaheim.

The Kerrigan Red Sox were famous for eschewing the slide step and
allowing baserunners a free hand in stealing bases. The Sox are almost
off the charts: opponents attempted to steal bases off them almost 140
times more often over the last two years than the next most porous
team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Lg SB% 2000-01 SB att
TEX AL 58.3% 247
DET AL 63.3% 251
MIN AL 64.3% 213
ANA AL 64.6% 325
CHA AL 65.5% 284
OAK AL 69.7% 310
SEA AL 69.8% 222
CLE AL 69.9% 339
TOR AL 71.3% 296
TBA AL 71.6% 317
KCA AL 72.9% 306
NYA AL 74.3% 319
BAL AL 76.1% 343
BOS AL 79.6% 480

 

It’s hard to say what the breakeven point for the stolen base is
these days, but anyway you measure it, the Sox have lost the most runs
(or gained the fewest) relative to the other teams in the league
defending the stolen base. This makes the performance of the other Red
Sox defenders a little more impressive.

Why did the defense apparently decline in 2001? The main defensive
changes occurred at 3B, SS and C. Hillenbrand replaced a gaggle of
players (Alexander, Merloni, Sprague, Veras and others), Garciaparra
was replaced by a gaggle of inadequate shortstops, and Varitek lost
most of the season, with Hatteberg and Mirabelli replacing him.

The outfield experienced subtle changes. In 2000, O’Leary, Nixon,
Everett and Lewis got the bulk of the playing time. In 2001, Manny
played about a third of the season in the outfield, and he and
Bichette took some playing time away from the 4 main outfielders of
the previous year.

Sox Opponents stole 64 more bases and were thrown out 4 more times
in 2001 compared to 2000. Depending on how much weight you put on
each, that’s about 8-11 runs. We’re still looking for about 30-35 runs
to account for.

Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

 

2000 FRA 4.188 rank 13 FRA PF 0.988 FRA+ 4.240 rank 12
2001 FRA 3.474 rank 7 FRA PF 1.093 FRA+ 3.180 rank 5

 

2000/2001 ranking: 8th in the AL (3.710)

Newcomers: Luke Prokopec, Felix Heredia, Tom Wilson (C), Dave Berg
(INF), Eric Hinske (3B)

Playing in a park that slightly favors extra-base hits, the Jays
have put together average defenses in recent years. The main cause for
concern appears to be a lack of range in the outfield. Here is a chart
of extra-base hits allowed per flyball, adjusted for park:

Team Lg XBH PF 2000-01 Adj XBH/FB 2000-01
MIN AL 1.073 .1706
SEA AL 0.916 .1812
TBA AL 1.086 .1872
NYA AL 0.988 .1872
ANA AL 0.963 .1879
CHA AL 0.980 .1904
KCA AL 1.032 .1978
BOS AL 1.052 .1992
OAK AL 0.939 .2022
BAL AL 0.910 .2143
CLE AL 1.001 .2200
TOR AL 1.070 .2213
DET AL 1.002 .2322
TEX AL 1.000 .2380

 

Skydome is one of 4 AL parks that significantly increase extra
base hits (the others being the Metrodome, Tropicana and Fenway). Even
so, the Jays ranked only 12th after park adjustments. The problem is
likely a combination of the lack of range in CF and a weak throwing
arm in LF. As a Jays fan, I hope Vernon Wells gets lots of time in
center, with Jose Cruz moving over to left and Shannon Stewart moving
to DH for at least 50 games.

The Jays pitching staff favored the groundball (see chart in
Yankees comment), led by Roy Halladay in this regard. Last year’s
infield defense was fairly good, but there is some concern that Lopez
and Hinske are not yet good defenders. If Homer Bush stays relatively
healthy and plays 120 games, the infield defense should be at least
adequate.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

 

2000 FRA 3.661 rank 6 FRA PF 0.969 FRA+ 3.779 rank 7
2001 FRA 3.976 rank 12 FRA PF 1.000 FRA+ 3.976 rank 11

 

2000/2001 ranking: 10th in the AL (3.877)

Newcomers: Troy O’Leary (OF), Emil Brown (OF)

The defense seemed to decline form 2000 to 2001, just when a whole
host of youngsters (Hall, Huff, Tyner, Abernathy, Rolls) got a chance
to play regularly for the first time. A young outfielder already
famous for lack of range (Ben Grieve) also joined the team. That said,
I’m optimistic that we will see improvement in the Rays’ defensive
play, as the youngsters continue to hone their skills.

Tropicana favored extra-base hits more than any other park over
the last 2 years, and the Rays’ defense certainly did a good job in
this department (see the chart in the Blue Jays’ section).

New York Yankees

 

2000 FRA 3.787 rank 8 FRA PF 0.992 FRA+ 3.816 rank 8
2001 FRA 3.829 rank 9 FRA PF 0.927 FRA+ 4.133 rank 12

 

2000/2001 ranking: 11th in the AL (3.975)

Newcomers: David Wells, Steve Karsay, Alberto Castillo (C ), Jason
Giambi (1B), John Vander Wal (OF), Robin Ventura (3B), Rondell White
(LF)

The Yankees pitchers induced the fewest groundballs in the AL over
the last two years. Part of that was the high percentage of strikeouts
per batter faced, which lead to a low Ball in Play % (see chart in
Boston comment). It’s not surprising that the Yankees had a low DP
total (2nd lowest ahead of only Boston). Even so, they were below
average in converting DP chances into actual double plays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Lg DP GB FB ratio DP% rank
DET AL 337 4318 3133 1.38 .470 8
OAK AL 315 4305 3041 1.42 .457 11
TOR AL 360 4210 3150 1.34 .530 3
KCA AL 389 4184 3113 1.34 .552 1
ANA AL 324 4097 3336 1.23 .478 7
CLE AL 284 3994 3014 1.33 .426 13
BAL AL 288 3973 3489 1.14 .452 12
TBA AL 313 3968 3383 1.17 .490 6
CHA AL 339 3946 3286 1.20 .521 4
BOS AL 249 3911 2935 1.33 .426 14
TEX AL 329 3828 3534 1.08 .502 5
MIN AL 276 3735 3753 1.00 .467 9
SEA AL 313 3723 3614 1.03 .542 2
NYA AL 264 3685 3306 1.11 .463 10

 

DP% is DP/((0.65*GB*RunnersOnFirst)/BF) - the measure is
intended to estimate the rate of turning DPs as a percentage of
opportunities.

RunnersOnFirst is estimated as:
Hits+W+HBP-XBH-.8*SBAtt.

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

 

 

2000 FRA 4.034 rank 11 FRA PF 0.927 FRA+ 4.349 rank 14
2001 FRA 3.560 rank 8 FRA PF 0.901 FRA+ 3.952 rank 10

 

2000/2001 ranking: 12th in the AL (4.151)

Newcomers: Marty Cordova (OF), Chris Singleton (CF)

The Orioles play in one of three AL parks that significantly lower
FRA (i.e. help the defense). Here is a chart of the average FRA park
factors for the last 2 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Lg FRA PF XBH PF
SEA AL 0.914 0.916
BAL AL 0.914 0.910
OAK AL 0.934 0.939
NYA AL 0.959 0.988
TEX AL 0.968 1.000
CLE AL 0.981 1.001
TBA AL 0.985 1.086
ANA AL 0.995 0.963
CHA AL 1.002 0.980
DET AL 1.031 1.002
TOR AL 1.040 1.070
BOS AL 1.061 1.052
KCA AL 1.102 1.032
MIN AL 1.130 1.073

 

I’ve added the average park factor for extra-base hits (see the
Toronto comment). Note how closely the two figures correlate; the only
exceptions are Tropicana and to some extent Kauffman. This suggests
that a park’s effect on extra base hits is largely responsible for the
FRA park factor.

Baltimore’s defense, though improved in 2001, was below average
across the board. In park adjusted FRA, The O’s ranked 14th and 10th
in 2000 and 2001 respectively, and 12th over the two season
combined. They were 2nd last in the AL, allowing successful steals at
a 76.1% clip. They ranked 10th in adjusted extra-base hits prevented
and 12th in DP opportunities converted.

The main changes going into 2001 were the departures of Albert
Belle, B.J. Surhoff, Will Clark and Charles Johnson, and Deshields’
move from 2b to LF. Hairston replaced Deshields at 2B, Chris Richard
and Melvin Mora saw significant time in the outfield and Fordyce took
over the #1 catcher spot, with Lunar and Gil sharing backup
duties. Segui and Conine took over from Clark and Richard at 1B.

The Orioles are slowly building a decent defense. Hairston is
still young enough to improve and already represents a significant
gain over what Deshields gave them. Chris Singleton should help
solidify the outfield, which might even become a significant strength
in Luis Matos can win a regular job.

Throwing out base-runners

 

I’ve decided to list all the main catchers in one chart, which
should make comparison a little easier. Here are the steal attempts,
caught and percentage when each #1 catcher was in the game (2000 and
2001 combined).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main team starts attempts caught pct others attempts caught pct 20 or more starts
Posada NYA 262 235 71 69.8% 60 84 11 86.9% T.Greene / Turner
Fletcher TOR 217 200 37 81.5% 107 95 33 65.3% A.Castillo
Flaherty TBA 170 181 45 75.1% 153 136 45 66.9% DiFelice / Hall
Varitek BOS 166 207 52 74.9% 157 273 46 83.2% Hatteberg / Mirabelli
Fordyce BAL 137 168 30 82.1% 187 175 52 70.3% C.Johnson / Lunar / Myers

 

Jorge Posada emerged as the best throwing catcher in the division
among starters (both in terms of raw SBA% and the difference between
himself and his teammates). It seems that criticism of Jorge’s
throwing arm is misplaced (I still wonder about the passed balls and
wild pitches).

Of note is the fact that opposing runners attempted a steal less
often against Varitek (1.25 attempts per start versus 1.74) than
against his backups (mostly off Hatteberg: 1.81 attempts per start).

Mike DiFelice and Charles Johnson had success throwing out
baserunners when they were in the division. Alberto Castillo is a good
throwing catcher and should help the Yankees defensively (it’s best
not to mention his bat. Since there is a Tommy John family of
pitchers, I think it’s appropriate to establish a Mike Matheny family
of catchers - Brandon Inge and Alberto Castillo are prime candidates
for membership).

Toby Hall will be taking over the number 1 spot for Tampa Bay, and
his SB% against was a respectable 69.2%.

Looking at the American League as a whole, there doesn’t seem to
be any trend that favors good throwing catchers as 1st stringers or
backups. Half of the 14 teams had main catchers who out-threw their
backups.

 

 

 

Robert Dudek Posted: March 21, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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