Thursday, April 20, 2006

AL Pitching & defense - 4/20

One of the things that's hardest to do in baseball is evaluate defense. Or, more specifically, to separate defensive contribution to run prevention from pitching contribution to run prevention. Most people recognize, at this point, that fielding percentage tells us, other than in a few extreme cases, very little about defensive performance. One of the things that I like to look at is something that I came up with on my own, independent of all of the other people who came up with it on their own. The main goal of defensive players is, put simply, to turn batted balls into outs. What I've got in the following table is one method of looking at that. Basically, you look at pitching stats, and calculate what the opponent batting average is on balls that were put in play. The formula I use is (H-HR) / (PA-HR-SO-BB-HBP). That misses ground-rule doubles, but for the most part, it identifies which teams are turning batted balls into outs, or failing to do so.

We're very early in the season, the sample sizes are ridiculously small, but there has already been a tendency on the part of some Red Sox fans to swoon over Boston's defense, particularly the infield defense provided by Alex Gonzalez. I don't see it, myself - he's been fine but nothing special to my eyes - but if he's really been tremendous, we ought to see some evidence of it. And certainly the Red Sox run prevention has been excellent so far. But is that pitching or is that defense?

AL Defensive Efficiency
Team ERA IP H Rank R ER HR Rank HBP Rank BB Rank SO Rank GO RankBABiPRank

Cleveland Indians4.871331252777217571149990714550.26211

Detroit Tigers4.2133122165621646103969812164130.26842

Los Angeles Angels4.3313113888063221259417961114860.28293

Toronto Blue Jays5.5211912847773241343468855161120.28654

Chicago White Sox4.53131136667661752134385514340.28745

Boston Red Sox3.761341377605613243343938151100.29526

Baltimore Orioles5.614315714958924134369139510182140.29757

Tampa Bay Devil Rays6.02130153119387197812581170114970.30598

Oakland Athletics5.2913113558277143101450101011313430.30719

New York Yankees4.05120127363541113236593812110.311810

Texas Rangers4.85131.671541375711974332284415080.314711

Seattle Mariners4.99140.67150108178197812611211714155110.315712

Kansas City Royals6.7711714199988211143721481312520.323513

Minnesota Twins5.7512215311797820104328173215080.323614

To me, that looks like pitching. The defense has been good, 6th best, so far, in the AL in turning batted balls into outs, but I think that the run prevention has primarily come from the pitching staff. They've allowed very few baserunners other than hits (3rd in both BB and HBP), and while they've only been in the middle-of-the-pack at striking batters out, they've been outstanding at keeping the ball in the park (2nd in HR allowed). The defense has been better than average, but, given that they're only 10th best in the AL at ground outs, it's hard to see how you could realistically attribute much of the run prevention to some stellar infield defense...



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