With all the talk about Edwin Encarnacion's defense it felt like a good time to look into what we might expect from EdE defensively in the future. The commonly-accepted book on Encarnacion is that he will make his fair share of errors, and probably more, but is a range-monster. His supportes would submit that his range more than offsets his miscues. (And boy can EdE rake)
The two questions that were trying to be answered here are as follows:
1)Will Edwin make less errors as his career progresses. 2)Just what kind of range does Edwin have?
To try to glean the answers to EdE's future it was thought best to look to the past. The career fielding percentages and range factors of ten very recent major league third basemen were looked at to look for trends.
I took the first six years of data for each of the following third basemen with regards to fielding percentage and range factor. These third basemen are as follows: Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Aramis Ramirez, Mike Lowell, Vinnie Castilla, Edgardo Alfonzo, Adrian Beltre, Aaron Boone, Joe Randa and Jeff Cirillo. These players were picked at random from about 25 available.
Their fielding percentage and range factor for each of the first six years they played third base regularly was divided by their career fielding percentage and range factor and then multiplied by 100. Playing 120 games at the position was considered to be playing regularly. (Out of the 60 seasons looked at perhaps 3 or 4 dipped slightly under the 120 game boundary)
The ratios for all ten third basemen were then added for each category for each of the first six years and then divided by 10. This was done to see if any group trends emerged. The following chart shows the results:
It is quickly evident that fielding percentage stays constant. Individually, as well as a group this was true. The skill level in fielding the ball stayed at a constant rate. One ray of hope shone through here. Adrian Beltre improved his fielding percentage gradually every year. This would indicate that there is a very good chance that the fielding percent of Edwin is where it will be for the rest of his career. It is not likely to improve much if at all.Code:YearFPct-RatRgF-Rat 1 99 100 2 100 102 3 100 105 4 100 98 5 100 102 6 101 99
Range factor shows a greater deviation, but is still fairly constant. An improvement was shown in many of the players in years 2 and 3 before leveling off. Hopefully EdE will be an exception and improve drastically. But probably not.
What about Edwin being a range monster? For this I looked at the zone rating numbers from ESPN. In 2005 Edwin started about third of the games for Cincinnati. His Zone Rating was a healthy .794. If he had played enough games at this rate to qualify this would have ranked him slightly above average for all regular NL third basemen. In 2006, his first full season, his Zone Rating fell off sharply to .741. This ranked dead last among regular NL third basemen. To date in 2007 his Zone Rating has fallen off the map to .686.
This again ranks dead last among NL third basemen. It seems as if EdE possesses the ability to make rangy plays at the hot corner, but something is keeping him from doing so. I don't feel that something is a lack of ability.
In conclusion the future doesn't look at that bright for Encarnacion down at third. He will likely continue to make more than an average amount of errors. And unless he turns things around considerably, his range must also be questioned. Hopefully he bounces back strong in the latter area.
Several times in discussions about EdE's defense someone has mentioned the name Mike Schmidt. They pointed out that Schmidt made a huge amount of errors early on but improved greatly as his career progressed. I had no idea so I looked up his numbers at baseball-reference.com. If he made a lot of errors it had to be in the minors. Here is a look at the ratios for the first nine years of his career. His fielding percent has been very steady. Like many of the other third basemen looked at his range jumped initially and then evened out.
Code:FPct-R RgF-R Year 100 94 1973 100 111 1974 100 110 1975 101 108 1976 101 112 1977 101 101 1978 100 101 1979 99 105 1980 100 107 1981