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Thread: Will the defense unravel the Reds in 2008???

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Will the defense unravel the Reds in 2008???

    After reading M2's excellent post on the Reds declining defense over the years, I started wondering how much the Reds defense was really holding them back. So, I thought I'd take a quick and dirty look to see how defense impacts performance in the National League.

    It seems like the more light that statistical analysis sheds on the game of baseball, the more the importance of defense is revealed. It has always been difficult to determine where pitching ends and defense begins, but two team defensive statistics, Defensive Efficiency Ratio (DER) and Team +/-, have been developed that effectively quantify the defensive abilities of a team.


    DEFENSE EFFICIENCY RATIO (DER)

    "Defense Efficiency Ratio: The percent of times a batted ball is turned into an out by the teams’ fielders, not including home runs. The exact formula used by the Hardball Times is (BFP-H-K-BB-HBP-Errors)/(BFP-HR-K-BB-HBP). This is similar to BABIP, but from the defensive team's perspective. Please note that errors include only errors on batted balls."


    Here is how the National League teams have performed so far in 2007 and their NL DER rank:

    Team: Team DER (NL DER Rank)
    Arizona: .696 (8)
    Atlanta: .698 (7)
    Chicago: .712 (1)
    Cincinnati: .677 (15)
    Colorado: .699 (6)
    Florida: .669 (16)
    Houston: .683 (12)
    Los Angeles: .686 (11)
    Milwaukee: .681 (13)
    New York: .711 (2)
    Philadelphia: .687 (10)
    Pittsburgh: .681 (14)
    San Diego: .703 (4)
    San Francisco: .701 (5)
    St. Louis: .691 (9)
    Washington: .704 (3)


    TEAM +/-

    Here is how Team +/- is explained by The Hardball Times:

    "Our team "plus/minus" stat is an improvement over DER, because it corrects for the type of batted ball allowed. In other words, it adjusts the thinking behind DER by the number of infield flies, line drives and all other types of batted balls allowed by each pitching staff. I explained the system in more detail when we rolled it out last year.

    In addition to adjusting DER, the "plus/minus" stat expresses each team's fielding performance as the number of plays above and below the expected number of plays an average team would turn. This is a more concrete and useful way of thinking about fielding."


    Team: +/- (NL +/- Rank)
    Arizona: +42 (3)
    Atlanta: +36 (5)
    Chicago: +54 (T1)
    Cincinnati: -31 (11)
    Colorado: -13 (10)
    Florida: -81 (16)
    Houston: -40 (13)
    Los Angeles: -4 (9)
    Milwaukee: -40 (14)
    New York: +54 (T1)
    Philadelphia: -34 (12)
    Pittsburgh: -50 (15)
    San Diego: +40 (4)
    San Francisco: +24 (6)
    St. Louis: -2 (8)
    Washington: +22 (7)


    AVERAGE DEFENSIVE RANKING


    So, if you average out the team ranks for DER and Team +/- to determine the team's overall defensive prowess, then it breaks down like this:

    Chicago Cubs: 1
    New York: 1.5
    San Diego: 4
    Washington: 5
    Arizona: 5.5
    San Francisco: 5.5
    Atlanta: 6
    Colorado: 8
    St. Louis: 8.5
    Los Angeles: 10
    Philadelphia: 11
    Houston: 12.5
    Cincinnati: 13
    Milwaukee: 13.5
    Pittsburgh: 14.5
    Florida: 16

    So, roughly speaking, this is how the NL teams rank defensively from best to worst. The Cubs are the NL's best defensive team and the Marlins are the NL's worst defensive team. To take it one step further, something interesting comes to light if you look at the Winning Percentages of these teams broken down into quartiles.


    WINNING PERCENTAGE BY DEFENSIVE QUARTILE

    1st quartile: Cubs, Mets, Padres, and Nationals.
    2nd quartile: Diamondbacks, Giants, Braves, and Rockies.
    3rd quartile: Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, and Astros.
    4th quartile: Reds, Brewers, Pirates, and Marlins.

    Here's how these quartiles stack up when broken out by 2007 winning percentage.

    W% of 1st Quartile: .517
    W% of 2nd Quartile: .506
    W% of 3rd Quartile: .500
    W% of 4th Quartile: .458


    Generally speaking, the better the defense, the better the W/L record. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions, but the more statistical analysis reveals about defense, the more important it seems to be.

    I don't think it's any coincidence that the A's switched over from a lineup of ice-wagon homerun hitters to one of the best defensive teams in MLB on an annual basis. The A's likely found an inefficiency in the market and realized the importance of a good defensive team. I'm not sure Mark Ellis gets the respect he deserves for the impact he makes with the glove.

    QUESTIONS ABOUT THE REDS

    The general sentiment is that the Reds need more pitching. I tend to agree, but how much better would our existing pitchers be with an improved defense playing behind them? How much do our defensive deficiencies offset our offensive advantages and drag down our pitching staff? Can the Reds continue to carry two leftfielders (Griffey & Dunn) in the same outfield?

    The Reds, more than most teams, continue to try to build their team around players who are substandard in the field. At this point, I wonder if the Reds can ever really build a successful organization on a shaky defensive foundation. It seems like until the Reds solidify the defense, any efforts to build a team on it will only result in collapse.

    If the Reds want to have a better season in 2008, then the first priority has to be improving the defense. That would have the biggest impact of anything that could be done for 2008. However, unless they rework the roster, I'm not sure where we can realistically expect to see such improvement. In fact, it could get worse, as Hatteberg is likely our only well above average defensive player and I've heard scary things about Votto's defense.

    Sadly, it's difficult to envision the Reds as a consistently successful organization until they improve the overall defense. Until they do, they will continue to play out each season with a handicap that they are unlikely to overcome.

    Just my $.02.
    Last edited by 11BarryLarkin11; 09-03-2007 at 01:06 PM.

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    Member Spitball's Avatar
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    Re: Will the defense unravel the Reds in 2008???

    Nice post, 11BL11. The Reds' highest paid players are also their worst defenders. They are also their most difficult to unload for various reasons. Sometimes those problems take time to fix.

    I look the Brewers, the Astos, and Carlos Lee. Even with Lee having a great year, why do teams so often play better without high priced corner outfielders??? I believe it is because they sap so much from the pitching/depth budget. IMHO, corner outfielders and second basemen shouldn't strap your budget. They are just too easily replaced with affordable options.
    "I am your child from the future. I'm sorry I didn't tell you this earlier." - Dylan Easton

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    Lark11 11BarryLarkin11's Avatar
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    Re: Will the defense unravel the Reds in 2008???

    Quote Originally Posted by Spitball View Post
    Nice post, 11BL11. The Reds' highest paid players are also their worst defenders. They are also their most difficult to unload for various reasons. Sometimes those problems take time to fix.

    I look the Brewers, the Astos, and Carlos Lee. Even with Lee having a great year, why do teams so often play better without high priced corner outfielders??? I believe it is because they sap so much from the pitching/depth budget. IMHO, corner outfielders and second basemen shouldn't strap your budget. They are just too easily replaced with affordable options.
    Thanks, spitball.

    The Reds have built their team around defensively deficient players and that strategy comes at a fairly high cost. Even though I haven't been a huge proponent of all of their recent draft picks, I am encouraged to see the Reds focus on drafting impact talent at premier defensive positions (Mesoraco, Stubbs, etc). Clearly, adding Jay Bruce to a future outfield that also includes Josh Hamilton is a big step in the right direction.

    You're right, it's unfortunate that the Reds cannot easily unload either Dunn or Griffey. They seem to have few viable options for moving either and the options they do have are unlikely to bring in fair value in return.

    As for Carlos Lee and the Astros, I think one of the biggest problems is that Lee knocked the best defensive player in baseball out for the season. So, his defense cost them more than they could possibly have imagined. I doubt that's the kind of return on investment the Astros were hoping to get from Carlos. I'm not sure Everett's impact on defense can be overstated. Of course, the Astros weren't aided by the decision of ownership to cut back on payroll, either.

    As for the Reds, I'm not sure how they can easily fix it. However, I think they do need to make improvements on defense. It's hard to imagine them being consistently successful with Dunn in left and Griffey in right in 2008.
    Last edited by 11BarryLarkin11; 09-05-2007 at 02:46 AM.


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