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Thread: Erardi on defense

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    Erardi on defense

    Of course defense is important

    Junior's exit first step toward upgrade
    By John Erardi jerardi@enquirer.com August 3, 2008

    A lot has been written and said about Ken Griffey Jr. since he was traded to the Chicago White Sox this week.

    But not enough has been written or said about how lackluster his defense was, and how much it contributed to the overall decline of a terrific defense in 1999 to a chronically anemic one through the 2000s.

    Granted, he was hurt a lot of that time and he was only a part of the problem, but he turned gaps into Grand Canyons.

    If the Reds can't improve their defense - and unloading Griffey was a start - they will not make the postseason.

    Introducing the Deficiency Efficiency Ratio (DER). It is one of the most accurate barometers of a team's success.

    It measures a very simple thing: how well your team turns into outs the batted balls that stay in the park.

    A great defensive team turns 72 percent of batted balls into outs (Tampa Bay and Oakland currently lead Major League Baseball with a .720 DER). On the other end of the spectrum, a bad defensive team will turn only 68 percent of batted balls into outs. Guess on which end of the spectrum your Reds rank?

    Poor defense has been a huge problem for the Reds since Griffey's second year here (2001).

    Here is the Reds' DER and the rank among MLB teams defensively for the last decade:

    Year DER MLB rank
    2008 .681 29th
    2007 .682 26th
    2006 .691 21st
    2005 .683 28th
    2004 .696 20th
    2003 .698 21st
    2002 .700 19th
    2001 .695 23rd
    2000 .710 3rd
    1999 .731 1st



    The 2000 Reds were the last Cincinnati team with an above-average defense (and the last with a winning record). The 1999 Reds were the second-best defensive team of the last decade, exceeded only by the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games.

    Based on several advanced defensive stats, the Reds have only two good defensive players: Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto.

    If the Reds are going to contend in 2009, they are going to need several more.

    Edwin Encarnacion is having a fine season at the plate but is the worst defensive third baseman in the majors.

    Good hands and quickness with an erratic arm sounds like a potential first baseman or left fielder. (We favor left field for him; both because it's an easier position than first, and because of the history of third basemen making that transition.) But if the Reds re-sign Adam Dunn, where do they put EdE?

    At shortstop, Jeff Keppinger doesn't have the range necessary to anchor a great defense, but he can play third if Encarnacion gets traded. Part-time shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr. is good in center field but can't stay healthy. Ditto Alex Gonzalez, whose reputation as a great shortstop isn't supported by the numbers.

    Dunn has the opposite problem of Griffey - the Big Donkey looks worse than he is. This year he rates only slightly below average defensively among NL left fielders, a considerable improvement over his bottom-five ranking last year.

    The priorities for the Reds are acquiring 1.) a go-get-'em center fielder, 2.) a better shortstop and 3.) a catcher.

    The Reds can get creative. They have a very good shortstop playing second base. There's no reason why Brandon Phillips wouldn't be a very good shortstop. A good second baseman, Oakland's Mark Ellis, is available via free agency.

    Can improving the defense work? Check out the Tampa Bay Rays this year, a team with an even more futile record this decade than the Reds. Last year, the Rays were 66-96 and had one of the worst DERs ever. What did they do?

    They turned a terrible second baseman (B.J. Upton) into a better center fielder. They traded their good-hit, no-field shortstop (Brendan Harris) and replaced him with an excellent glove (Jason Bartlett).

    They moved their third baseman to second base and made room for a rookie with an excellent glove (Evan Longoria).

    They picked up a fourth outfielder from Milwaukee (Gabe Gross), who is posting excellent defensive stats.

    And while it isn't Volquez-for-Hamilton, they traded a fine young hitter (the defensively challenged Delmon Young) for a fine young pitcher (Matt Garza).

    Last year, the Rays had a DER of .662 and allowed 782 runs (one fewer than the Reds). This year, they have a DER of .720 and are on pace to allow 664 runs, a 118-run improvement. That's 12 wins.

    And consider Milwaukee. Last year, it had a DER of .680. This year? .697. Not as awesome as the Rays, but still above the NL average this year (.693).

    How'd the Brewers do it? They moved Ryan Braun from third base to left field, signed Mike Cameron and moved center fielder Bill Hall to an easier position (third base). With those moves alone, they already have improved their team by 32 runs this season.

    The Reds have several promising arms. Seeing what they could do with a defense behind them would be a treat.

    Sabermetrician Greg Gajus provided most of the information. Also contributing were sabermetricians Justin Inaz and Joel Luckhaupt.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    This is an excellent article on the importance of defense, despite two big problems.

    I disagree on the value of DER, Deficiency Efficiency Ratio, since it's numbers are just as representative of a club's pitching staff as its defense. A bad pitching staff that gives up a lot of line drives will give its club a low DER, while a good pitching staff will have the hitters hitting weak groundballs and flyouts, and thus a high DER.

    I also completely disagree with Erardi's completely unsubstantiated accusation that Jr. "contributed to the overall decline of a terrific defense in 1999 to a chronically anemic one through the 2000s." The Reds had a lot of bad fielders during that time (Dunn, who is better know, but was a butcher for most of his career, Lopez, Aurilia, Casey, Wily Mo, Jimenez...) He calls Griffey's defense "lackluster". That is just bull. These last two years, that is true, but that is only because of injuries and age. from 2000-2006, nobody played defense with more heart than Griffey. To blame Griffey for that and not provide any proof is the ultimate in yellow journalism. I really like Erardi but this was inexcusable.

    However, his points about the Rays and Brewers are right on the money. A team can not compete with a poor defense. The first step to building a championship team is building a rock solid defense. Until the Reds do that, they will stay in the bottom half of the division.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    The one thing I agree with most is the SS position. We either need to move Phillips over is he is capable or find a stud shortstop defensively. And also, I wouldnt consider EE the worst 3b in the league just cause he has the most errors.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    To say that Votto is one of the best fielders on the team is a joke. His play at first base is atrocious. There have been so many games this season where he either failed to field a ground ball or to Pick a throw in the dirt I've lost count. I think he will improve some but I don't think he will ever be a great fielder. His bat is what is making him valuable. I've said all along I would have moved Dunn to first and use Votto as trade bait.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Dunn at first is even worse than Votto.. and to be honest.. When GOnzalez comes back we will have that GG caliber ss 2b combo.. both of whom can hit 25 homers..

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Carolina Red View Post
    To say that Votto is one of the best fielders on the team is a joke. His play at first base is atrocious. There have been so many games this season where he either failed to field a ground ball or to Pick a throw in the dirt I've lost count. I think he will improve some but I don't think he will ever be a great fielder. His bat is what is making him valuable. I've said all along I would have moved Dunn to first and use Votto as trade bait.
    I think the fact that the defensive stats say that Votto is an above average fielder tells all I need to know about how accurate they are. And these are the some ones that say that Dunn is average. I think the best metric for evaluating defense is watching the games with your eyes.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    757 don't do that.. people say you wont know a baseball if it hit you in the head..

    people also fail to realize range factor and zone ratings and such are often inflated for reds outfielders, because their pitchers give up soo many fly balls, and total PO's is a direct correlation to those numbers...

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahhhorsepoo View Post
    Dunn at first is even worse than Votto.. and to be honest.. When GOnzalez comes back we will have that GG caliber ss 2b combo.. both of whom can hit 25 homers..
    Gonzalez's career 162 game average for homers is 15, what makes you think he's suddenly going to hit 25? He hit 23 one year but that seems to be a fluke.

    I think you'd rather find someone else to play short.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Gonzo, had 16 homers in 110 games at GABP.. GABP adds more than 1 homer to guys totals... so you would expect him to have 20-25 homers in a full season where he is not worried about his son all year.. At GABP..

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahhhorsepoo View Post
    Gonzo, had 16 homers in 110 games at GABP.. GABP adds more than 1 homer to guys totals... so you would expect him to have 20-25 homers in a full season where he is not worried about his son all year.. At GABP..
    Again, for his career, he averages 15 homers per season if he plays 162 games. If GABP adds one homer, then that's 16. Where do you get this 25 number (I noticed you backed that down to 20).

    Of course this doesn't addres the fact his other career numbers are abysmal.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by redsbuckeye View Post
    Again, for his career, he averages 15 homers per season if he plays 162 games. If GABP adds one homer, then that's 16. Where do you get this 25 number (I noticed you backed that down to 20).

    Of course this doesn't addres the fact his other career numbers are abysmal.
    The only thing I care about if Gonzo gets back is if he can get back to the defense he provided in Florida. Any offense from him is a bonus.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    The only thing I care about if Gonzo gets back is if he can get back to the defense he provided in Florida. Any offense from him is a bonus.
    He's great defensively, I'll give you that. I would just hope for $4 mil and change that we could get defense and respectable offense. Offense provides a lot more wins than defense does, even considering the importance of D at short.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    I don't think Votto is a very good defender, but it mainly has to do with his problems picking throws in the dirt at 1st. I don't think those defensive metrics test that. As far as fielding ground balls and making throws, I don't think he's been that bad.

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    the other thing is.. at least half of the "Errors" votto has gotten this year.. were really catchable by the covering pitcher.. they just simply dropped the ball..

    i said can hit 25 homers.. not will hit 25 homers.. and i also said add more than 1 homer.. please read thoroughly..

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    Re: Erardi on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahhhorsepoo View Post
    the other thing is.. at least half of the "Errors" votto has gotten this year.. were really catchable by the covering pitcher.. they just simply dropped the ball..

    i said can hit 25 homers.. not will hit 25 homers.. and i also said add more than 1 homer.. please read thoroughly..
    And A-Rod can hit 90 homers, doesn't mean he will but he can.

    And for adding homers, where are you even getting this? Provide some backup statistics that Gonzalez is the type of guy who can increase his home run production by 67% by playing half his games at GABP.

    GABP's HR park factor is 1.159, in other words about 16% more likely, but that's only for the 81 games played there. If Gonzalez's 15 number is true, then he hits 7.5 at home (more or less). That means he'll get the benefit to 8.7 homers at GABP due to park factors. So you were right, it's more than 1, 1.2 in fact.

    Of course 16.2 homeruns sure is a big increase from 15.


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