Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Defending the Orioles

   The Orioles had one of the lower-tier defenses in 2011.  Some of this is due to poor fielders around the diamond. However, one could argue that the club also had too many shifting pieces at positions such as left field and second base. One could also argue that Mark Reynolds existed at third base.

They ranked 21st in errors with 110 (tied with the  Jays and Indians).
69 of those 110 were fielding errors, which ranked dead last in the league. They had 40 throwing errors, which surprisingly ranked 9th. I am not quite sure where the missing error went (69+40=109...).

We can get a better idea at how the Orioles fared defensively by looking at some advanced statistics as well:

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As you can see, the Orioles had some positives, and a ton of negatives.

   -It really is not too much of a surprise that the Orioles ARM (Outfield Arm Runs) ranking is so good. They have strong arms in players such as Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Markakis had a 1.8 ARM ranking last season, while Jones had a 5.4 ARM ranking. They also tend to place high in assists each year in the league. Jones ranked third with 16 assists, while Markakis ranked fifth with 14 assists.

   -DPR (Double-Play Runs) might be a little more surprising, but JJ Hardy and Robert Andino are two above-average fielders in my eyes. Hardy had a 1.5 DPR in 2011, while Andino had a 2 DPR.

   -Once we get down to RngR, you start to see where the Orioles go wrong. The advanced ratings really do not favor the Orioles defensively when it comes to range. Mark Reynolds was dead last in RngR with -15.2. Following close behind him was Adam Jones at -13.2, and Felix Pie at -13.3. Even Nick Markakis is not favored in these ratings, as he owns a RNgR of -8.6. Only three players with significant time had + RngR ratings; Nolan Reimold at 0.7, JJ Hardy at 1.3, and Derrek Lee at 4.8.

   -UZR and UZR/150 tell the same story. While the Orioles outfield defense seems better on the field, it is rated poorly. Felix Pie had a UZR of -13.4, Adam Jones -8.7, Nick Markakis -5.0, and Nolan Reimold 1.4. Obviously those are terrible, but I do have to point out the age-old myth of Camden Yards hurting a players' advanced defensive metrics. I took a look at that here. On the infield, players such as JJ Hardy, Derrek Lee, and Robert Andino did wonders for the defense. Hardy had a 10.7 UZR, Lee 3.4, and Andino 0.4. Andino was not excellent, but he was probably better than what Brian Roberts would have been defensively. It really came down to Mark Reynolds at third. His -22.8 UZR was near worst in the league. He also had a -5.3 UZR at first in his time there.

   -Also, everyone at this point knows that Matt Wieters is one of the top defensive catchers in baseball. I am not going to go in-depth with him, but he clearly helps out the defensive perspective of the team.

   After looking at the above statistics, you can see where the Orioles struggled defensively in 2011. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it really does have a lot to do with one player. That player is Mark Reynolds. But it is important to remember that he was not the only player that was viewed as a negative defensive player. Even the usual top defender Nick Markakis had a terrible year defensively. So with the above mentioned in mind, how can the Orioles get better defensively for 2012? Clearly they need to cut back on fielding errors. Here is my projected defensive team:

C: Matt Wieters
1st: Chris Davis
2nd: Robert Andino
SS: JJ Hardy
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Endy Chavez/Nolan Reimold
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis

   At this point, I see no reason to believe that the Orioles' defense improves in any significant aspect besides LF. It is certainly possibly that Mark Reynolds comes into this year with better discipline and footwork at third. It is also possible that Nick Markakis has a bounce-back season in right field. But overall, I see no reason to be overly optimistic about the defense going into 2012.

   It is bothersome to watch this team struggle defensively though, when teams such as the Rays and Royals have an excellent defensive club behind their young pitching. Meanwhile, the Orioles rank near the bottom of the league. The Orioles' young pitching staff is going to need all the help they can get in 2012, so hopefully the defense plays much better.

*credit to fangraphs as usual*

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