Friday, February 23, 2007

Outfield Defense

A lot of talk is going on about the outfield defense. You’ve got Manny in left, Coco in Center, and Drew in right. Then the Sox say they’re going to try to get Wily Mo 400 at-bats somehow, which is a nice thought, but how will that happen? Let’s take a look at the outfield defense for a minute.


Zone Rating, defined by ESPN as “The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive "zone," as measured by STATS, Inc.” is a good way to measure defensive prowess, or in this case, struggles. Manny was by far the worst left fielder in the AL last year, with a zone rating of .694. The next worst player was Melky Cabrera at .816. That’s a huge difference. At first I thought that maybe zone rating didn’t take into account the small dimensions of Fenway’s left field, so I looked at the other guys who took Manny’s place while he was “injured.” Wily Mo spent 113 innings in left with a .800 ZR. Much better than Manny. Willie Harris spent 33 innings in left with a .833 ZR. Gabe Kapler spent 63 innings in left with a .857 ZR. I think it’s safe to say that Manny struggles to get to the balls that he should get to.


Coco Crisp’s ZR was .837, which would make him the worst CF in terms of ZR if he had qualified for that title. He was actually better than all of his replacements except for Wily Mo, who spent 194 innings in center and scored a .868 ZR, which would put him in the middle of the pack.


JD Drew was the third-best right fielder in the NL in 2006. Keep in mind that Fenway’s right field is significantly larger than the average left field, but Trot would have actually been the third-best right fielder in the AL last year if he had played enough games to qualify. His ZR has consistently been right around .875 for several years. Drew’s has been over .900. We should see Drew get to more balls than Trot got to.


I reported last year that Coco was one of the best corner OFers in 2005. I think it would make sense to put him in right and move Drew to center, but I’m sure the Sox won’t do that.

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