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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Stat of the Week: Who are the best defensive free agents?

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Baseball moves quickly these days. Free agency is already upon us, with some highly-coveted names in this year’s market. But who are the free agents who will be most coveted for their defense?

Thirty-year-old second baseman DJ LeMahieu won his third career Gold Glove (he finished a close second to Kolten Wong in the Fielding Bible Awards after winning that honor in 2017). LeMahieu’s offense is somewhat enhanced by his playing in Coors Field, where he’s a .329 career hitter. But his defense is not aided by his home ballpark. It is good wherever he plays.

LeMahieu’s 18 Defensive Runs Saved trailed only Wong’s 19 at second base this season. His 26 DRS over the last two seasons are easily the most at the position. LeMahieu’s best attribute is his consistency. He’s finished with a positive Runs Saved total at second base in each of the last eight seasons.

His range and positioning rating has consistently been above average, with 2018 being his best season at covering the first base-second base hole. His biggest statistical weakness used to be double-play conversion, but he’s made that a strength, converting a career-high 72 percent of opportunities this season. And he rarely makes a mistake. His 1.1 Defensive Misplays & Errors per 100 innings rated best at the position in 2018.

LeMahieu grew up near Detroit, and he’d be a good fit for the Tigers, who could move utility man Niko Goodrum to another position to accommodate LeMahieu. The Tigers finished league-average in DRS at second base this season.

LeMahieu was one of two free agent second basemen who saved at least 10 runs last season. The other is Ian Kinsler, who won a Gold Glove and a World Series ring in 2018. Don’t let that error from Game 3 of the World Series make you think Kinsler’s lost his touch. He saved 10 runs for the Angels and Red Sox last season. Kinsler’s range is down a little from his best days, but that’s expected given that he’s 36 years old. It was still pretty good last season. His double-play conversion rate was the second highest of his career. Kinsler may not have much left with the bat, but his glove stands out. He has a 10-year streak of positive Runs Saved totals.

Catcher Jeff Mathis won a Fielding Bible Award for outstanding work behind the plate, despite playing only a little more than 500 innings. He saved 17 runs with his defense last season, the most of any catcher. Mathis will be 36 next season and his offensive contributions are minimal. In fact, his .564 OPS is the lowest among active players with at least 2,000 plate appearances … by 67 points.

However, the value of his glove can make up for that deficiency. Mathis has a great history as a pitch-framer and led the majors in blocking rate of potential wild pitches. He’s a fit for a team looking for a part-timer to help a young catcher, or with a contending team that has good hitters and can afford to carry his bat. The teams that fared worst in DRS for catchers last season were the Mets, Phillies and Reds in the National League, and the White Sox, Rangers and Athletics in the American League.

2018 Fielding Bible Award Winners

The 2018 Fielding Bible Awards have officially been announced, with 10 winners being recognized for defensive excellence during the regular season. That includes one winner at each position, as well as a multi-position honoree. Half of the winners are first-timers, including three infielders—Matt Olson (Athletics, 1B), Kolten Wong (Cardinals, 2B), Matt Chapman(Athletics, 3B) — along with [...]

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Stat of the Week: Fielding Bible Awards Preview (Part II)

This is the second of a two-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced next week. Part I can be found here.The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of 12 experts, who can vote based on visual observations and subjective judgement, as well as statistical [...]

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Stat of the Week: Fielding Bible Awards Preview (Part I)

For the next two weeks, this space will feature a multi-part series on the top candidates for The Fielding Bible Awards, which will be announced the week of October 29.The Fielding Bible Awards are voted on by a panel of 12 experts, who can vote based on visual observation and subjective judgement, as well statistical [...]

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Stat of the Week: 2018 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders

By Mark SimonWith the 2018 regular season concluded, let’s look at the leaders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman finished as the overall leader with [...]

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Minor League Defensive Runs Saved End-of-Season Roundup

When a promising position player gets called up from the minors, you almost never hear about his defensive prospects unless they are extreme in one direction or the other. At Baseball Info Solutions, we use Minor League Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) as a tool to expand fans' knowledge of the defensive side of the [...]

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Stat of the Week: Tommy John Surgery in Major League Baseball

This month, two of baseball’s promising young pitchers—Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Michael Kopech of the White Sox—learned that they will likely need Tommy John surgery due to torn ulnar collateral ligaments in their throwing arms. While Ohtani remains in the Angels’ lineup as a hitter, Kopech’s debut season is over after fewer than 15 innings.In the 2018 Bill [...]

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Stat of the Week: Who was August's top defensive player?

In a crowded group of highly-talented center fielders, it has been tough for Adam Engel to stand out from the rest. But in August he did. He’s our selection as the MLB Defensive Player of the Month.Engel finished the month with eight Defensive Runs Saved, the most by any outfielder. Half of that total was [...]

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Stat of the Week: Shifting is at an all-time high

Something monumental happened in baseball this past weekend—and it wasn’t the Orioles being given a nationally televised game. By the end of play on Sunday, teams had shifted on balls in play 28,249 times, surpassing the previous record of 28,130 set in 2016. They are now on pace to shift just under 35,000 times this season, [...]

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Stat of the Week: Catcher-Framing and Winning In Sync

By MARK SIMON Notice a pattern in the team leaderboard for Strike Zone Runs Saved this season? [...]

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