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John Dewan's Stat of the Week - Oakland Athletics

The Defensive Excellence of Matt Chapman & Matt Olson

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With two big trades, the Athletics dismantled one of the great corner infield combinations in recent MLB history.

The trades of Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays and Matt Olson to the Braves should have prominent effects on their new teams.

After all, they are getting the standard-setters at their respective positions.

Chapman’s 78 Runs Saved are the most at third base since his debut season, 2017. He led the position in Runs Saved in 2018 and 2019 and won the Fielding Bible Award for defensive excellence there in both those seasons.

A hip injury and subsequent surgery slowed Chapman down in the shortened 2020 season, as he finished with 2 Runs Saved. But he rebounded to total 10 in 2021, tied for fourth-most there. Ke’Bryan Hayes led the majors with 16 Runs Saved at third base last season and won the Fielding Bible Award. Chapman finished second in Fielding Bible voting and won the AL Gold Glove.

“Everybody I’ve talked to says that the first year back off this kind of hip surgery is a bit of a grind, where you’re still trying to learn how to use your body the right way again,” Chapman said last season in an appearance on the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast. “I’ve got a good feeling that after [2021], I’m going to be fresh and ready to go in upcoming years.”

Chapman should be a considerable upgrade for the Blue Jays, who haven’t finished a season with positive defensive value at third base since the 2016 season. Last season, Toronto played one third baseman with standout defensive numbers, Santiago Espinal (8 Runs Saved in 81 games), but that was offset by the six other players who played the position, who combined to cost the team 8 runs with their defense.

Most Defensive Runs Saved By 3B – Since 2017

Player DRS
Matt Chapman 78
Nolan Arenado 71
Manny Machado 28
Ryan McMahon 23
Ke’Bryan Hayes 20

Olson, like Chapman, has the most Defensive Runs Saved at his position since 2017. Olson's 34 edge out Joey Votto, who has 32.

Braves fans loved everything about their former first baseman Freddie Freeman, but by Runs Saved, there is no comparison between the old and new first basemen. Olson has Freeman by a 34-11 margin over the last five seasons.

Olson has won three Fielding Bible Awards. He finished second in the voting in 2021 to Paul Goldschmidt.

Olson had an odd defensive start to last season. In fact, he and Chapman were both negative (Olson -5, Chapman -2) in Defensive Runs Saved in mid-May. Both looked a lot like their old selves the rest of the way. Olson finished the season with 6 Runs Saved.

Olson also appeared on our company podcast prior to the 2020 season and talked about the idea of getting on a roll on defense.

“Being in that zone is much more based off preparation and focus,” Olson said, comparing fielding to hitting. “There’s a lot more factors in being at the plate and getting hot. If you’re prepared for every pitch, paying attention to who’s hitting, who’s pitching, tendencies, you can put yourself in a way-better position to succeed out there. When you’re prepared like that and the ball is hit your way, there’s never any sort of panic. I just react.”

Most Defensive Runs Saved By 1B – Since 2017

Player DRS
Matt Olson 34
Joey Votto 32
Paul Goldschmidt 29
Brandon Belt 23
Anthony Rizzo 21

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