Loading... Please wait...

MLB's Most Improved Defenders

Posted by

Between social media and our website we lauded the Blue Jays outfield frequently in 2023 because they were so good defensively. But there was another big reason besides the outfield as to why the team led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved this past season. The Blue Jays had MLB’s most improved defensive player by that stat.

Shortstop Bo Bichette went from -16 Runs Saved in 2022 to 5 Runs Saved in 2023. The 21-run improvement was the largest for anyone who played at least 500 total MLB innings in each of the last 2 seasons.

Biggest Improvement in Defensive Runs Saved – 2022 to 2023

Minimum 500 innings played in each season

Player DRS Improvement
Bo Bichette 21
Nicky Lopez 20
Andrew Vaughn 17
Bobby Witt Jr. 16
Wander Franco 16
Thairo Estrada 14
Alex Verdugo 14
Yandy Díaz 14

Bo Bichette

Bichette’s improvement was most prominent specific to one aspect of his game – making plays on balls hit to the left of where he was initially positioned.

Bo Bichette On Balls Hit To His Left
Season Plays Made/Opportunities Out Rate (Plays Saved)
2022 137/304 45% (-15)
2023 129/219 59% (10)

>> Opportunities = plays with a >0% out rate for the shortstop.

To explain this chart:

In 2022, Bichette made 137 plays on 304 balls that had a >0% out rate for the shortstop (that's how we define an "opportunity"). According to our calculations, he made 15 fewer plays than an average shortstop would have on those balls (hence the -15 in the 3rd column of the chart).

In 2023, he made 129 plays out of 219 opportunities. According to our calculations, he was 10 plays better than the average shortstop.

You can see the difference in the out rates. Bichette went from a 45% out rate on balls hit to his left to 59%.

Bichette’s throwing improvements may have played a role here. He went from 18 throwing errors and misplays (misplays being plays that weren’t scored errors but could have been) in 2022 to 7 in 2023.

For more on Bichette, check out this Twitter thread from SportsNet Blue Jays producer Chris Black.

Nicky Lopez

Lopez, a utility player traded from the Braves to the White Sox this offseason, had been known as a good glove in the past but had a drop-off in 2022, particularly at second base, where he accrued -8 Runs Saved. He totaled 4 runs there in 2023 and fared better on balls hit to his right than he ever had before. Lopez also went from 1 Run Saved at third base to 5 Runs Saved there in a comparable though limited number of innings.

Andrew Vaughn

Vaughn’s improvement is the result of both a position switch (from corner outfield to first base) and improvement at his new full-time position. Vaughn totaled -17 Runs Saved in 2022, with -14 of those coming from his combined total in left field and right field. At first base in 2023, Vaughn rated MLB average, with 0 Runs Saved.

Vaughn handed first base better than he did in the roughly 300 innings he played there in 2021 and 2022 when he amassed a combined -5 Runs Saved.

Sign up to our newsletter

Recent Updates