|New Dodger arrival, Tony Gwynn Jr.|
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Outfield Defensive Concerns Before Spring Training Even Starts
As all players prepare to report for the first full day of workouts at Camelback Ranch, I note two glaring defensive statistics that stick out when looking at the Dodger outfield.
The ultimate zone ratings (UZR) for two positions
Centerfield - Matt Kemp UZR -24.0
Rightfield - Andre Ethier UZR -15.4
Both those numbers were the worst in the league. Combine Ethier/Kemp with Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers had the most porous outfield in the Major League Baseball in 2010.
The Dodgers could potentially shore up their defense with Gwynn in Center, Kemp in right and Eithier in left, but Mattingly has already stated the Kemp and Ethier will stay put, even if Gwynn makes the starting lineup. That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.
I think that there isn’t much being said about this problem because very few have a clear understanding of UZR. It is a statistic that determines a players value with regard to field coverage and balls that they make plays on. Having a UZR of 0.00 is the absolute average defender. A UZR in positive territory is above average and a UZR in the negative is below average.
A UZR of -24 for a centerfielder is horrid. The next to lowest UZR for that position last year was -14. Sabermetricians estimate that Kemp gave up in excess of 40 runs last season due to his inability to make plays on balls that the average centerfielder would have.
We aren’t talking about a small sample size either. This is for the course of the entire season. Considering that Kemp had a positive UZR of nearly +4.00 in his gold glove winning 2009 season, it is startling to see the deterioration in his defense.
Now here’s another startling statistic. A centerfield UZR/150 of +34. That was Tony Gwynn Jr’s UZR rating last season based on projections over 150 games. Having Gwynn in center over the course of a season (and not Kemp) could save the Dodgers in the neighborhood of 50 runs. So here are the questions I pose: is Kemp’s offensive contribution more valuable that what Gwynn’s defensive contributions will be? If Mattingly keeps Kemp in center, will he be able to compensate offensively for what he gives up defensively.
I see the solution as a simple one. Put Gwynn in Center, Kemp in right and Eithier in left. A platoon of Gibbons and Thames in left with the other two defensive liabilities will make for much folly in the Dodger outfield this year. (Thames lifetime UZR is -16.1 and Gibbons is at -4.0).
Don Mattingly is worried about addressing the team tomorrow morning. Yahoo sports discusses his concerns in this link:
The camp he has conducted so far I see as positive. I don;t think he has too much to worry about. He has the respect of the club.