Yesterday the crew over at MLB Advanced Media unveiled a new set of stats for infielders at MLB.com. We’ve had Outs Above-Average for outfielders for a while now. But almost all defensive metrics for infielders were missing. They’ve been a bit of a work-in-progress for some time, with the team at MLBAM trying to figure out how to best go about using the information they had. The data goes back to 2017 and can be viewed by season.

Three seasons is about the baseline that is suggested for the amount of time you need to use to get a decent feel for how a player is defensively – at least with past defensive metrics. The sample size simply hasn’t been viewed as large enough otherwise.

With a brand new stat, we don’t really know much about it. We don’t know how accurate to treat it, or how large/small of a sample size is needed to say the data is reliable. I’ve long been a skeptic of the publicly available defensive metrics being as accurate as some people tend to believe that they are. I’ll die on the hill that in no way should defensive values being used in WAR calculations because we know for a fact that offensive values are far more correlated to run production than defensive values are to run prevention. But that’s another story for another day.

With all of that said here’s a quick break down of what the metric is measuring:

  • How far the fielder has to go to reach the ball (“the intercept point”).
  • How much time he has to get there.
  • How far he then is from the base the runner is heading to.
  • On force plays, how fast the batter is, on average.

Mike Petriello discusses and explains some of the things going on, and provides examples (with video and charts) of how things are being measured and calculated. Feel free to give it a look if it’s something that sounds interesting. For my money, which isn’t much, this system *sounds better* than any other defensive metric at first glance.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way – let’s take a look at how the 2020 Cincinnati Reds infielders stack up:

The Current Cincinnati Reds

Joey Votto – First Base

The data at first base is going to be a little bit different from the other positions. The reason being that at first base you can also make a difference in fielding throws from the other infielders and that is not at all a part of the Outs Above Average number put forth here. This is only a measure of range and turning balls you field into outs.

When it comes to Joey Votto, he’s been about league average over the last two years, and slightly better than league average over the last three years. In both 2018 and 2019 he rated out as +1 OAA. During the 2017 season he rated out as +3, giving him a +5 mark over the last three seasons.

Mike Moustakas – Second Base

This is a bit of a tougher one to reliable use because Mike Moustakas has spend an overwhelming majority of his playing time at third base in the last three seasons. In 2019, at third base, he rated out as perfectly average, getting a 0 rating. In 2018 he rated out as a +1 defender at third. Back in 2017 that number was below-average, coming in at -4.

With the Reds, though, it’s not likely that Mike Moustakas will be playing much time at third base. That’s where Eugenio Suarez plays, and the Reds have openly stated that Moustakas is their second baseman. In 2019 he played in 47 games there, playing in 359.2 innings. He only made one error, posting a .993 fielding percentage. The data in the sample size at second base gave him a +2 rating.

Freddy Galvis – Shortstop

While Freddy Galvis didn’t spend much time at shortstop after arriving in Cincinnati last August – he only played in seven games there and only four of those were starts. But in 2017, 2018 and before arriving in Cincinnati in 2019 with Toronto he played in 373 games at shortstop. During the 2017 season with Philadelphia he graded out at +6. The next season in San Diego that number was even better at +12. This past season at shortstop he was also at +12.

Among the shortstops across baseball in the last three seasons not many rate out better than the +30 that Galvis has. Nick Ahmed leads the way at the position with an absurd +51. Andrelton Simmons has a +43 rating over the last three seasons. Francisco Lindor comes in at +31. That’s it.

Eugenio Suarez – Third Base

After grading out as a below-average shortstop early in his career, Eugenio Saurez made the move to third base where he’s been considered an above-average defender by the older defensive metrics. When it comes to Outs Above Average he’s graded out that way, too.

In the 2017 season he rated out as a +4 defender. That was followed up with a +6 mark in the 2018 campaign. Last season was his worst among the three, but he still graded out slightly better than average at +1 on the year.

The Former Cincinnati Reds

Jose Iglesias – Shortstop

In 2019 the Reds got to watch Jose Iglesias do some impressive things, almost weekly making a highlight reel caliber play at the shortstop position. The numbers back up just how good he was, too – he rated out at +12 Outs Above Average during the season. That’s the same as Freddy Galvis – but the two got there quite differently. Iglesias was very good going towards the second base bag, but merely average going towards third. He was solid going back and coming in. Galvis, on the flip side was solid in all directions, but very good coming in on the ball.

In 2018 Jose Iglesias graded out at +2. And back in 2017 that number was 0. Overall in the last three seasons he’s been above-average overall – but it was the 2019 season that differed from the other two.

Jose Peraza – Shortstop/Second Base

In 2019 when Scooter Gennett went down late in the spring with an injury, the Reds made the decision to slide Jose Peraza to second base and have Jose Iglesias slide into the starting shortstop position. He graded out as a +2 defender on the season in the infield. In 2018 he was even better, with most of his time coming at shortstop, he graded out as +5 overall. During his first full season with the Reds in 2017 he was slightly below-average, -1 overall. That came with a +3 mark at second base, but a -4 at shortstop.

Scooter Gennett – Second Base

For most of the last three seasons Scooter Gennett played at second base for the Reds. In each season he was listed as a below-average fielder. In 2017 he was a -4 fielder. The next season he graded out at -5. Last season, in much less playing time due to the injury, he was a -3 defender between his time in Cincinnati at San Francisco.

Zack Cozart – Shortstop

In the first year that we have data from with this new stat, Zack Cozart was the Cincinnati Reds shortstop. Outs Above Average graded him out as a -3 defender. That’s in contrast to the +6.4 he graded out in UZR/150 that same season. The next season he was in Anaheim and played a little bit of everywhere around the infield for the Angels. Overall he graded out as a -8 fielder according to Outs Above Average – and that came while only playing in 58 games. In the 2019 season he spent most of his time at third base, but injuries kept him off of the field most of the season. Cozart was +2 at third base, but -1 at shortstop.

24 Responses

  1. Tom

    I take this to read we have a slightly above average defensive infield with an elite defender at short stop. I think in the cumulative ratings, the Reds ranked 8th in OAA as an infield in 2019.

  2. CFD3000

    This just doesn’t move the needle much for me. If a fielder is +2 or -3 over a year, that’s got to be swamped by variations in offense. Add in the questions of sample size and all the variables used to assess each play and the data set as a whole, and I’d be worried about missing the forest for the trees. If a fielder is +12 for a season, that saves you one out every two weeks, and that’s significant. Conversely, -12 costs you an out every two weeks. As long as a player is somewhere between about -6 and +6 per year, I’m ignoring the defensive data and looking hard at the offensive side. But that’s just me.

    • Tom

      What it could be saying is that great defense isn’t really that much more important than average defense and that below average defense, up to a point, isn’t necessarily that damaging.

      • Tom

        Unless the position is catcher, short stop, or center field, I think we probably look at offensive WAR and other offensive metrics first and then check the OAA and defensive metrics to ensure the player isn’t horrible in the field.

        And, I agree with Doug – remove defense from WAR and it simply mucks up the evaluation.

      • greenmtred

        I’m sceptical of the scepticism about the value of good defense. We don’t question the importance of pitching, and before you talk about all of the strikeouts, check what percentage of outs are strikeouts. This is not the same as saying that a team needs to be loaded with elite defenders, and it’s not to say that great fielding overcomes poor hitting, but a run saved counts exactly as much as a run earned in a game’s outcome.

  3. Stock

    If Shogo is an everyday player as the Reds must be hoping I think they are better off with the following alignment:

    2B: Senzel
    LF: Winker
    CF: Shogo
    RF: Moustakas

    Senzel would be a much better defender at 2B and I think Moustakas has the arm for RF. Plus it means less wall contact with Senzel which is a good thing.

    • Big Ed

      Williams has indicated that Senzel still projects as the regular center fielder. Moustakas is likely a bit slow for RF. (Aquino actually has the tools to be an elite RF.
      He has excellent arm strength but faulty accuracy, but I think cleaning up his footwork would eliminate a lot of that.

      I think the plan is to give Winker, Shogo, Aquino and Senzel about 500 PAs each as outfielders/DHs. Two lefties and two righties, so they should be able to keep all of them rested and ready. They have 10 games at American League parks, 8 of which are before May 21. Maybe one of them will break out and earn almost full-time status.

      I think “load management” can sometimes be silly, but I also teams are starting to see the benefits of giving players a few more days off than baseball has traditionally given its regulars. Votto ought to play about 130 games, in my opinion, to maximize his contribution. He has trouble against power pitchers, particularly lefties, so they ought to be able to pick their spots on resting him. When Votto rests, they could (for example) move Moustakas or Winker to first.

      Senzel will need some regular time off, too, and they can rest Winker and Shogo against some lefties.

      • Tom

        We’ve always asked in baseball, “who’s the better player?” Rarely, though, have we asked “who’s the better player in a given situation and why?” We have the data now to know. Who’s better, Winker or Ervin? Well, that really depends on who’s pitching and the criticality of the moment in defense. I like the platooning proms and play/rest ratios for the outfield. I think this is much better than bringing in Ozuna to try and play every day.

        Maybe there is still a trade to be made for a SS and I’ve outlined who I think would make the most sense. But, otherwise, I think this team is a relief staff away from being quite good.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    Very interesting article. I agree with the other posters that the difference between average and above average is insignificant relative to the value a player can give you on the offensive side. This data would’ve been handy years ago when the debate about Drew Stubbs and Billy Hamilton was going on. This reinforces my belief that an average-ish Senzel defensively at SS would be a net benefit for the Reds as his bat should greatly outperform Galvis or any other player not named Lindor/Seagar/Story.

  5. Sliotar

    Using the past 3 years, as the article does ….

    World Series winning Double Play (2B/SS) combinations

    2017 – Altuve/Correa
    2018 – Holt/Bogaerts
    2019 – Cabrera/Turner

    2020 – Moustakas/Galvis (???)

    IMO, feels like a Reds WS win would be in spite of having those 2 over age 30s at 2B/SS.

    Having all 4 infielders in 2021 be age 30 or over (if Galvis returned) … Yikes.

    Let the upgrading continue …. please.

  6. RedsFan11

    Report Reds are interested in Seager. Had a nice bounce back year after tommy john in 2018. He could be a real value trade, wouldnt take nearly as much as Lindor

    • Hotto4Votto

      If Lindor is going to stay an Indian, then Seager is my next favorite trade target. Seems like the Dodgers may want to move him to make room for Lux. Hoping they can make something happen!

  7. Hotto4Votto

    Agree with everyone who’s saying we still got to add. The moves to this point have been positive, but there was a lot of work to be done. I can’t imagine trying to compete for a division title and having Galvis as your starting SS being compatible in any way.

  8. MBS

    Assuming no more trades or FA’s I was wondering how if everyone was healthy and performing up to hopes, how many games could the Big 7 get, while not being too creative.

    LF Winker 139 Games / Shogo 23 Games
    CF Senzel 70 Games / Shogo 92 Games
    RF Aquino 139 Games / Shogo 23 Games
    3B Suarez 139 Games / Moustakes 23 Games
    2B Moustakes 93 Games / Senzel 69 Games
    1B Votto 139 Games / Moustakes 23 Games

    • Big Ed

      That may well be what they generally have in mind, but they do also have 10 DH games to play this year. And who knows how injuries will play out. I think Senzel will get more OF time and Winker will play some 1B and be the DH against RHP.

      They have to give Blandino, Farmer and Ervin enough starting ABs to stay current, too. I

      • MBS

        I agree with you on the bench getting starts as well, Farmer, Casali, and Ervin. I don’t expect everyone to stay healthy unfortunately. So that will open up playing time for some of those guys.

        I could see Barnhart and Casali splitting time pretty evenly, and Farmer picking up a few starts behind the plate to keep his skill fresh.

        I was listing to Dick Williams on the Reds Hot Stove, and he said if they didn’t think Shogo could play all 3 spots, that he wouldn’t have made as much sense for the Reds. That’s why I had him splitting time across the OF.

        Senzel is experienced at 3 spots, but it might be too much to ask him to be a pure utility guy, so I thought if he split time between CF and 2B that would be comfortable for him.

        Moustakes like Senzel is experienced at 3 spots. He’s a bit older and more mature, so I think him splitting time between 3 spots, is very doable with him.

        I didn’t think about Winker at 1B, it’s a good though. It would allow Moustakes to focus on two spots. Winker would learn the skills needed to transition to 1B when Votto hangs it up.

  9. CI3J

    The Reds need Seager or Lindor to compete. It’s simple as that. Whichever they can land, make it happen. If they trade an OF to make it happen, sign Puig. Then anything left, shore up the bullpen, and let’s get ready to roll in 2020.

    Some are already projecting the Reds to win 90+ games. If they get Seager or Lindor, they would have to be considered favorites to win the Central going away, and possibly even the pennant.

    Make it happen, Reds.

  10. Big Ed

    Baseball Reference has the #1 comp player for Galvis to be Zach Cozart, which is kinda funny. Cozart had the same low-walk rate through age 29, but nearly as high a strikeout rate.

    Galvis has two other Cincinnati guys in his top 10 — Kurt Stillwell and Don Zimmer.

  11. Scott C

    I think everybody knows that Galvis is a plus defender at Short. Maybe they didn’t but these numbers bear that out. The issuee with Galvis is that he is a below average bat. I saw yesterday that the Indians say they are going with Lindor in 2020. If true that is one more upgrade off the table.

  12. Bdh

    You can do a lot worse than Galvis at shortstop. He’s durable, plays good defense, and If he repeats the .260 average with over 20 home runs and nearly 30 doubles than that’s good for a bottom 3rd of the order bat.

    Save the boatload of assets it would take to land a player like Lindor and give Galvis a chance. If the spot needs upgraded at the deadline then get something cheaper than what it would cost right now. For example maybe Didi will be available since he’s on a 1 year contract in a loaded division that the Phillies could find themselves having a hard time with this season.

    • RedNat

      I would agree with you had we been able to land Grandal. I am just not sure if you can seriously contend with Barnhart and Galvis as you 7 and 8 hole hitters.

      • Rob

        A grin or smirk. We slot Galvis as a 7 hole hitter with 20 pops, 25 steals, and a 260 average. Where does that put Votto? In the 9 spot? I would make a bet that Galvis would score more runs from the 2 hole than Votto would. On base % is over rated when you have s!ow wheels. Votto ‘s walks, singles, and doubles are less valuable than the same from someone with good speed. If we are talking 260-270 hitters with similar pop, I will always choose the speed guy over the slow guy for my #2.

  13. Dawson

    Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell, Alcides Escobar, Brandon Crawford, Stephen Drew (out of his prime), Brandon Crawford, Rafael Furcal (out of his prime), Edgar Renteria (out of his prime), Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Julio Lugo, David Eckstein, Juan Uribe, Orlando Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, David Eckstein, Tony Womack, Derek Jeter

    There are all of your World Series winning shortstops since 2000. There are a few studs on there, but also quite a few just average players.

    I think the Reds could at least win the division with Galvis. Having a good defensive shortstop is huge. And he isn’t terrible on offense.

    I just don’t like the idea of trading away loads of our good young players and prospects for one or two years of a star shortstop. And I believe last year’s offensive output was a fluke. I think the offensive will be much improved this year, especially with Moose and Shogo.