Saturday, February 8, 2014

Top Defense in Baseball

In last Wednesday's post for ranking the top defenses in baseball, Anthony Castrovince anointed the Royals as being better than any other. (If you want to see the rest of the rankings click here. Castrovince points to the Royals not having any defensive liability on the diamond and premium defenders at Catcher, Short Stop, and Left Field. Incredibly, Castrovince didn't even make mention of 2013 Gold Glove winner Eric Hosmer, or stud Lorenzo Cain.

Castrovince is right, the Royals are absolute studs on the defensive side of the game. They figure to be even stronger in 2014 with the additions of Omar Infante at second and Norichika Aoki at right field. It is this defensive prowess that gives me comfort at the loss of Ervin Santana. While the Royals rotation isn't as sexy on paper entering without Santana, I believe that an enormous amount of the 2013 run prevention success should be credited to the defense.

While many projections are calling for the Royals to regress in the win column in 2014, due to regression to the mean of their defensive metrics. I would argue that while the metrics of the Royals defense could regress, the actual performance of defense is something less likely to regress than offensive performance. Whether or not the numbers reflect regression, the 2014 Royals aren't going to go from being a dynamite defensive team to a mediocre defensive team.

The Royals ranked very high in WAR numbers in 2013, perhaps this is because defensive metrics somewhat overvalued the Royals defense. A regression in defensive metrics would mean a regression in WAR totals for players, but the point needs to be made that a regression in a metric statistic does not necessarily equal regression in actual performance. The Royals defensive metrics could be a little worse in 2014 than they were in 2013, but in actuality the defense could be playing just as good or better.

Personally, I don't envision the defense regressing in actuality and so I'm not worried about projections that are calling for a regression in defensive numbers. All statistics have variability, but unlike hitting, there is much less randomness involved in fielding a baseball. For this reason, I would expect projection systems to underrate the Royals this offseason.

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