Ask fans of any sport if they would rather watch good offense or good defense and the response will be overwhelming – offense, of course.
Baseball is a game of failure, right? Everyone who has played the sport can attest this is true.
Nothing is more fun for a hitter than making perfect contact with the ball and driving it over everyone’s head, into a gap, or through a hole. This is extremely difficult to do, which makes hard contact a rare feat.
Batters will often go several at-bats, even several games without really squaring one up perfectly and making great contact. But then BOOM! There it is.
The batter smacks a high line drive into right-center and immediately thinks double, maybe even triple. It feels perfect off the bat. Statcast measures the exit velo at 105. The batter races around first base eager to dig for second … and then the center fielder makes a diving grab in the gap. It’s just another out.
As a former player, nothing is more demoralizing than being robbed by a great defensive play. Hard contact is precious. You expect to be rewarded when you finally manage to achieve it.
The batter instantly becomes disgusted and disheartened while the pitcher gains new life. He was sure he just surrendered extra bases. Now it’s just an F8 in the books.
Certain aspects of fielding are measurable. We can measure fielding percentage, putouts, assists, and defensive runs saved, to name a few. There are certain aspects of fielding that cannot be measured, however.
You cannot measure the confidence boost that a pitcher receives when he knows his defense will erase any mistakes he makes. On the flip side, a pitcher who knows that his defense stinks will be nervous to leave balls in the zone and will start aiming pitches – never a good thing for pitchers to do.
Imagine it from the hitters’ perspective as well. If you know the opposing defense is terrible, you feel that anywhere you hit the ball will do. If you know the opposing defense is a human highlight reel, you will feel the need to aim your hits, a recipe for disaster.
Why do you think that shifting is so effective in the MLB? If you can convince a hitter that his normal approach at the plate which once resulted in hits will now result in outs, you have a major psychological advantage.
Defense matters more than we can calculate, especially in crunch time when the nerves are at their highest. We cannot measure intangibles, but there is a new metric called Defensive Runs Above Average (Def).
Listen to everything that Def encompasses: Stolen Base Runs Saved, Bunt Runs Saved, Double Play Runs Saved, Outfield Arms Runs Saved, HR Saving Catch Runs Saved, Plus Minus Runs Saved, Total Defensive Runs Saved.
Minus the intangibles like confidence and pitch selection, this is everything – all aspects of team defense combined in one stat.
It’s getting to be the time of year when MLB bettors like to lay down their World Series futures bets and division title picks. All other things equal, would you rather back the team with shoddy defense or the team with glue in their mitts?
Here are the top-10 MLB teams in Def this season:
The Diamondbacks are running circles around the league defensively. Too bad we won’t see them in the playoffs.
Of playoff-bound teams, the Twins play the best D. Tampa is in a good position to play postseason ball and they also pick the ball up very well.
Good teams that are low on the Def list include the Braves (25th) and Yankees (23rd). Don’t count them out just because of their bad defense. Just know that this is an extra obstacle they must overcome to win series in September and October.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. See you on top!