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Secrets of the AL Central: Defensive Rankings by UZR

As we're starting to realize, oftentimes, when a team's performance doesn't quite make immediate sense, it's probable that the squad's ability to turn balls in play into outs is driving things. Of course, even for long periods of time, this ability can be highly influenced by luck and small fluctuations in performance -- does Guillen make that shoestring catch or does he pull up two feet short and allow a single? -- so we shouldn't take a month's worth of data as gospel.

Still, I don't think there's much intellectual harm or bad faith in presenting the data as long as we understand that it is still very very early. And yes, there's always the who knows factor when it comes to defensive stats. You'll see rankings here that jive with our eyes and others that don't.

One final caveat: again, these are rankings by UZR/150 (basically rate UZR, which I preferred slightly to raw UZR, since not everyone has played the same number of games) in the AL, which needs to be remembered. For most positions, there are two or three teams who are really objectively good, posting UZRs that suggest that they are really gaining value from their defense there. Then there are a glut of teams clustered together who are more or less passable at that position, followed by two or three teams who appear to be getting killed by their defense there.

So here's a gigantic table with all the ranks, at each position I've highlighted the division leader:

1B 7th 3rd 10th 9th 12th
2B 13th 12th 14th 1st 10th
SS 5th 8th 9th 14th 6th
3B 2nd 10th 9th 7th 1st
RF 14th 6th 9th 13th 4th
LF 3rd 14th 12th 1st 8th
CF 2nd 7th 4th 5th 3rd
OF* 7th 10th 9th 5th 4th
OVERALL 6th 10th 13th 5th 4th


*overall OF ranking

  • Non-horrible first base defense by our Royals? Miracle, modest surprise, or statistical oddity?
  • Right-field is not going well, and a few games with Mitch did little to improve the overall rank.
  • Mark Teahen rules. Or could. Or has. Meanwhile, Joe Crede, still getting it done?
  • The Tigers may have the best defense in the division, and if they can find a way to improve in right and at short, where the numbers say they're horrible. Of course that would mean they stay above the Royals... so fie on that.
  • What the hell Cleveland?


(Data from Fangraphs here.)