Okay so this is a really weird article. I’ve written some weird articles before. There was that one time where I just posted superfluous GIFs of Hunter Dozier hitting during what was essentially a carnival event.
Yeah, that was weird. This article might not be as weird, but it’s a little more out there than breaking down the surplus value of Danny Duffy’s extension. This time it’s about pitchers, and I’ve written a bunch of articles on pitchers before. However I’ve never written about pitcher defense, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Pitcher defense is usually pretty boring. It’s normally just a ball back to the pitcher and he either a) catches it, b) it bounces off his glove and he throws out the runner, or c) he doesn’t throw out the runner.
Pitchers usually don’t get a lot of credit for their defense, and it’s because they aren’t that good at fielding. The best pitcher fielding seasons ever (by DRS) looks like:
We all know (or you should) that Keuchel was a really good defender, but if I gave you 1284 guesses on who was ranked 1st overall among 1284 pitcher fielding seasons, I bet you wouldn’t have gotten Kenny Rogers. And that’s why pitcher fielding is weird. 15 DRS isn’t that much. This year there were 27 players who put up 10+ DRS alone. It’s a good fielding season but the fact that 15 defensive runs saved is the ceiling so far for a pitcher defensively should show the cap we are looking at.
What kind of crept past the radar the past two seasons though is this:
Those are the worst seasons in pitcher fielding among Royals pitchers (again in the DRS era), and we have a WINNER. Not only is Volquez on the board twice, but he takes home both the gold and silver for the Bad Fielding Olympics. Volquez has had two of the two worst fielding seasons for a Royals pitcher. How about overall? Well since 2011:
Edinson over the past six (arbitrary) years is the worst fielding pitcher in baseball. Is that weird? I don’t know. Volquez doesn’t seem awful at fielding, and he’s made some decent plays.
However, say what you want about the inconsistencies of defensive metrics, it’s hard to argue with a guy consistently being a poor defender. DRS/UZR can be off a season or two by some amount, but it’s hardly ever wrong by a lot for six straight seasons.
What’s even weirder is the fact that the Royals pride themselves on defense; it’s one of the reasons they won a World Series.
Since 2013 the Royals have been the best team defensively, and it’s not even close. Like at all. And yet, the Royals have employed the worst fielding pitcher in baseball the past five or so years. You’d have to imagine that they at least knew Volquez was a bad fielder as all teams have their own defensive metrics that correlate closely to the public sphere ones. So I guess the question is, do the Royals even care about pitcher defense? Last years rotation by DRS:
Yordano Ventura: 0
Danny Duffy: 0
Ian Kennedy: -1
Edinson Volquez: -5
Outside of Volquez, everyone else was basically an average fielder, so even if they don’t necessarily care about pitcher defense it’s reasonable to think that they don’t emphasize it. I think that’s fine really, but it’s also curious how bad Volquez has been on defense despite being part of one of the greatest defensive units of all time.
Oh well I suppose, Volquez is a Marlin now (and for what it’s worth they’ve been good on defense the past few years too).