Stats, stats and even more stats. If you don’t like stats, then I’m not sure why you pay attention to baseball and if you’re a Cubs fan this is the only reliable defensive stat to go by until the end of time. Why? Well, it finally categorized Javier Báez as the best defensive infielder in MLB, which we all know is correct.
No, it’s not tags above replacement, but Statcast has a new defensive metric to measure just how good infielders are by tracking every single play they make and then assigning every play a score. Here’s what the Outs Above Average stat is based on.
- 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
For example, this play below was considered to have a mere 10% chance of being converted into an out, since Carlos Correa had just 1.5 seconds to move 12 feet, then had to get the ball 147 feet to first base before Aaron Judge, who possesses above-average sprint speed (28.2 ft/sec), could get there. He did, so he adds +.90 towards his seasonal total of +9; if he’d missed it, it would have cost him just -.10.
And because Statcast tracks where a player is standing at all times regardless what position he is being listed as, OAA has the ability to determine things that other defensive metrics like DRS and UZR cannot.
As useful and effective as they’ve been over the years, DRS and UZR use either the eye test via video scouting or zone-based systems. The Statcast technology allows us to know exactly where each fielder stands, which is helpful in a baseball world where shifting and out-of-position defenders are commonplace.
What that means is that every tracked play is accounted for, regardless of if the third baseman is standing in his regular spot or at shortstop or in short right field. It allows you to know exactly “how far” and “how much time,” regardless of shifts.
So, in 2019, Báez led all of MLB infielders with a +19 OAA. You can see the leaderboard here.
You can take a more detailed look at Báez’s defensive breakdown here. These new metrics are spectacular because you get to see just how good a guy is going to his left, right, backing up or coming in on a ball. There are also graphics that show how much defensive value a player has based on where they begin on a play.
So yeah, a new intricate defensive metric and there’s also one for outfielders too!