Quote of the Day: Jayson Werth explains the perception of outfield defense

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Defense is really hard to measure and its metrics, however useful they may prove to be, are often imbued with some misleading information. For example, in yesterday’s Pirates-Cubs game I saw a 5-6-3 double play on a ball hit to the right of the second base bag. Viva la shift, but the fact is that that sort of thing becomes invisible after the game is over. It’s not a major thing. Just a weirdness about defense.

Not that you can always trust your eyes either. Especially when you’re watching on TV. Jayson Werth did a great job of explaining that in Tom Boswell’s latest column:

Of [Denard] Span’s sprinting catch in front of the right field scoreboard on Wednesday night, Werth said, “He made it easy. Not saying Bryce wouldn’t have made that play. But it might have been one of these miraculous plays that he makes, where you’re like, ‘Oh my God! What an unbelievable play!’ Denard, like, jogs the last five steps, no problem. That’s where TV, it’s kind of like hockey in a sense. It doesn’t do the outfielders justice.”

I used to always notice this with Andruw Jones games back when he was with the Braves. He made a lot of spectacular looking plays, sure, but it was the boring-looking plays which always provided the true value of his defense. He’d camp under some ball as if he’d been there all day. Because he had been. His range was so great and effortless that he’d casually shag the balls someone less-talented than him would have to dive for.  That’s what Werth is describing here.

The Werth quote, by the way, comes in the course of a really nice article. Boswell describes the Nats’ defense over the course of the Marlins’ series. It’s the kind of column that is really necessary specifically because defense is still so hard to measure and because our eyes — unless we’re watching every play from a good vantage point like a sportswriter is — can so often deceive us when this stuff comes up.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves