Marlins think Adeiny Hechavarria is better with the glove than defensive metrics indicate

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Interesting story from Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and advanced defensive metrics.

The Marlins are confident that Hechavarria is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league — in fact, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was “befuddled” that he wasn’t one of the finalists for the Gold Glove Award — but advanced metrics don’t see it that way. The 24-year-old was second-to-last in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) this past season among shortstops with at least 935 innings played. Meanwhile, he was tied for 18th among regular shortstops in DRS (defensive runs saved).

How could there be such a difference of opinion between what the Marlins evaluate with the eye test and how he grades out by defensive metrics? According to Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) research and development associate Joe Rosales, poor positioning could be keeping Hechavarria from meeting his potential as a defender.

“On a physical level, [Hechavarria] matches up well with somebody like Simmons,” Rosales said. “When you see him out there he does compare favorably to some of the best shortstops. His objective metrics aren’t matching up and when we’re able to dig through it, it looks like it’s just a positioning thing.”

Based on BIS research, no shortstop in baseball was better at fielding balls to his left than Hechavarria (plus-15). Among the 35 players with most innings at shortstop, Hechavarria ranked 32nd with a minus-16 on balls to his right.

“When it comes to where he sets up versus right-handed batters, he doesn’t cheat over toward the hole as much as most shortstops do,” Rosales said. “He’s just not making those plays as much as other shortstops are on balls hit toward the hole. If he could focus on that one area of how he positions himself against right-handed batters, [objectively] he could be just as good as anybody else.”

Defensive metrics aren’t perfect and sometimes fluctuate from one season to the next, but Marlins infield coach Perry Hill seems to find them instructive in this case and holds himself accountable for getting Hechavarria in the right position moving forward.

“I guess the numbers don’t lie. I need to do a better job getting him in the right place, bottom line. I saw a lot of good shortstops. I didn’t see anyone that was any better than him.”

Good stuff by Rodriguez. Well worth reading on a slow Saturday in the baseball world.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.