Cleat Geeks

Saber-Metrics Sunday: Save the Runs!

Preventing runs is a team effort. A pitcher can only do so much to pitch well and keep batters off the base paths and those runners scoring; thus attention is often turned to the other eight defenders on the field.

Run scoring lives and dies on the defense more than one may think. Especially today with the use of the defensive shift and the use of defensive platoon players in late situations. Defense can give and/or take away a run from a team with just one play, and some some players are more efficient at making positive defensive plays to prevent runs than others.

This leads to this Sunday’s statistic, Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

The stat is what it sounds like, how many runs a player on defense prevented from scoring and/or how many runs they failed to prevent and allowed to score because of inefficient defense compared to the average position player. The stat is a lot like WAR in the sense that it has both positive and negative intervals with averages being the absolute zero. So if a right fielder has a +3 DRS, it means he has saved three more runs than the average right fielder. If another right fielder has a -4 DRS, they have allowed four more runs to score than an average right fielder would allow.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The averages of DRS vary from position because some positions are more difficult to play than others. The measurement and formula is the same, but the average is different.

So with that being said, DRS is used to compare either full team (Entire team’s DRS) or by position; in other words you wouldn’t compare the DRS of a left fielder to a right fielder, only of the same position.

DRS is a good stat to use when looking at the value a player brings on the field of play. It is much more efficient than fielding percentage for a number of reasons:

-Fielding percentage is based on a ratio of errors and plays made (assists+putouts+errors) which is only about guys getting on base and nothing to do with runs. The ultimate goal of pitching and defense is to prevent runs.

-Each team makes a different number of plays in the field to record outs and prevent runs; some staffs strike out more guys and the defenders make less plays.

-Fielding percentage does not factor in the different positions on the field like DRS does. The fact that different positions are harder than others justifies the fact that DRS is measured on a different averages based on position.

-Lets face it, errors are scored by humans so there are times when a hit is scored an error or vice versa which can effect a player’s fielding percentage.

So hopefully that gives you a good idea of why DRS is a great stat and better than some of the old traditional stats. So lets have some fun! Here are the current DRS leaders in both the NL and AL by position according to fangraphs.

AL

RF Adam Eaton AND Mookie Betts (+24)

CF Kevin Pillar (+18)

LF Brett Gardner (+10)

1B Mitch Moreland (+7)

2B Ian Kinsler (+12)

SS Fransisco Lindor (+14)

3B Kyle Seager (+12)

C Salvador Perez (+10)

NL

RF Jason Heyward (+12)

CF  Ender Inciarte (+13)

LF Starling Marte (+18)

1B Brandon Belt (+10)

2B Josh Harrison (+9)

SS Brandon Crawford (+17)

3B Nolan Arenado (+19)

C Buster Posey AND Derek Norris (+9)

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