What do the new Outs Above Average numbers show for Baltimore Orioles infielders?
Thanks to the incredible team over at Baseball Savant, fans have a fun new defensive metric to sift through while we wait for warmer weather and baseball season to come back around. As a Baltimore Orioles fan, these new numbers won’t make you feel any better about the product on the field, but it’s something new to look at and monitor as the 2020 season progresses.
Baseball Savant now has Outs Above Average numbers for infielders after having this information limited to outfielders for the last few years. Mike Petriello posted a primer on how the numbers are calculated, how to work through the leaderboards and tools, and a quick comparison to Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. If you haven’t already, you can read that post here.
Overall, the Orioles ranked 29th in the majors with -22 Outs Above Average as a team, ahead of only the San Diego Padres who finished with -23 OAA. For reference, 16 teams finished above the league-average mark of 0, with the St. Louis Cardinals (42), Colorado Rockies (33), and Houston Astros (27) ranking in the top three.
As we quickly go around the horn and check in on what these new numbers say, are there any surprises?
There aren’t any real surprises at first base. Both Chris Davis and Trey Mancini are as average as you can get, recording 0 OAA. Davis, however, does rank last in the majors in OAA (-3) when he has to move in on a ball. Slightly surprising that no one else struggled more in this area, but not surprising that he struggled himself. I don’t think anyone would classify any Orioles first baseman as very spry.
Over at second base, former Oriole Jonathan Villar comes in ranked 117th among 119 second basemen with -7 OAA. Add in his -5 OAA at shortstop and Villar finished 2019 among the five-worst infielders in baseball. Behind Villar at 286th overall are Didi Gregorius (-13), Fernando Tatis Jr.(-13), Vladimir Guerrero Jr.(-16), and Jorge Polanco (-16).
Maybe moving on from Villar was a good idea? Hanser Alberto, who seems to be the current favorite to take over full-time second base duties, ranked 14th among second basemen with 4 OAA. That matches the eye test from last season.
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Shortstop is where it gets a little interesting. There’s been a small debate surrounding Richie Martin and defense since last season as to whether or not his advanced metrics match the eye test. Per Fangraphs, Martin was worth -8 Defensive Runs Saved and a -4.2 Ultimate Zone Rating.
Baseball Savant largely agrees with Martin’s defensive struggles. Martin ranked 92nd among 98 shortstops with -5 OAA.
He will have quite the mentor to look up to in Jose Iglesias. The newest Oriole recorded 12 OAA last season, sixth-most in the majors from a shortstop. Only seven infielders overall posted more OAA than Iglesias. Fellow shortstop Javy Baez finished first with 19. I may be way more excited about this signing than I should be, but I there are few things in baseball I love more than a slick-fielding defender.
The third base numbers were also a bit surprising. The full-time third base job belongs to Rio Ruiz, if he can become a more complete hitter. However, his struggles against LHP may lead to some playing time in the hot corner for Alberto and maybe even Renato Nunez.
While Fangraphs liked Ruiz and his glove at third (2 DRS, 1.8 UZR), Baseball Savant wasn’t a big fan. Ruiz comes in at 105 among 110 third basemen with -5 OAA and significant struggles when right-handed hitters come to the plate. This could also add the probability of a platoon at third base.
Hanser Alberto ranked 14th with 3 OAA and Renato Nunez was right at league-average with 0 OAA in the hot corner. Nunez had less than 70 innings at third base last season, but both numbers offer slight comfort in knowing defense at third base won’t be a complete disaster.
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These numbers will be fun to look at as 2020 gets underway, especially since the Orioles are expected to be better defensively next season. You can play around with the leaderboards for yourself here.