Angels at the Break Part 3 – Defense


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Although we’re a little past the break now, due to some technical problems beyond my control, I still wanted to finish up our look at where the Angels stand in the three facets of the game – pitching, offense, and defense – at the All-Star Break. If you’re feeling down about our recent losses, despite the Haren acquisition, then I hope reading this won’t push you over the edge. Consider yourself warned, and I’ll see you after the jump.

The Good

There’s truly not much to put here, which is just sad. Before going down with injury, Kendry Morales was following up his fine 7.5 UZR in 2009 with a 3.7 in 2010, although that 3.7 came in about 1/3rd of the innings. Beyond that, Kendry’s 448.2 defensive innings at 1B are the most among any Angels player with a positive UZR this season. That’s not to say there aren’t players with more defensive innings this season – Rivera, Hunter, Aybar, and Abreu all have many more – but he’s the only one with more than 400 defensive innings in 2010 and a positive UZR. With that said, half a season of UZR is not much of a sample size when looking at fielding, and there are some people we can look at and assume their negative UZR is a product of the small sample size, which is about the only good to be found so far.

Howie Kendrick owns a -9.8 UZR this season, which has come on the heels of four straight seasons of a positive UZR (with a high of 6.8 in 2007) over 2,553 innings. Up against that, 856.2 defensive innings with a negative UZR seems to me pretty likely to be a fluke, and one he’ll turn around. As a side note, Kendrick’s innings this season set a new career high, which is nice to see for someone who’s spent so much time on the DL already.

The only other potential positive we really have right now is Erick Aybar. Although he’s currently sitting at a -1.6 UZR, much like with Kendrick he has a pretty solid track record consisting of a 10 UZR spread across the past two seasons and 1974 innings at SS. His -1.6, which isn’t sharply negative anyway, has only come in the last 790.1 innings, and is also likely to be a fluke in my estimation.

The Bad

Where to start? Outside of the above mentioned examples, anyone with more than 450 defensive innings at their position this season has a negative UZR. There are a couple exceptions to this, which I’ll go over in a bit, but outside of that, all of our regulars have shown negative fielding so far this season. For players like Hunter and Abreu, their UZR has been firmly in the negatives for multiple years now, and 2010 is no different. When it comes to Rivera, the last of the Angels’ regular OFers, he’s been a bit up and down over the years, but is probably a mostly average defensive OFer that is slightly negative this season.

When it comes to the exceptions, they come in two ways: Players that don’t have a UZR because of their position (UZR is not tracked for catchers because their defense is quite different than that of any other position), and players that don’t remotely have enough playing time or history at their position to put much faith in their current UZR. Of the last group, we have people like Napoli while at 1B, Wood at 3B, Frandsen at 3B, and McAnulty at 1B, none of which have more than 380 innings at their position this season. As far as the catchers go, we’ve already gone over how much Scioscia seems to overrated Jeff Mathis‘ defensive abilities, so there’s little reason to do it again here.

When it comes to our OF, the news hasn’t been good for years. Rivera had a career high 11.8 last season, but it was clearly a fluke given his slightly negative UZR’s in 2007, 2008, and 2010. Abreu, on the other hand, hasn’t had a positive UZR since 2003, and has been in double digit negatives three separate times. He’s not quite in Adam Dunn territory defensively, but he’s not terribly far off either. Hunter, a guy that last won a Gold Glove in 2008 and is still known for his defense, hasn’t had a positive UZR since 2005, and also has his own season with a double digit negative. Ironically, it was the same 2008 season that he last won a Gold Glove for, showing us yet another example of the award being given away to people that are less than deserving.

The Ugly

In the American League, there are a total of 14 teams. The Angels are currently ranked 12th among them, with a -27.5 UZR, and ahead of only the O’s and Indians. The White Sox are the only other potential playoff team with a negative UZR, and despite the fact that they’re only one spot ahead of the Angels, their team UZR is still over 11 better. When we have a team that has their own struggles on pitching and offense, having a good defense to help cushion some of that blow would be nice, and would go a ways towards improving the team. For 2010 at least, the fielding this team has shown is without question the worst aspect of the team in my mind.