Jamey Carroll Talks Defensive Positioning and Defensive Saves

The Dodgers signed him this off-season to a two-year deal, much to the chagrin of a few bloggers, but he’s turned out to be a very good addition and worth the money in his first year. Carroll spoke to me about a few topics, ranging from the custom t-shirts made for the bench players to his idea for “defensive saves.”

Unfortunately some of this conversation got garbled by my bad recorder, but most of it was salvageable.

What’s with the T-shirts some of the guys are wearing under their jerseys, “Militia” something?

The definition of a militia is soldiers trained for battle but are not part of the army. In a sense, that’s us bench guys. In a spring training game, we called ourselves The Midget Militia [because most of the Dodgers’ bench players are short], but seeing as how Garrett Anderson is a towering human being over the rest of us, we changed it to the Militia. Eventually everyone got one.

We got them made through Brad Ausmus’ company. They came up with the logo. We wore it for the first time in Colorado early in the regular season.

You’re admired in the stat community for your defense, can you tell me what you do to prepare for every season?

Taking a lot of groundballs over and over. I worked with a guy named Perry Hill [an infield defense specialist coach when Carroll was with the Expos] and he helped break it down. He made it as simple as possible. We would have us take groundballs everywhere.

Were there parts to the ideology you remember? Like were there any bulletpoints?

He had a thing called the Six F’s of Fielding. It was simple stuff. It was a lot of preparation.

The first one is Footwork, then Field, then get in Front of the ball, Footwork, Funnel the ball into the glove, then Fire and Follow-through.

About range specifically, do you work on that while you’re playing?

I think that’s more of an off-season thing, working on agility and footwork.

How much does positioning matter in defense?

It’s tremendous. It makes a lot of difference. I’ll be in different positions throughout the game depending on the pitcher and the batter. We’re always playing the percentages.

Can you give me some examples?

Well if you have a pitcher that’s throwing harder and a guy who’s not a pull guy, he’s gonna pitch the guy away–you’re not gonna shade as much on the pull. If a pitcher’s approaching [Ethier] I’ll take a step towards pull a little more. On off-speed pitches, more likely the guy’s gonna get out in front. In that chance, he’ll pull the ball a little more and I’ll anticipate it.

Do you change your position per pitch?

Yeah.

We talked for a bit more about range and defensive statistics and he came up with this:

I’ve always wanted something to count for defensive replacements late in games, like a defensive save. Pitchers have a save, or a win, but defensive replacements don’t get much. I’ve been stumping for that for a while.

After I explained about UZR and the idea of capturing a player’s total range, judging a player for his repertoire of complete defensive production, he immediately questioned it’s validity, asking how it accounts for defensive positioning. When I told him it didn’t, I added defensive statistics still have a long ways to go before they can be legitimized and he nodded, adding “I guess stats can evolve like that.”

We ended on this note:

But UZR says you’re one of the better second basemen in the game.

Well then it’s a great stat! [Laughs]

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