Tag Archives: UZR/150

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?


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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A brief conversation about defense with Blake Dewitt

The Dodgers haven’t had a second baseman with a positive UZR or UZR/150 since Alex Cora in 2004 (ohh, THAT’S why he was good). Part of that is because Jeff Kent played the position for about 900 to 1,000 innings a year from 2005-2008 and the other part is that Orlando Hudson doesn’t have the range he used to.

Those things being said, Blake Dewitt currently mans the defensively-depleted position and his UZR/150 is at 1.8. UZR/150 isn’t supposed to be looked at in such a small sample size, and obviously there’s still a lot of season to take place, but Dewitt has put up a positive UZR at 2B before and at other positions, so it may be leaning in his favor. Plus, it’s a positive step in the right direction and Blake could man it for a while.

This isn’t exactly a revelatory conversation, Blake kept a lot of thoughts on the surface, but I imagine this won’t be the last time we talk on the subject.

Read more after the jump.

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UZR/150 and how it can off-set offense

This won’t be a terribly long post, but I just want some people to understand what UZR is and how much defense actually accounts for a player’s total production.

UZR is ultimate zone rating.  UZR/150 is UZR over a 150-game fielding sample size.

UZR/150 is not the definitive defense statistic. Frankly, there is no statistic like that and there probably won’t be until a program called Field F/X begins to chart exactly where and how a fielder caught a flyball or fielded a groundball and how far he ran to get it.

But for now, UZR/150 is the best defense statistic for citation purposes.

How it’s calculated: A man with a computer marks each time a fielder fields a ball, whether it was a flyball or a groundball.  He then marks down which zone the ball was fielded or caught, whether there was a throw on the play and if an out was made. As the year rolls on, a complete picture begins to form on just how good the player was defensively: how far he went to catch a flyball, how good he was at converting groundballs into outs, and so on.  If I’m understanding Alex Remington’s post on Big League Stew, this is how the field is divided up:

This is what UZR counts, courtesy of SABR library:

  • Outfield Arm Runs (ARM) – the amount of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners to advance.
  • Double-Play Runs (DPR) – the amount of runs above average an infielder is in turning double-plays.
  • Range Runs  (RngR) – is the player an Ozzie Smith or an Adam Dunn? Do they get to more balls than average or not?
  • Error Runs (ErrR) – does the player commit less or more errors compared with a league-average player at the position?

So long story short, it accounts for pretty much any possibility that can happen when a ball is hit into play.  Your main concern is how much weight we should put into it.

The best way to use UZR is citing three-year sample sizes.  Consider that there are three big outcomes that are completely unaffected by fielding: home runs, strike outs and walks.  These account for a lot of different outs.  Then factor in that a player’s defense will only matter for a fraction of the balls hit into play and you see why a large sample size is necessary.

The other part to consider is that human error comes into play.  Though UZR is pretty advanced, a person still has to mark into a notebook where the ball was hit and to which part of the field.

There’s also an important note about first basemen and catchers: UZR does NOT take into account the other jobs a first baseman or a catcher has: catching pitches, catching throws from short stop, and other defensive acts that are specific to the position.  So UZR should be used primarily against outfielders, third basemen, shortstops, pitchers and second basemen.

Though UZR has its flaws, it’s still a valuable tool.  Citing UZR/150 in three-year sample sizes and you can see who the best fielders in baseball are. Personally, I see UZR/150 as having 20/30 vision.  You have a very good idea of what the letters are at the 20/20 level, but it’s still fuzzy. The closer you get (the bigger sample size you receive), the better.

Note that this is completely different from hitting evaluations.  A player’s offensive output is much more static and easier to weigh because he gets so many more chances.  A player will get 670 plate appearances at the plate in a year, but sometimes only 200 chances to make an out or a play at his position.  Sometimes, he may drop a ball that should have been fielded and that’ll skew his UZR.

Now maybe the best thing about UZR/150 is it puts a player’s defensive value into runs ceded or saved.  The most fascinating thing I learned over the past few years is how much defense can off-set a player’s offensive value.

Take Adam Dunn, for instance.  Dunn is the poster child for underrated offensive players: very high on-base percentage, huge slugging percentage and he takes a ton of walks.  His defense, though, is so bad it completely off-set his offensive value in 2009, and that’s with a full 159-game season. UZR/150 and a player’s offensive output measured in Runs Created (wRC) combine to make Wins Against Replacement.  His WAR was less than Rafael Furcal’s last year. Basically, Dunn costs his team so many runs in the field that he should only be a DH.

So think about that.  Though we know so much about offensive output, we’re only just now starting to get a good grasp on a player’s defensive output. When citing UZR, remember that a total sample is best.  And that it can completely off-set any player’s offensive production.

So, with that, here’s how valuable a few Dodgers were in 2009:

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