Since we are doing all the projections for all the pitchers and hitters, what are your projections for us defensively?
Some of it is obviously subjective as there is no perfect way to measure it, but why not give a predicted UZR or whatever other defensive measurement is your favorite on all the field players. Overall, do you think we can repeat our defensive performance from last year? Why or why not?
Here is the link to our defensive totals from last year on Fangraphs
Anyways, here is my position by position breakdown of this
C: Last year Innings Caught: Salty ~714, TT ~ 491, Pudge ~ 214
Projected this year: TT ~750, Salty ~ 600, Max~ 45...
Overall, I think we will be improved very slightly with Taylor behind the plate for a few more innings. I actually see TT getting the majority of the starts this year if his bat stays above or around the 700 OPS level. I think both his ability to frame pitches and throw out runners is above average and makes him a decent enough Major League catcher. Even though we definitely saw an improved Salty behind the plate last year, Teagarden is the definitively better defensive catcher. So, if I have to call this position, I'd say slightly improved.
Projected: CD ~ 1100/1.0, Who Knows? maybe Max or Garko, but I'll say Max~ 200/-2.0
As I am unsure if UZR is really that good at measuring the ability of a first baseman to pick the ball and save other fielder's possible errors, I am not sure how useful it is. Seeing how the majority of the baseball scouts and my own eyeball test would call CD an above average 1B defensively, I have to think his UZR is likely to rebound above 0 this year. Some of his poor UZR rating may have just been a product of positioning as a young 1B, but no matter what, I think we can agree that he has the athletic ability and hands to play this position at a high level. Hank's positive UZR may just be a product of a smaller sample size because I really did not see a ton from him to make me think he was an above average fielder there. As a whole, I guess I'll just call this position a wash compared to last year defensively, maybe just slightly below last year's ability with the replacing of some of Hank's innings with a definitely inferior Maxram.
2B: Last year Innings Played/UZR: Ian Kinsler ~1258/9.6, Omahh 126/0.0
Projected: Ian Kinsler ~1170/3.5, German ~ 130/0.0, Blanco ~ 130/.6
Last year, Ian put up a remarkable defensive season. I do not see how he's going to repeat it honestly and this alone might be the biggest drop off we have this year defensively. Maybe it was just that UZR overrated his season, but I certainly can't see him repeating it after putting up some pretty bad UZR seasons before last year. While some of that had to do with his reduction of errors, we still are left with enigma; either Kinsler dramatically improved his range and fielding or some of last year was a fluke. Either way, I am not sure if coming off an ankle injury we will see the same Ian we saw last year defensively. Maybe it was having Elvis play next to him at SS that helped him some, we'll see, but I guess I have to call this a position that we will likely see a drop off just in terms of raw UZR numbers, whether that actually effects the play of the overall defense or not, who knows.
SS: Last year Innings Played/UZR: Elvis Andrus 1238/10.7, Omahh 196/5.3
Projected: Elvis ~ 1300/12.0, Blanco 130/0.0
Losing Omar is going to hurt at the UIF spot and maybe more than any other way that loss of value will show up is in the drop off in the defense that will be played at SS in the 20 or so games that Blanco will probably play there that Omar played last year. Otherwise, I do not see any reason why Elvis can't be the best SS in the AL, I honestly would not be suprised to see him put up an even better defensive season than he did last year. None of his tools are going to be diminished and his concentration on the routine should be improved making him less error prone. We still will have a huge boost this year at this spot defensively compared to the rest of the league. I look to being slightly behind last year's uber stellar performance here defensively overall, but with Andrus possibly improving and a solid defensive backup in Blanco, even with a slight drop off, we could easily have one of the best played SS positions in the league this year.
3B: Last year Innings Played/UZR: Mike Young 1165/-8.4, Omahh 101/3.3, CD 85/-2.0, German 72/-1.4
Projected: MY 1300/-3.0, Blanco 70/-1.0, German 70/-1.0
Michael Young was pretty darn bad at 3B last year. Omar was pretty darn good there, suprisingly. And then we put the poo poo that is CD and German out there for about 20 games when MY got hurt at the end of the year pretty much erasing all the good work Omar threw out over there in his spot starts. The fact that MY had a -13 UZR or so at one point last year and then steadily improved that over the last half of the season as MY began to adjust his positioning a ton, gives me some hope for this year. I do not think we will see such atrocious play from Mike over there and positioning will be the big reason why. Last year, he was so close to the line that it was ridiculous. I am predicting a slightly below average to just plain bad year for MY this year, compared to plain terrible last year. Hopefully Blanco can manage to play decent enough D there in the rare spot time. Overall, counting on just the slight improvement of Mike at 3B, I think we can expect just a plain poor defensive 3B this year instead of plain awful.
Projected: Josh Hamilton 1000/7.5, D-Murph 270/.5, Julio Borbon 100/0.0
I hope Hamilton stays healthy. If he does, I think we will have the two of the best corner OFs in the game defensively. Hamilton put up a 6.0 UZR in CF last year, and while the previous year he did not fare so well in CF, he's consistently played extremely good defense in RF. I have very little doubt that Josh's arm, speed, and instincts will make him an excellent LF. Murphy should get plenty of time out there as well, and we pretty much know we can expect solid play from him as well. Overall, while losing Byrd's defense in LF hurts us a little, playing Josh here full time should more than make up for that. I look for a good sized improvement this year in a spot where we played pretty solid D last year.
CF: Last year Innings Played/UZR: Marlon Byrd 889/-6.0, Hamilton 472/6.1, Julio Borbon 26/.4
Projected: Julio Borbon 1150/-2.5, Hamilton 150/.5, D-Murph 50/-1.0
While Byrd always seemed to play a pretty solid defensive CF, UZR did not think he did so last year. Hambone, on the other hand, improved tremendously out there compared to 2008. His injuries obviously kept him from playing a ton out there, and those same injuries are the reason he should not be playing CF any more than a handful of games this year. With Julio, I really have no idea what to expect. We know he is fast, we know he is weak armed, but how will those things translate overall in terms of defensive value? Who knows, but I think we can at least expect non-atrocious D just because he seems to have decent instincts and certainly has the range. I have hopes that Borbon can play some above average CF D over a full season and make himself a valueable player on a championship caliber team. If he does, we will have the best defensive OF in the AL, or at least right there with the M's. If he doesn't, we will still have an above average one, but the two possibilities might make the difference between a playoff team and a non-playoff team.
RF: Last year Innings Played/UZR: Nellie 1035/11.6, Hamilton 210/2.4, AJ and Byrd 102/2.1, Murphy 74/-.6
Projected: Nellie 1200/11.0, Murphy 200/-.5, Vlad 90/-2
This was a remarkably good spot for us last year. Nellie proved himself to be one of the best defensive OFs in the game last year. Hamilton played exceptional D here as well in the 25 games he got. I have no reason to think Cruz can not repeat what he did last year. He's an incredible athlete with a cannon arm, he's got all the talent in the world to put up numbers like he did last year defensively. On the flip side, I will be praying that Vlad gets only 3 starts all season out in RF. Washington believes in defense, I hope he's not blind to the fact that Vlad kills a team when he's playing RF these days. Overall, I think we will see a slight drop off here simply because Hamilton is likely gonna lose some of his IP in RF to Vlad this year, even though that might just be a small, tiny number, its still a drastic drop off.
So, quick breakdown and comparison to last year:
C: Slightly better off
1B: Equal, although possibly slightly below last year
2B: Worse off
SS: Slightly worse, but still the best played SS in the AL
3B: Better off
LF: Better off
CF: Slightly worse
RF: Slightly worse
Overall, we will be just slightly worse than we were last year. The difference will be in the defense at 2B, because almost everywhere else I see either a definite improvement or defense just slightly worse than was played last year. No matter what, I still think we have one of the best defensive teams in the league. This should still be a definite strength for us. We should not need such a low a BABIP as badly as we did last year with very few SO pitchers in our starting rotation. This year with Harden, CJ, and probably Lewis, we have three guys with a definite chance to strike out more per 9 IP than any of the guys we started with last year. As is being quickly discovered throughout baseball, a great defensive team makes up for some less than stellar pitching. Now that we have seemingly improved our SP over last year and even upon injuries have the depth to stay above the level of pitching we had last year, our run prevention even with a slight decrease in our overall defensive ability should still improve.