Deciphering Defense


Most peoples opinion of defense have one fatal flaw… It’s their opinion. Most stats are inconclusive and can be spun to the arguers opinion. While most stats on defense are inconclusive, there are some key stats to look for to get a better understanding of ability.

The first such stat is RZR. The Fangraphs Sabermetric Library states: Revised Zone Rating (RZR) measures, “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” (Hardball Times). Invented by John Dewan and displayed on the Hardball Times for a number of years, it has fallen out of fashion over the years as more advanced, accurate measures have become available (like UZR and DRS), but it still works as an introductory defensive statistic to show saber-newbies how advanced defensive statistics work.

There are a few words in there that give me hesitance. But the key is, “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out”. So, actually this is a combination of two numbers on the fangraphs leaderboard. BIZ and PLAYS. BIZ is simply “balls in play”. And PLAYS is the number of plays made out of the BIZ zone. RZR is the percentage of those plays made. Lets look at the Dodgers abilities according to RZR.

Andre EthierRF1256.11871770.9470.914
Matt KempCF9111911730.9060.924
Mark Ellis2B910.12302060.8960.807
James Loney1B752.288700.7960.794
Dee GordonSS651.11801430.7940.803
Hanley RamirezSS503.11431130.790.803
Luis Cruz3B427.290750.8330.718
Shane VictorinoLF41165630.9690.897
Tony GwynnCF40387800.920.924
Juan Uribe3B35776620.8160.718
Juan Rivera1B32757400.7020.794
Adrian Gonzalez1B32150430.860.794
Bobby AbreuLF319.253430.8110.897
Juan RiveraLF249.238340.8950.897
Jerry Hairston2B226.165510.7850.807
Adam Kennedy3B22569530.7680.718
Jerry Hairston3B206.159440.7460.718
Luis CruzSS205.154450.8330.803
Tony GwynnLF16332310.9690.897
Adam Kennedy2B118.235280.80.807
Elian Herrera3B117.225140.560.718
Jerry HairstonLF109232310.897
Elian HerreraLF10420190.950.897
Elian Herrera2B79.121170.810.807
Justin SellersSS73.219170.8950.803
Elian HerreraCF711090.90.924
Hanley Ramirez3B7014130.9290.718
Scott Van SlykeRF65.214130.9290.914
Nick Punto2B59.123210.9130.807
Shane VictorinoCF55.212110.9170.924
Juan RiveraRF51.17710.914
Jerry SandsLF342210.897
Scott Van Slyke1B34420.50.794
Elian HerreraRF32.16610.914
Alex CastellanosLF32.1860.750.897
Ivan De Jesus2B30.2760.8570.807
Justin Sellers3B27750.7140.718
Scott Van SlykeLF264410.897
Alex CastellanosRF19650.8330.914
Luis Cruz2B17980.8890.807
Ivan De Jesus3B12.1420.50.718
Andre EthierCF92210.924
Juan UribeSS92210.803
Justin Sellers2B81110.807
Jerry Sands1B81110.794
Nick Punto3B6.21110.718
Bobby AbreuRF53310.914
Jerry HairstonSS4310.3330.803

This isn’t yet a full study of defensive ability. But it is pretty straight forward. Did you catch the ball that was hit in your zone? Lets add one more variable to this.

OOZ. The magical world of … outs. Specifically, outs made outside of BIZ. Sometimes, there are plays you should get to and that is RZR. But, sometimes there are plays that are outside of your zone that you have no business making. These plays are considered outside of your zone (OOZ).

Andre EthierCF9222.22%
Elian HerreraRF32.1412.46%
Jerry SandsLF34411.76%
Jerry HairstonLF1091211.01%
Tony GwynnLF163137.98%
Shane VictorinoLF411327.79%
Shane VictorinoCF55.247.25%
Ivan De Jesus2B30.226.62%
Scott Van SlykeRF65.246.13%
Elian HerreraLF10465.77%
Tony GwynnCF403235.71%
Elian HerreraCF7145.63%
Jerry Hairston3B206.1115.34%
Andre EthierRF1256.1574.54%
Bobby AbreuLF319.2134.07%
Juan Uribe3B357143.92%
Juan RiveraRF51.123.91%
Scott Van SlykeLF2613.85%
Matt KempCF911353.84%
Juan RiveraLF249.293.61%
Adam Kennedy3B22583.56%
Luis Cruz3B427.2153.51%
Hanley RamirezSS503.1173.38%
Dee GordonSS651.1213.23%
Mark Ellis2B910.1252.75%
Justin SellersSS73.222.73%
Jerry Hairston2B226.162.65%
Adam Kennedy2B118.232.54%
Elian Herrera2B79.122.53%
Juan Rivera1B32782.45%
Adrian Gonzalez1B32172.18%
James Loney1B752.2162.13%
Luis CruzSS205.141.95%
Elian Herrera3B117.221.71%
Hanley Ramirez3B7011.43%
Nick Punto2B59.100.00%
Scott Van Slyke1B3400.00%
Alex CastellanosLF32.100.00%
Justin Sellers3B2700.00%
Alex CastellanosRF1900.00%
Luis Cruz2B1700.00%
Ivan De Jesus3B12.100.00%
Juan UribeSS900.00%
Justin Sellers2B800.00%
Jerry Sands1B800.00%
Nick Punto3B6.200.00%
Bobby AbreuRF500.00%
Jerry HairstonSS400.00%

I figure this is a comprehensive equivalent for range. These are generally the first two stats I look at when trying to figure out what kind of defensive player we have on our hands. Lastly, lets take a look at UZR…

It’s a bit of a doozy. UZR stands for Ultimate Zone Rating. It combines 4 different numbers into a “runs saved” equation. The problem with UZR is, it requires a large sample size to get a good understanding of true ability. Lets pretend that the field is divided into multiple zones (more than the 9 that we have already divided it into). In fact, lets divide the field into 64 separate zones.

Example: A ball normally hit into zone 47 usually adds .224 runs. Therefore, if the fielder made an out of that specific ball hit to zone 47 he saved .224 runs. The numbers can be taken from 4 (previously mentioned) stats: outfield arm ability, double play ability, range ability, and errors saved. Simply put, what is the difference in plays that Player “A” makes versus the league average. Fangraphs then takes it a step further by adding UZR/150. It projects what your UZR would be over 150 games played supposing that you made the same plays that had made if you played 150 games.

Mark Ellis2B910.10.36.439.716.1
Luis Cruz3B427.
Shane VictorinoLF4110.54.90.5619.3
Jerry HairstonLF1091.93.7-0.15.651.3
Juan Uribe3B357-
James Loney1B752.2-0.36.3-1.34.710.3
Adam Kennedy3B225-
Tony GwynnLF1630.
Adrian Gonzalez1B321-
Jerry Hairston3B206.1-0.33.2-0.22.614.3
Scott Van SlykeRF65.
Luis CruzSS205.
Elian HerreraRF32.
Andre EthierCF90.30.500.886.7
Jerry SandsLF340.20.600.838.4
Justin Sellers3B270.
Scott Van SlykeLF260.10.500.629.3
Ivan De Jesus2B30.
Justin SellersSS73.2-0.10.8-0.10.512.3
Nick Punto2B59.1-
Luis Cruz2B1700.
Justin Sellers2B80.200.20
Nick Punto3B6.20.100.20
Jerry Sands1B80.100.114.3
Elian HerreraLF104-0.70.8-0.10-6.7
Bobby AbreuRF5-0.20.10-0.10.3
Elian HerreraCF710-0.30.1-0.2-6
Juan RiveraRF51.1-0.300.1-0.2-12.8
Hanley Ramirez3B70-10.7-0.3-5.6
Ivan De Jesus3B12.10.3-0.6-0.4-55.4
Jerry HairstonSS4-0.4-0.2-0.6-96.2
Scott Van Slyke1B340.1-10.1-0.7-42.5
Juan UribeSS9-0.1-0.5-0.2-0.8-109
Elian Herrera2B79.1-0.6-0.50.1-1-12.1
Alex CastellanosRF19-0.4-0.4-0.3-1-59.3
Alex CastellanosLF32.1-0.2-0.90.1-1.1-37.3
Tony GwynnCF4032.9-4.70.2-1.6-5.3
Shane VictorinoCF55.2-0.8-1.1-0.2-2.1-43.5
Juan RiveraLF249.20.6-3.10.3-2.2-13.5
Elian Herrera3B117.2-0.2-2.40.2-2.4-31.6
Andre EthierRF1256.1-
Bobby AbreuLF319.21-3.9-0.4-3.3-13.2
Adam Kennedy2B118.2-1-0.7-1.6-3.3-33.3
Hanley RamirezSS503.10.4-5.91.7-3.8-10
Jerry Hairston2B226.1-1.5-2-0.6-4.1-22.6
Juan Rivera1B327-0.2-3.3-1.3-4.8-17.6
Matt KempCF9113.4-130.8-8.8-12.3
Dee GordonSS651.1-2.4-4.6-6.1-13-26.6

The numbers for the Dodgers players aren’t too different from what we might have gathered from RZR and OOZ. There isn’t any perfect way to figure out how good a player is with the glove. But hopefully, something like this will go a long way in determining how good the Dodgers as a team are with the glove, better than average.