Dodgers: 2016 vs. 2017 Dodger Defense

mwittman
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 20: Corey Seager
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 20: Corey Seager /
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The Dodgers’ everyday lineup is not much different this year compared to last year. Despite there only being a few new starters, the Dodgers’ defense is slightly better this year.

The main difference between the 2017 and 2016 Dodger teams are that Forsythe, Taylor, and Bellinger are now everyday starters instead of Toles, Utley, and Adrian Gonzalez. Puig is also the everyday starter in right field now where last year he lost the starting job to Josh Reddick after Reddick was acquired at the deadline.

The primary stat I used to judge each player defensively was DRS (Defensive Runs Saved)  which puts a positive or negative run amount on the runs saved or lost due to a fielder’s defense. The higher the number, the better the player was on defense.

Catcher

2016 Yasmani Grandal (-1 DRS, 5 Errors, 10 Passed Balls)

2017 Yasmani Grandal (6 DRS, 4 Errors, 10 Passed Balls)

Interestingly enough, Grandal has the same amount of passed balls this season as he did all of last year up to this point. He also has only one fewer error with two plus months left, but according to DRS, he has been much better defensively in 2017. This is likely because Grandal has thrown out an impressive 40% of base runners this year compared to 28% in 2016.

First Base

2016 Adrian Gonzalez (1 DRS, 2 Errors)

2017 Cody Bellinger (0 DRS, 2 Errors)

Last season Adrian Gonzalez was the typical defensively stout first baseman he has been throughout his career. This time around Bellinger has the same amount of errors that Adrian had all of last year with far fewer chances.

Part of this is because Bellinger has been shifted around the outfield and is still finding his groove at first base. Cody is projected to be a future gold glover at first base so he should stabilize as he sticks at first for the long haul.

Second Base

2016 Chase Utley ( -3 DRS, 5 Errors)

2017 Logan Forsythe ( 2 DRS, 1 Error)

While Chase Utley came alive offensively last season and took over the majority of the starts at second base, his defense left a lot to be desired.

This season Forsythe is still looking to find his offense consistently, but on defense, he has been excellent.  When he’s not moving around the diamond Forsythe has made a few highlight plays at second base and has some of the surest hands in the infield.

Shortstop

2016 Corey Seager (0 DRS, 18 Errors)

2017 Corey Seager (2 DRS, 7 Errors)

Despite Corey Seager missing the majority of spring training and struggling early this season defensively, he has been better in 2017 versus 2016 so far.

Corey was neutral last year in DRS, but this season he has saved two runs. He seems to have perfected the ground balls he ranges to his left on and has shown an accurate and strong arm on those plays.

Third Base

2016 Justin Turner (7 DRS, 9 Errors)

2017 Justin Turner (6 DRS, 3 Errors)

Excluding Nolan Arenado, there may not be a better third baseman defensively than Justin Turner. He is on pace to have more DRS coupled with much fewer errors than last season so far.

Turner is essentially a hockey goalie at third base the way he stops ground balls. He has incredible reflexes, and his glove is like a ball vacuum. And when he does commit an error it’s usually on an errant throw.

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Left Field

2016 Andrew Toles (5 DRS, 1 Errors)

2017 Chris Taylor (4 DRS, 0 Errors)

Despite going through a crash course on how to play outfield, Chris Taylor has been outstanding on defense in left field and has not committed a mistake yet.

Last season Toles used his speed to rate slightly better than Taylor this season, but he did commit one error which is one more than Taylor has so far. Taylor just seems to get better in all phases of the game as the season progresses.

Center Field

2016 Joc Pederson (1 DRS, 2 Errors)

2017 Joc Pederson (-9 DRS, 1 Errors)

For one reason or another, defensive metrics never seem to like Joc Pederson’s defense. Despite the fact that he makes several highlight reel catches a year, he always rates below average on defense.

While the metrics say otherwise, he passes the eye test and always makes the plays he should while adding in some diving catches every year.

Right Field

2016 Yasiel Puig/Josh Reddick  (6 DRS, 7 Errors)

2017 Yasiel Puig (5 DRS, 1 Error)

Since Reddick and Puig shared starts towards the end of 2016, I averaged out their DRS and added up their errors counting only games played as Dodgers.

The 2017 version of Yasiel Puig has made far fewer errors this season, and although his DRS is a tick lower, he has made several amazing catches.  In fact, during Monday’s game, he made a catch that saved three runs and allowed for Bellinger to provide some heroics.

Tale of the Tape

2016 Dodgers  (17 combined DRS, 80 Errors, 701 DER)

2017 Dodgers (16 DRS, 53 Errors, 705 DER)

The 2017 Dodgers slightly beat out the 2016 Dodgers defensively as it currently stands.  The 2017 Dodgers are on pace for fewer errors than the 2016 Dodgers and have a little higher DER which rates a defense’s ability to make an out on balls put in play.

The higher the number, the more likely the team is to record an out on a ball in play. Despite having one less run saved, this year’s team also gets the better-rated defense since they are so versatile. They also have 60 or so game to build on the 16 DRS.

Next: Dodgers Close to Landing a Starting Pitcher

Forsythe, Hernandez, Barnes, Utley, Taylor, and Bellinger can all play at least two different positions and have this season. Last year’s team didn’t have Bellinger or Taylor, who add so much versatility since they can man multiple outfield positions and some infield positions. Barnes came up late last year but this is his first full season, and he also can play different infield spots along with being the backup catcher.

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