Friday, June 30, 2017

Should the Astros be worried about their defense?

While the New York Yankees were driving in five runs against the Houston Astros in the 6th inning of Friday nights game, I decided to take a gander at the Yankees BABIP. The inning was full of weak and soft contact. I wondered if the Yankees were one of the luckier teams in the league as far as batting average on balls in play is concerned. They're 4th in the league in BABIP. Which means they're one of the luckier teams on balls put in play. Last year they were the third unluckies team in BABIP.

That's not why I'm writing this post, though (well maybe it does play in a little bit). While looking up these numbers I noticed that the Astros Def stat on Fangraphs had a minus next to it. Def is not a good stat to look at for players or teams on Fangraphs, so I decided to dig a little deeper. I decided to focus on Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). These two statistics are some of the newer more advanced stats that evaluate a players and teams defense.

The Astros are 18th in DRS and 27th in UZR. According to the advanced defensive metrics they're below average defensively. Lets dig a little deeper. UZR likes George Springer in center. That's about it. Everyone else is average or below average. Alex Bregman at third base looks really bad. Everyone else is below average but only slightly. It's worth noting that defensive metrics take years to show a guys true talent. The metrics at this point of the season aren't reliable, but it's what we have.

On the DRS side, Springer again gets high marks for his defense in center field. Like UZR, it doesn't like Bregman at third base or Brian McCann behind home plate (UZR doesn't rate catchers). Side note: Dallas Keuchel is quite possibly the best defensive player on the team with five DRS (UZR doesn't rate pitchers either).

There's not really much the Astros can do to fix the defense. McCann, while maybe not great at defense, does handle the pitching staff really well and he's provding some offense. Bregman is a young player and probably still learning the position. He came up as a shortstop through the Astros system. Watching him he looks solid at the hot corner.

Are you concerned about this teams defense? The playoffs will amplify defensive miscues in the playoffs. The Astros while not terrible are not exactly a defensive juggernaught. I don't know that there's anything they can do about it.