On Wednesday, I wrote an article about how, despite the number of errors, the team was still playing better defense than most people realized. In the next 18 innings, 2 guys committed 6 errors, and they lost both games. Seems like I have pretty good timing on this one.
I used a few metrics easily available on Baseball Reference – number of errors, number of strikeouts (for the pitching), defensive efficiency, Rtot and Rdrs. These are about all of the defensive metrics available (fielding percentage is there, but it’s really a derivative of the errors statistic. It’s probably better to use than errors, but errors are more familiar). To review, Rtot is “Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average”, and Rdrs is “Defensive Runs Saved Above Average” from Baseball Info Solutions. So as of Wednesday afternoon, the Nats were looking good. Let’s see where they sit now, and for good measure, let’s throw in 2009:
My rankings, as always, assume that the best team is ranked #1 and the worst is #16 (so high errors and low Ks, for example). We can see that the 2 days of massive error buildup dropped them down in Rdrs by 2 runs, and by 2 places in the NL. Also, they dropped 1 place in defensive efficiency. We can also see that in terms of rankings, they are doing much better still this year than they were doing last year. My point still stands that it’s quite possible part of the reason they build up errors is that without as many strikeouts as other teams. 299 now has them 25 Ks behind the 15th ranked team, 55 behind the 14th ranked team, and a whopping 222 behind the #1 team in Ks.
Yeah, the defense has looked pretty bad this past week, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you – the defense HAS been bad the last week. But in general, it’s important to remember that over the first 55 games of the season, where the Nats sit improbably at only 3 games under .500, the defense hasn’t been that bad.