Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Will the Jays Experience a Defensive Drop Off in 2013?

In the past two months, Alex Anthopoulos has turned the Blue Jays into a World Series favourite by making a couple of Free Agents signings (Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera), acquiring virtually every good player on the Marlins except for Giancarlo Stanton, and trading for the reigning National League CY Young Winner in R.A. Dickey. The club has drastically improved (on paper at least) on offense and in the starting rotation, but how they will fare defensively (again, on paper), is still a question mark.

Using the metric of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), the Jays, along with the Atlanta Braves were the best fielding team in Major League Baseball (according to the data in this ActaSports article). Led by Brett Lawrie, whom scouts and prospect writers said was “destined for a corner outfield spot”; the Jays saved 70 runs while on defense. They did this using shifts created by now departed infield/3rd base coach Brian Butterfield, and subsequently also led the league in DRS by shifts, saving 12 this past season.  By just using the info given above, you likely think that the Blue Jays defense might take a little hit in 2012 because Butterfield is no longer at the helm of the infield defense, but not undergo such a drastic change. That’s not true. Here are some charts to take a look at.

Most of the players above had career years defensively
in 2012, something sure to change in 2013.

Projections were made using weighted averages of the players
 last 3 seasons performance, and then multiplied to give a 1400 innings sample.

What you just saw is a chart of the qualified players in 2012 on the Blue Jays, and the projected starters (Izturis and Bonifacio as a platoon for 2B) for 2013. The total DRS for the Blue Jays in 2012 was 70, which was so high due to abnormally good performance’s from most of the team, and, well, Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar. Of the qualified players shown in the 2012 chart, their total DRS was 59. We know that the total team DRS was 70 in 2012.So, given the addition of Mark Buehrle to the rotation, who is known for his stellar defense, and adding all the other members of the rotation and bench players, we can assume that the final number in 2013 will be around +10. A significant drop from the leage leading mark posted a few months ago.

The departure of Yunel Escobar (+15), Jeff Mathis (+5), and Kelly Johnson (+5), will hurt a lot, and so will the regression back to the mean for players like JP Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, and Edwin Encarnacion. Then, once you factor in that Brett Lawrie’s projected DRS of 36 is completely unrealistic due to it being skewed by the small sample size he produced in 2011 (+16 in less than 50 games), the 2013 number drops even more. Things aren’t looking too good…

With Escobar and Johnson leaving, the pitcher who will suffer the most is Ricky Romero, who is a true ground ball pitcher, with a career average GB% of 54%. Just another reason why it will be hard for him to get back to being a number 3 pitcher this season.

Of course, this is all on paper. Some players will outperform their projections, while others will fail to reach their projections. This is all before the season, and you can never accurately project baseball; it’s just such a weird game. It is going to be a very fun year to watch the Jays as they should once again be a force offensively and for the first time in a few years, they, barring injuries, should also have a fantastic pitching staff. But, their defense projects to be much, much worse than in 2012, especially at shortstop, where we’ve had the privilege to watch one of the best in the game in Yunel Escobar for the past few years, and now we’ll have to suffer through Jose Reyes manning the shortstop position for the foreseeable future. 

How do you think the 2013 Jays defense will perform? Let us know in the comment section below.

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  1. I agree with this completely. The Jays staff doesnt project to generate alot of strikeouts so i see this poor defence to affect the BABIP of the pithcers.

  2. "suffer through" Jose Reyes manning the shortstop position? I know your article is focusing on defense, and their offense is actually a little closer than I first thought, but taking into accout performance ceiling and the fact they are the same age and I would take Jose Reyes 100 times out of 100 over Escobar

    1. I would as well, but Escobar was just such a pleasure to watch defensively. He got to balls that most players wouldn't even think about going after. Reyes will be better overall(hence the higher WAR), and he'll help the lineup tremendously as it lacked a leadoff hitter for years before Reyes, but I'm going to hate watching Escobar play brilliant defense for the Rays.

  3. Escobar's defence was very underrated, he was elite. Any time you lose that, your defence suffers a big blow. Escobar was the worst loss of the offseason, IMO. (unless Darren Oliver retires). With that being said, sometimes you have to get worse in a certain area to get ultimately better, which is exactly what the Jays did all season.

  4. You mentioned Butterfield in your article, however, I don't think you gave him the respect he deserved. The lost of Butter will also have a negative effect on the D for the 2013 Jays.

    1. "By just using the info given above, you likely think that the Blue Jays defense might take a little hit in 2012 because Butterfield is no longer at the helm of the infield defense". Mentioned at the end of the second paragraph.

  5. The lost of Butter will have a negative impact of the D for the 2013 Jays.