Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Worst Defensive Outfield Ever? (with a Rookie Flyball Pitcher Starting)

OK, I can't prove it, and I'm not sure how I'd even go about it, but I have to think that the Willingham-Kearns-Dunn outfield that Manny Acta is starting tonight has to be one of the worst fielding trios in history.

Let's go to the stats. We'll use UZR/150, the Mitchel Lichtman stat that tells us the number of runs above or below average that a fielder would prevent per 150 games. UZR (which stands for Ultimate Zone Rating) factors in range, throws, errors, and, for infielders, effectiveness at turning double-plays.

Here are the career UZR/150 scores for the Scats starting outfield tonight:
  • RF Adam Dunn: -32.5
  • CF Austin Kearns: -14.5
  • LF Josh Willingham: -5.3
That's a total of 52.3 more runs allowed than an average outfield would allow over the course of a major league season.

For context, the very best hitter in baseball last season, Albert Pujols produced 68.9 runs above average last season, based on wOBA. The next best hitter, Manny Ramirez, was 56.3 runs above average offensively. The third best hitter, Chipper Jones, was 52.2 runs above average.

That's right. The third best hitter in baseball was no more above average than this group would be below over the course of a season.

Now I'll grant you there are some small sample sizes in play here. Kearns has appeared in center in only 60 games. Dunn has appeared in right in 101 games, and so far this year he's a mere -2.0 UZR/150 rightfielder (although last year in 23 games in Arizona he was a comic -71.4). It's possible that if you played them everyday they'd get better. Of course, it's also possible that they'd be worse.

Besides, there's a reason the sample sizes are small for these veteran ballplayers. Very few managers are foolish enough to play Kearns and Dunn in these spots.

And this with a 22-year-old flyball pitcher on the mound. The day after Ross Detwiler was betrayed by half a dozen gift hits that would have been outs with even decently ok fielding behind him.

Seriously, if anyone wants to click around on to find a trio of outfielders who has started for any team ever with a worse combined UZR/150, let me know in the comments. I'd be curious to see.


Groundskeeper Willie said...

If stats can prove it, watching this game sure could. (Although Kearns' catch was nice).

Souldrummer said...

And I had the privilege of watching our "regular" centerfielder, Dukes, make an error at his rehab assignment for Harrisburg.

Appreciate adding a numerical foundation for what my eyes can barely tolerate...

Anonymous said...

Don't think defense matters? Jordan Zimmermann's FIP (fielding independant pitching...basically his ERA if he had an average defense) is 3.78. His ERA is 5.71. The clown show going on behind him is costing him 2 RUNS PER 9 INNINGS!!

Yeah...firing the pitching coach will help.