I think I missed this the other day, but the September issue of Dodger Insider magazine came out, and it’s great and you should read it. Obviously, I’m totally biased here, because Jon Weisman manages the publication, and I have an article in it, so let’s not pretend there’s impartiality. Still, it’s good, and if you want team-sponsored material that comes from smart people and isn’t just the surface-level lowest common denominator stuff that a lot of other teams put out, you should support it.
My piece in it is about defensive stats, and how while things like DRS and UZR/150 aren’t necessarily perfect, they’re miles ahead of the terribly flawed — to the point of being almost useless — fielding percentage and raw error totals. If you read this site regularly, you’re probably familiar with the reasons why, so I won’t go over all the reasons why here. But what I did want to highlight is that much of the article focuses on Juan Uribe to illustrate the differences in the stats, and while I think most of us here appreciate just how good he is on defense, with quick reflexes and an outstanding arm, I think he’s somehow still underrated.
In fact, all of the Dodger third basemen this year have been positives on defense, something the team hasn’t always been able to say. (Who among us doesn’t miss watching Aaron Miles play 459.2 (!!) innings of third base in 2011?) The four Dodger third basemen — I’m excluding Jamie Romak here, who played just one game — have all had positive DRS marks, with Uribe (14), Justin Turner (5), Miguel Rojas (2), and Chone Figgins (2) all adding some amount of value. That’s been a combination that has added up to be the best third base group in baseball, at least by DRS; other advanced metrics have it slightly differently, but none places them worse than sixth.
They’ve actually been good enough that if you go back to the first year DRS was tracked, in 2003, the 2014 Dodgers third basemen crack the top 15 the stat has ever ranked.
1) 35, 2013 Orioles
2) 29, 2008 Mariners
3) 29, 2008 Blue Jays
4) 28, 2003 Rangers
5) 27, 2004 Dodgers
6) 27, 2009 Mariners
7) 26, 2009 Angels
8) 26, 2011 Blue Jays
9) 25, 2011 Rays
10) 24, 2003 Dodgers
11) 23, 2007 Giants
12) 23, 2013 Rockies
13) 23, 2014 Dodgers
14) 22, 2006 Tigers
15) 21, (many teams, including 2013 Dodgers)
(Four of these seasons belong to Adrian Beltre. I look forward to fighting strenuously with everyone about his Hall of Fame candidacy.) DRS is a counting stat, of course, and with a few weeks left in the season, the 2014 Dodgers could yet break out of that 11th place tie and into the top 10.
Whether or not that actually happens probably isn’t that important. What is important is that the hot corner has been a source of defensive stability this year. Considering how many other positions haven’t — looking at you, shortstop, and center field, and at times, catcher — it’s been nice to have. Really, really nice.