Sometimes, we have long, in-depth, very well researched think pieces on cool topics. (Which is to say, sometimes Brim writes articles). And sometimes, it’s Friday and you see an interesting fact that you just want to share. This is the latter, from our friend Ryan Walton:
The Dodgers have made only 71 errors this season with 10 games to go. The lowest in franchise history was 73 in 2004.
— Ryan Walton (@RyanWaltonMLB) September 25, 2015
That’s true, even though errors, as a stat, are dumb. (So, so dumb.) But when the Dodgers emphasized “up-the-middle defense” by replacing Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, and Matt Kemp with Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Joc Pederson, this is what they wanted.
Now, the more perceptive among you may notice that by DRS, the 2015 Dodgers are judged to be considerably worse than either of the last two years. Part of that, and I’m completely serious, is that DRS just adored Juan Uribe, as did we all.
But part of it is that this group is just different. Switching back to UZR, look at how they have changed in Range Runs and Error Runs, two of the three components of UZR:
Range Runs/Error Runs
2013: 37 / -10
2014: -10 / -6
2015: -10 / 9
This team doesn’t necessarily have great range, especially not compared to the 2013 group that had Mark Ellis, 900 innings worth of Carl Crawford, Uribe, and Ramirez looking like he gave a damn. But they sure do catch the ball better.
It’s also why I like using FanGraphs’ “Defense” metric, because it includes a positional adjustment where DRS/UZR do not. (That is, being a good shortstop is worth more than being a good left fielder.) By that mark, the Dodgers have gone from -8 last year to about 4 this year. Overall, they’re the third-most sure-handed team in baseball, even if their range is in the lower third.
So the trade off is maybe fewer highlights for fewer lowlights. Better? Worse? Maybe that’s up to you.