A Look at the Royals Defense in 2015

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Durham Bulls fictional manager Joe “Skip” Riggins once said, “This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.”

The 2015 Royals will definitely be expected to catch the ball. When Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer all take the field it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these guys can play a little defense. All three guys have won Gold Gloves with Gordon topping the list with four. So, with left field, first base and catcher covered, let's take a look at the rest of the defense.

3B Mike Moustakas

Mike may be well known for his diving catch over the railing in Game 3 of the ALCS but his overall defense is less than perfect. His fielding percentage has gone down every year since 2012 from .967 to last years .947. As to be expected his errors have gone up every year as well. Last year he had a career high 19 errors, 11 fielding and 8 throwing. Can anyone hear Ned Yost yelling? "God dammit Moose, get in front of the ball!"

One of the fairly new statistics being presented to evaluate defense is called Runs Saved and it’s a really great barometer to measure a player’s defensive effectiveness. It’s based on a plus/minus system of how many runs a player saves for his team. In a nutshell an average player will rate at zero and anything above zero is considered above average and anything below is below average. Here’s a link for a more detailed definition from the fielding bible website.  (http://fieldingbible.com/Fielding-Bible-FAQ.asp)

For example Alex Gordon is +27 in Runs Saved, which makes him an elite left fielder, and of course a gold glove winner. On the other hand, Moose is at -2, which indicates that he is slightly below average. It should be pointed out that in 2012 Mike rated at +14. Is it a coincidence that he put up his best defensive and offensive stats in the same year? Probably not. If Mike has a good start at the plate in 2015 it will probably improve his focus on defense.

SS Alcides Escobar

Esky has a great reputation of being a phenomenal shortstop but he has yet to win a gold glove award. How can this be? For one, the shortstop position is by far the most competitive on the field. The best defensive players in the world play this position. The 2014 gold glove went to Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy. Hardy’s fielding percentage was .978 and his Runs Saved rated at +10.

The second reason Escobar hasn’t won a gold glove is simply that he has underperformed. It can be argued that in 2011 Escobar should have won the award with a +10 Runs Saved rating but in the last three years he has failed to regain the 2011 magic. From 2012-2014 his combine rating is -2. Maybe his girlfriend put a curse on his glove or maybe it’s just a couple of down years. That being said, he is fully capable of putting together a great year and if he does a gold glove will be in his trophy case. Hopefully without sacrificing a live chicken.

2B Omar Infante

Omar has been the picture of defensive consistency over his 11-year career. But only at a slightly above average level. He played 134 games at second base in 2014 and committed 11 errors with a +1 Runs Saved rating. And he did it while being bothered by injuries most of the season. If Omar can get healthy and stay that way, his 2015 will be another solid campaign.

CF Lorenzo Cain / Jarrod Dyson

This is where everything gets really interesting. Baltimore Orioles Adam Jones was voted the 2014 center fielder gold glove winner and there's a strong case that he shouldn't have won. Jones made 7 errors and had only a +2 runs saved rating in 155 games played.

Lorenzo Cain only made 2 errors in 133 games played and 1 of those was in Right field. He played 93 games in center with a .996 fielding percentage with a +14 runs saved. In 77 games in Right field he had a +10 runs saved. And yes if you combine the two LoCain puts up a +24 runs saved. Which is gold glove worthy. What hurts Cain the most is when Jarrod Dyson replaces him late in games. Even though Cain is moving to right its hard for voters to give an award when there's a perception of replacement. Nevertheless, if Cain plays 133 games in center with the +24 stat, he's the clear winner.

 

Going back to Jarrod Dyson, he played 106 games in center and made 4 errors. His run saved rating was +14. So with the dynamic duo of Cain and Dyson the Royals have a center fielder that put up a +28. That's well over Adam Jones and equal to the National league winner, Juan Lagares of the New York Mets.

 

RF Alex Rios

Rios was signed by the Royals in the off-season to replace free agent right fielder Nori Aoki. Last year Rios had a forgettable season with the Rangers. Between the ages of 23 and 27 he was an elite fielder but since he hit 30 its been all down hill. Last year at age 33 he made 6 errors in 114 games and had a -3 rating. Look for Manager Ned Yost to replace Rios, with Cain, late in games if the Royals have a lead.

 

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga, Getty Images

 

 

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Author: Jason Ulitschan

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