Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How is Alex Avila Doing Defensively?

Tigers catcher Alex Avila is battling tendinitis in his knee and is not hitting as well as he did in 2011.  However, based on observation, his defense seems not to be suffering too much.  In this post, I will take a close look at the numbers.

The system used to evaluate catchers is complex and I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here.  If you want to see the details, you can read my earlier article.  I do want to give credit to others who inspired me with similar work in the past:  Sean Smith, Justin Inaz, Matt Klaasen and Mike Rogers.

First, remember that less than three months of defensive data is a relatively small sample size so you should use caution in interpreting the results.  Also keep in mind that these numbers do not capture everything that a catcher does.  For example, they say nothing about game calling or understanding of pitcher abilities and tendencies. I am only going to evaluate catchers based on what we can most easily measure - controlling the running game, pitch blocking and avoiding errors.

Table 1 contains data for all catchers with at least 300 innings through June 26.  That covers almost all of the starting catchers in the majors.  The CSRuns column gives us an estimation of how many runs each catcher saved/cost his team compared to the average catcher by controlling the running game.  It is based on stolen bases against and caught stealing.  Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero is the MLB leader with an estimated 6.7 runs saved over an average catcher.  Avila is tenth with 2.1 runs saved.  A negative sign before a number indicates that a catcher cost his team runs.  The worst receiver in this category is Rod Barajas who has cost the Pirates an estimated -5.9 runs. 

The next column (WPPBRuns) tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams with pitch blocking or preventing passed balls and wild pitches.  Number one is Orioles backstop Matt Wieters with 3.5 runs saved. On the other hand, Wilin Rosario has cost the Rockies about four runs (-3.7).  Just like last year, Avila is a little below average on this statistic costing the Tigers  between one and two runs (-1.5) with pitch blocking.

The TERuns column tells us about throwing errors.  There is not a lot of variation between catchers here, but Phillies receiver Carlos Ruiz leads with 0.8 runs saved.  Conversely, Rosario has cost the Rockies -1.1 runs on throwing errors.  Avila is right around average (-0.2). 

The FERuns column indicates how many runs catchers have saved/cost their teams with fielding errors.  Again, there is not a of of variation.  There are three catchers tied with 0.5 runs saved.  The worst is Mets catcher Josh Thole (-1.2).  Avila is slightly above average on this measure saving the Tigers 0.3 runs.

The final column (CatchRuns) is the sum of the previous four columns.  It tells us how many runs catchers saved/cost their teams on the above items combined.  The leader is Montero who has saved Arizona more than nine runs (9.4).  The worst is Barajas who has cost the Pirates five runs .  Avila has saved the Tigers almost one run (0.7) with his defense.  That ranks him 13th among 26 qualifiers.

In summary, Avila has been good at controlling the running game and avoiding fielding errors and a little below average at pitch blocking and throwing errors.  Overall, he is in the middle of the pack among major league catchers defensively.


Table 1: Catcher Runs Saved/Cost through June 26, 2012


Player
Team
Inn
CSRuns
WPPBRuns
TERuns
FERuns
CatchRuns
Miguel Montero
ARI
517
6.7
2.2
-0.0
0.4
9.4
Carlos Ruiz
PHI
506
4.4
2.7
0.8
-1.1
6.8
Ryan Hanigan
CIN
393
3.3
3.3
-0.2
0.3
6.7
Matt Wieters
BAL
549
2.7
3.5
-0.8
-0.0
5.3
Kurt Suzuki
OAK
529
3.0
1.3
0.3
0.5
5.0
Yadier Molina
STL
562
2.3
1.4
0.3
0.5
4.4
John Buck
MIA
484
0.5
2.4
-0.6
0.4
2.7
Brian McCann
ATL
466
1.0
0.8
0.7
-0.1
2.4
Nick Hundley
SDP
451
2.4
0.3
-0.1
-0.1
2.4
Humberto Quintero
KCR
355
2.4
0.3
-0.8
0.3
2.2
A.J. Ellis
LAD
524
2.9
-1.0
-0.0
-0.0
1.8
Buster Posey
SFG
462
-0.6
2.1
-0.4
-0.1
1.1
Alex Avila
DET
389
2.1
-1.5
-0.2
0.3
0.7
J.P. Arencibia
TOR
494
1.4
-1.1
-0.1
-0.1
0.1
Jonathan Lucroy
MIL
322
-0.7
0.8
-0.3
0.3
-0.0
Josh Thole
NYM
363
-0.7
1.0
0.3
-1.2
-0.7
Jesus Flores
WSN
363
-0.8
-1.0
0.6
0.3
-0.9
Mike Napoli
TEX
371
-1.4
-0.1
0.3
-0.2
-1.4
Russell Martin
NYY
480
-0.1
-2.1
0.5
0.4
-1.4
Carlos Santana
CLE
436
1.9
-3.5
-0.4
0.4
-1.6
A.J. Pierzynski
CHW
530
0.3
-3.2
0.3
0.5
-2.2
Jose Molina
TBR
332
-1.6
-1.6
-0.3
0.3
-3.2
Wilin Rosario
COL
370
0.9
-3.7
-1.1
0.3
-3.6
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
BOS
444
-3.3
0.3
-0.4
-0.6
-4.1
Jason Castro
HOU
378
-2.3
-1.9
-0.8
0.3
-4.7
Rod Barajas
PIT
430
-5.9
0.4
0.1
0.4
-5.0


Data Source: Baseball-Reference

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