Last Year’s Defensive Zeroes

Not long ago, we made available the results of the 2015 Fan Scouting Report. August already made use of them last week, and everything is right up there for your easy perusal. The measure obviously isn’t without its flaws, but no defensive measure is without its flaws, and as you’ve probably come to understand by how often I poll the FanGraphs community, I love to see what you people think about things. Even when the public might be wrong, there’s the opportunity to learn from its perception. The Fan Scouting Report is all about perceptions.

If you don’t know quite how it works, people submit ballots, evaluating player defense based on seven categories: instincts, first step, speed, hands, release, arm strength, and arm accuracy. Everything gets combined into an overall rating, and last year’s top rating was a four-way tie between Jackie Bradley Jr., Brandon Crawford, Jason Heyward, and Andrelton Simmons. According to the fans, those were the best defenders in the game, and each of them is recognized as being outstanding. This is one fun way to sort the leaderboards — see who the fans think was awesome, either overall, or within a particular category.

You can also do the opposite of that. Every leaderboard that has a top has a bottom.

I’m not here to talk about ordinary bad defenders. I’m here to talk about a special kind of bad defender. The way the Fan Scouting Report works is that all the ratings are on a 0-to-100 scale. As you can imagine, the averages are around 50, and most players end up near to the midpoint. Talent in baseball has a pretty normal distribution, although something we don’t see are any 100s. Since 2009, given players who were voted on at least five times, we’ve seen just two 100 ratings — 2010 Yadier Molina’s release, and 2010 Yadier Molina’s arm accuracy. However, over the same span of time, there are 42 instances of a player getting a zero rating in a category. Zero is as low as it gets, and it shows a consensus on the voters’ part that the player was an extraordinary sort of godawful.

Think about what it means to get a zero. In the Fan Scouting Report, specifically, but also just in general. A zero is what you get in school if you don’t turn in an assignment. Or, I guess, if you just turn it in blank. Either way, you get a zero if you just don’t try. If you do try, and you still get a zero, there’s no other way to say it — you must be an example of phenomenal incompetence, woefully terrible regardless of intentions. The Fan Scouting Report itself isn’t as objective as a graded assignment; the Internet has a well-demonstrated tendency to pile on. The Internet is known to exaggerate, but to get a zero after multiple ballots have been submitted? It’s not collusion. It’s multiple parties arriving at the same exaggeration, which makes you wonder how much of an exaggeration it is at all.

To me, a zero rating for a player is far more powerful than a 10, or a five, or even a one. Here, then, are last season’s zeroes, given at least five fan ballots.


Only one player last year got a zero rating for his instincts — rather unsurprisingly, that player was Hanley Ramirez. He got the first Instinct zero since 2011, and what I can’t tell is whether this means Red Sox fans thought Hanley lacked left-field instincts, or just literally any and all instincts.

First Step

No one got a zero rating for his first step. Which is good, because if there did exist such a player, he’d still be trying to field his first play of the season.


Also, no one got a zero rating for his speed. How could you tell the difference between a player with zero speed and a player with zero first step? Scientists agonize over this.


Now we’re in business once more. There were three players who got a zero rating for their hands: Micah Johnson, Pedro Alvarez, and Hanley Ramirez again. These players were essentially broomsticks with gloves attached to them, but the gloves were wired shut.


Nobody got a zero here, although Alvarez tried his damnedest.

Arm Strength

Here we have Coco Crisp! Crisp got a zero for 2015, to go along with his zero for 2012 and his zero for 2009. In 2011, he got a one; in 2014, he got a four. Khris Davis just got a six. The A’s acquired a six, and he represents an arm-strength improvement.

Arm Accuracy

For the second year in a row, Pedro Alvarez was given an arm-accuracy zero. He was joined last year by Ryan Howard, who has gotten zeroes in three of the last four seasons. Alvarez has made 28 throwing errors since the start of 2014. Howard hasn’t made a throwing error since 2012. I can only choose to assume a wayward Howard throw knocked out the official scorer and no one has volunteered to replace him. The errors might be unrecorded, but you can’t slip anything by a Phillies fan.

Nobody got an overall rating of zero. That would be almost impossible. You probably noticed, though, that Hanley Ramirez got a pair of component zeroes, as did Pedro Alvarez. Only six times in seven years has a player been given multiple zeroes. Here’s the full list:

Two zeroes
Three zeroes

Montero still stands alone by that grouping, but he came ever so close to having company. Here’s how Hanley and Alvarez have progressed for as long as we have data here:

Hanley Ramirez Fan Scouting Reports
Season Team Instincts First Step Speed Hands Release Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall
2009 Marlins 63 75 76 50 58 74 48 63
2010 Marlins 50 58 74 41 48 64 31 52
2011 Marlins 56 59 70 44 43 70 32 53
2012 2 Teams 39 46 62 32 38 64 38 45
2013 Dodgers 42 48 55 31 23 52 35 41
2014 Dodgers 28 30 40 18 15 48 21 29
2015 Red Sox 0 13 31 0 6 37 23 16

Pedro Alvarez Fan Scouting Reports
Season Team Instincts First Step Speed Hands Release Arm Strength Arm Accuracy Overall
2010 Pirates 35 25 26 27 44 85 46 41
2011 Pirates 40 27 26 27 29 74 36 37
2012 Pirates 49 42 30 38 37 86 41 46
2013 Pirates 55 48 37 37 62 87 44 53
2014 Pirates 61 50 40 47 18 78 0 42
2015 Pirates 8 25 29 0 1 55 0 17

Hanley missed by a six, in Release. Alvarez missed by a one, also in Release. And for good measure, Alvarez had a measly eight for Instincts. Montero is tied with 2013 Raul Ibanez for the worst overall rating on record, but here we have two players who gave them a run for their money. Hanley’s overall rating has dropped by 47 points since the 2009 season. Alvarez was considered an average defender as recently as 2013, before the arm blew everything to bits.

I don’t know what the future has in store, but one of these players is working out at a defensive position. The other is a power-hitting DH. One of these players is staying on the same team. The other is still a free agent. Yet we’ve probably seen both these players at their lowest. They have almost literally nowhere lower to go, at least in the collective estimation of those who watched without drinking the memories away.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Dee P. Gordon
8 years ago

There’s still time for a double-zero guy to turn his defense around. Who knows, maybe even become a (simulated) Gold Glove centerfielder!