Marlin Range

Yesterday, we took a look at what goes into infield defense by examining the cases of Mike Jacobs and Hanley Ramirez. Keeping with the themes of defense and, well, the Florida Marlins, I decided to check some data out at the suggestion of colleague Brian Cartwright. Brian astutely pointed out that both Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla have posted similar fielding numbers in the sense that both looked slightly different in 2006 and 2008 than they did the year in between.

Interestingly enough, Miguel Cabrera’s defense at third base has followed the same trend, -4 in 2006, -8 in 2007, and -4 in 2008. Of course, Cabrera did not play for the Marlins last season, and was replaced by Jorge Cantu, who proceeded to post a -6 UZR. Let’s visualize the overall UZR numbers for their infield in this span, stacked up next to each other:

Name      2006   2007   2008
Jacobs    -3.2   -4.1  -11.1
Uggla     +7.0   -9.6   +2.9 
Ramirez   -5.5  -19.1   -0.3
Cabrera*  -4.3   -8.1   -6.2

*-Cantu for 2008

In 2006, Jacobs and Cabrera were quite comparable. The next season, Jacobs declined slightly while Cabrera fell off much more, yet their infield peers, perhaps in trying to make up the difference, lost 14-16 runs from the year prior. Last season, the third base situation improved a bit and Ramirez bounced back fantastically. Conversely, Jacobs experienced a vast decrease in his defensive mark and Uggla gained 11-12 runs.

Their respective ranges produce similar results. While we might expect worse range from Jacobs and Cabrera/Cantu to lead to worse UZR marks for Uggla and Ramirez, there seems to be more at work here. Cabrera’s range decline of a couple of runs cannot be the sole contributing factor to Ramirez’s overall defensive mark falling completely off the chart. Likewise, how would Uggla get that much better if Jacobs also fell by the wayside?

As the Chase Utley/Ryan Howard example showed, where Utley posted a ridiculous + – score largely due to Howard’s lack of range, worse range at a position right next door can lead to more opportunities. Unfortunately, many forget that more opportunities can also lead to more failure, but Ramirez and Uggla did not cost their team drastically more error runs than they had in 2006, meaning their extra opportunities were not as detrimental as you might think.

As both MGL and I have shown here, more range actually leads to less errors, and vice versa, with less range leading to more errors, but even when the ranges of Ramirez and Uggla took significant hits in 2007, they did not experience huge shifts in errors compared to the league average fielder at their position.

It makes perfectly good intuitive sense that when the infielder playing next to you shows poor range, that your numbers would also suffer, but that does not seem to be the definitive case here. Perhaps something else is at work, like the pitchers being hit very hard, or both players experiencing the injury bug, but I do not have the end all solution here. Maybe a wisdom of the crowd approach would serve well to answer this question. So, what say you? Why would the defensive numbers of Ramirez and Uggla drop so drastically in 2007 when Jacobs and Cabrera did not take too significant of a hit? And why then would Ramirez and Uggla improve even though Jacobs severely worsened?

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Matt H.
13 years ago

Jacobs is just bad, and got worse by year, where Ramirez and Uggla are pretty much league average and their pitching staffs had more hard hit balls that were hit up the middle. Some of them may have been playable or not, but more opportunities on hard hit balls makes more hard plays.

Matt H.
13 years ago
Reply to  Matt H.

that was meant to be a theory. not in any way a statement of fact.