Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not So Glovely

Everyone knows the old sports saying: 'Defense wins championships."

Well, in baseball, that's not exactly true. If you can't hit the ball, you're not going to win much. Just ask the 2009 Seattle Mariners. They finished the season 85-77, but they were absolutely incredible in the field and on the mound. Their team UZR was an incredible 85.3. To put it simply, that means their defense saved them a run in just about every other game.

Those numbers probably help lead to their 3.87 ERA, good for sixth best in all of baseball. Keep in mind that was before Cliff Lee arrived in town. If you tack on those runs, their team ERA raises to 4.40, or 19th best. If you are looking for a reason why the Mariners didn't go onto the playoffs, examine their lackluster offense who managed to only post 3.95 runs a game.

Conversely, the Milwaukee Brewers can hit. They are currently eight in baseball with 506 runs scored, or 4.73 a game. The problem for the Crew has been inconsistent pitching and defense. Brewers arms have given up 519 earned runs this season, which equates to a team ERA of 4.93. That's already good enough for fifth worst in MLB, but factor in bad fielding and the Brewers have been a joke when not batting.

Only the Astros (56), Cubs (60) and Nationals (54) have surrendered more unearned runs than the Brewers (53) this season. That means the Brewers average an unearned run in every other game. If you follow advanced fielding statistics, it's been just as ugly for the Brewers. Here are the UZR (runs saved or lost) for every player who has logged over 300 innings at a position.

Ryan Braun -10.2
Corey Hart -8.1
Casey McGehee -7.4
Prince Fielder -5.1
Rickie Weeks -2.5
Carlos Gomez 0.2
Alcides Escobar 0.2
Jim Edmonds 5.4

Combining all of those numbers, Brewers starters have cost the team 27.5 runs this season. That makes them the fifth worst defense team in baseball this season. With a team that struggles to pitch already, giving extra outs and extra runs is a recipe for disaster.

Contrary to belief, the Brewers were a pretty decent defensive team last season. The managed a team UZR of 3.5, which ranked them 12th in baseball. The two defensive minded Brewers who departed were J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron. Cameron saved an incredible 11.4 runs last season, while Hardy saved 6.8 himself. Craig Counsell also received much more playing time and was able to save 5.9 runs.

Clearly pitching has been a big problem for the Brewers this season, but the defense is not helping matters.

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