Pirates’ 2007 in review – outfield defense

This is the first installment in a series reviewing the performance of the Piratesí defense in 2007. For this purpose, I will be using Fielding Runs Above Replacement (FRAR) and Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) by Baseball Prospectus (BP). Along with the statistical analysis, I will incorporate what I have seen while watching the team play this year. Since fielding statistics are not as precise as offensive measures, I welcome any disagreement you may have with any of my assessments. Feel free to explain an opposing point of view in the comments section. First, we will look at Pirate outfielders.
Overall, the Pirates outfield simply looked bad in 2007. Balls were not caught, throws were feeble, and the players occasionally looked lost while roaming the grass. Jason Bay, an above average leftfielder when he joined the team, has seen his skills decline to the point that he is an occasional liability. His throwing arm is poor, and he seems very tentative when pursuing baseballs in play. Bay was an aggressive fielder when he was younger, but now chooses the safe route more often than not. Maybe there is an injury involved, as he has had knee problems the past couple seasons. BP had him at an FRAR of 6 and an FRAA of -4.
Xavier Nady spent the majority of the season playing through a hamstring injury. This often slowed him in the field, leaving him mediocre at best with the glove. Outside of that, he has no major strengths or weaknesses. He is the definition of average. He had an FRAR of 3 and a FRAA of -5 in 2007.
Chris Duffy began the season as the everyday centerfielder, before injuries ended his season in late June. He struggled at the plate, but his performance in centerfield was very good. His speed is a tremendous asset for him, and he complements that with good jumps and effective routes. His arm is not strong, but a good technique allows him to make average throws. He had an FRAR of 13 and an FRAA of 5 this season.
When Duffy was injured, Nate McLouth took his place in centerfield. He has a reputation of being a solid but unspectacular centerfielder, one that would be more suited for a corner spot. His performance in 2007 was similar to that description. He possesses strong fundamental skills without the flashy athletic ability of the conventional centerfielder. In 2007, he had an FRAR of 7 and an FRAA of -2.
Nyjer Morgan joined the team in September, and received the bulk of the playing time in center after that point. He performed very well, highlighted by two fantastic catches. Morganís routes were often shaky, but excellent speed made up for his inexperience. He began playing the game late in life, so his defense should improve with time. In the final month, he put up a FRAR of 10 and a FRAA of 7.
Ryan Doumit showed some promise in right field this season. He surprised many with his comfort, and proved to have the only above average arm in the Pirate outfield. Jose Bautista continued his display of versatility, playing all three outfield positions in 2007. He was mediocre in that role. Steve Pearce, playing the outfield for the first time after his September call-up, looked surprisingly comfortable in right. Rajah Davis was solid in limited playing time. Jose Castillo and Brad Eldred spent insignificant amounts of time in the outfield. As a group, these players had an FRAR of 6 and an FRAA of -4.
The outfield was completely mediocre defensively in 2007. There was the occasional brilliant play, and many makeable plays that were not made. Overall, they produced an FRAR of 43 and an FRAA of -5. As is typical of the Pirates as a whole, the outfield is simply a group of extremely average defenders.

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3 Responses to “Pirates’ 2007 in review – outfield defense”

  1. Joey Says:

    Interesting article. No one should overlook the importance of outfield defense. What I want to discuss is the remarkably poor positioning of this outfield, namely that of Jason Bay. Did anyone else notice the light green patch of grass in LF that he wore out from standing in all year?? Bay never moved from that spot. Every game I went to, I watched how he adjusted for each batter. There was nothing. Even for pitchers, he played in the same exact spot! He was far too deep constantly, especially considering his poor arm. As a whole, the coaching staff never had the outfield playing further in with 2 outs and a runner on second. We hardly ever were able to cut off runs at the plate as a result (Joggin’ Ronny didn’t help there either).

  2. Matt Bandi Says:

    Honestly, Joey, I had not noticed that. I must have missed it at games I attended. That would make sense with the way Bay played this season. He rarely took risks, and playing deep would help him keep balls in front of him. That might further indicate that his knee or another injury was bothering him, making him apprehensive about balls hit over his head. Or maybe Tracy was simply playing solitaire in the dugout and never got around to aligning his defense.
    Thanks for the input. I will be sure to keep a closer eye on the positioning in 2008.

  3. Transmission Says:

    Interesting observation about Bay. My understanding is that on most teams, positioning is coordinated by one of the bench coaches. Pat Corrales, in particular, stands out on the Braves’ team. Wonder how much of that is Bay’s problem, and how much of that is the coaching staff’s…..


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