Richard Jones- Up the Middle Defense


The Mets are projected to have the worst up the middle defense in baseball in 2017. Up the middle defense is the bulk of the overall defense. How important is defense? I believe it goes much further than the direct results. A team may make and error or fail to make an out that a better defensive team would have made. If that cost a run or more we see direct consequences. If a team doesn't score a run we often believe it didn't cost us anything. Is that true? I believe not.

When you extend an inning the pitcher has to throw more pitches. Most of those extra pitches will be thrown under "duress". It's much harder on a pitcher's arm to throw 30 pitches in one inning vs. throwing 30 pitches in three innings. Injuries are often tied to innings or pitch count but many who have studied pitching injuries feel pitching under "duress" is a bigger factor. Pitching one long inning with men on base is more stressful than pitching multiple clean innings.

Even if poor defense doesn't lead to an injury it does add to the pitch count of a pitcher and that will result an an earlier exit and more work put on the bullpen which is often over worked. And lets not forget the direct consequences. More runs scored against us.

In looking at Mets up the middle defense lets start with catcher. In a recent post in this blog Christopher Soto brought up the large difference in the E.R.A of Mets pitchers when Travis d'Arnaud was catching in 2016 vs. their E.R.A. when Rene Rivera was catching. I found an article in Newsday that had a little different numbers than those that Christopher had. I'm going to use Newsday's not because I think their's is better but because they're a little bit more favoriable to d'Arnaud and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Mets pitchers when pitching to d'Arnaud had a 4.21 E.R.A. compared to a 2.77 E.R.A. when pitching to Rivera. Just watching how Rivera handles the Mets pitching it is quite obvious he is the better defensive catcher but 1.44 runs per game! Now another point in d'Arnauds behalf is that Rivera got to catch most of Syndergaard's innings. So that may account for some of the difference but certainly not all of it. d'Arnaud's catching E.R.A. is at least .5 above the Mets pitching staff minus Syndergaard. So d'Arnaud cost the Mets at least .5 runs per game. That is 81 runs over 162 games. Can his bat ever produce enough to close the gap even if Rivera was totally dead weight as a hitter.

The Mets middle infield in 2016 was a huge improvement over that of 2015. Cabrera and Walker were sure handed but they were still below league average do to the lack of range. They're projected to be the worst middle infield in 2017 with -19 runs saved.

Granderson will be well below par in Centerfield. Will his 130 strike outs and 30 solo homeruns justify him playing Centerfield.

How I would address this. If d'Arnaud doesn't show huge improvement, and I haven't liked what I've seen so far you have to make a trade or go with Rivera. Catching is to important of a position defensively. .5 runs plus per game is to much of a gap for even Piazza to make up with his bat let alone d'Arnaud. Move Walker to 1st. Duda needs to be getting swings every day if he is going to get to a point where he is going to be productive. I don't see that happening. Move on. Move Cabrera to 3rd. He is not our best option or even our 2nd best option at short stop. Last year it was obvious Reyes was better suited for shortstop. I was fine with the Mets being loyal. This is a new year they need to be in a win now mode. Make Reyes the everyday 2nd basemen. He still shows great range as a middle infielder. Don't wait until mid summer. Now is the time for Amed Rosario to take over the short stop position. Play Conforto everyday in centerfield with Lageras as a late inning substitution. I orginally had Lageras as the everday Centerfielder but that would be giving up to much offensively.

My proposed 2017 opening day lineup
1. Reyes  2nd base
2. Cabrera 3rd base
3. Cespedes Leftfield
4. Bruce Rightfield
5. Conforto Centerfield
6. Walker 1st base
7. Rosario Short Stop
8. Rivera Catcher

I think the offense suffers a little but the defense moves from dead last to a top 10 defense.


Anonymous said...

Conforto is an atrocious fielder and will never be a CFer, try again

Richard Jones said...

After hearing the scouting reports about Conforto coming at of college and looking at his minor leagues stats I once believed that. Then I actually watched him play. He is no Juan Lageras but he is a notch better than Granderson.

Mack Ade said...

Some facts -

1. any scout will tell you that the most talented defensive players play 'in the middle of the field'... 2B, SS, and CF are the key to good team defense

2. more baseballs are hit to middle fielders than corner fielders

3. the Mets have two past Gold glove players, Yoenes Cespdes and Juan Lagares

I've always been a 'defense first' person because I know I have 8 hitters in my lineup. I cn sacrifice the three above mentioned positions for defensive stars if I have the right bats playing the other positions.

Thus, in a perfect world, my 2017 middle field would be:

2B Cabrera
SS Rosario
CF Lagares

However... I would have to respect the money I have invested in Cabrera and Walker.

Sooo... my middle infield from opening day through the All-Star break:

2B - Walker
SS - Cabrera
CF - Lagares

Richard Jones said...

I can go with Walker at 2nd. I also have the respect for Cabrera to have him in the lineup every day but it would be at third since the chances of Wright getting back there any time soon is slim to none. Reyes isn't what he used to be but when he plays short it is a night and day difference over Cabrera. This could be the Mets year. Play the best man.

Reese Kaplan said...

The best defense is good pitching -- guys who make it difficult for the opposition to take good swings. The Mets have that, hence I feel they can compete using the defensive alignment projected to happen. Remember, they're a second tier team (on a good day) when it comes to offense.

That being said, I could live with Conforto replacing Granderson in CF. Granderson is a sunk cost and at his age isn't going to net much in return. Bruce still has the opportunity to play himself into a trade chip. Ditto Duda.

Thomas Brennan said...

Didn't Walker have a strong rep for defense last year? One would think a post-surgery Walker would be as good or better.

Eddie Corona said...

Not the craziest Idea but wouldn't Granderson in RF be better than Bruce? Granderson Arm is weak but he would get to more fly balls...

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