After four straight seasons of posting negative UZRs, the Braves are leading the majors in defensive value this year, posting a +47 figure. The underlying factor in the 90’s division run was consistent defense, staying in the positive range from 1992-2007. I’ll go through every position on this year’s team, finding totals and league rankings in all relevant categories.
Brian McCann and David Ross have combined as one of the better defensive tandems in the majors this year. They have thrown 31 of 106 base stealers out (29%), which is just above league average. The two have a combined +2.6 RPP, a measure of blocking pitches. While 2.6 runs is not a big deal, it’s still a top 5 figure in the league. Individually, Ross has thrown out a higher percentage of runners, while McCann has been better at blocking.
After a terrible UZR rating last year, Freddie Freeman has rebounded to expected levels, a bit below average in range and an above-average glove. He has made 76% of plays in his “zone”, near the bottom of the league, and 21 plays out of his zone, an average number. He has 40 scoops on the season, second only behind Carlos Pena in the league. These first two positions are easily the most difficult to evaluate, due to the large amount of stationary work done at them.
Never known for his glove, Dan Uggla has managed to put together an average season in the field. His best attribute this year has been turning double plays. He’s made 83% of plays in his zone, above average, and 38 plays out of his zone, about average. Seven of his ten errors have been of the throwing variety, the opposite of league average.
There has been a revolving door at the position this year. Overall, the Braves are just below average on the season. The damage came from Tyler Pastornicky‘s stint there, posting a -12.5 UZR in a quarter of a season, with most of his problems stemming from poor range. Jack Wilson was uncharacteristically below average in his short stint. Andrelton Simmons was spectacular in his 289 innings, posting a +8 UZR and +15 DRS. Paul Janish has been nearly as good, showing above-average range and a very sure-handed glove.
This has been a surprisingly strong position for the Braves, getting a +5 UZR from a 40-year-old Chipper Jones and a bat-first Juan Francisco. Martin Prado has been the below-average piece of the three-way puzzle at third. Even more surprising is the reason for the good numbers: range. Nine of their 14 errors have been fielding, while errors are usually split 50/50 throughout the league.
This has been easily the best unit in baseball, posting a +37 UZR, with all three starters in double digits. They have the best ARM and Range figures in the league as a team. Michael Bourn has a +17 UZR, with above-average ARM and Error ratings and a huge Range number, very impressive for a centerfielder. Jason Heyward has been about as good in right, while Prado has used his arm more than the other two. The success of these three could be interlinked, since if so few balls hit the ground, there aren’t as many deductions made for each player. Reed Johnson, Matt Diaz, and Eric Hinske have been poor, somewhat expected at their ages.