Mike Trout, Albert Almora among outfielders off to strong defensive starts

By LINDSAY ZECK
On Monday, Mark Simon posted a blog entry about rookie Harrison Bader, who has had one of the most notable defensive performances thus far with diving catches like this one.

He has already saved the Cardinals seven runs this season—tied for the third most in the league—despite only playing 152 innings.

His defensive performance in the majors has been somewhat of a surprise, as his defense in the minors was below average. He cost the Springfield Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds two runs in 2016 and the latter team two runs in 2017.

Besides Bader, which other outfielders have been defensive standouts?

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Prior to the start of the season, Mike Trout was quoted as saying: “I think every outfielder that plays this game wants to win a Gold Glove.”

So far in 2018, Trout has been working towards that goal like with this diving catch against Paulo Orlando of the Royals on April 13th. He is currently tied for second among center fielders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), saving the Angels six runs — behind only Michael A. Taylor who has saved the Nationals seven.

Since 2012, when Trout saved 21 runs and finished second in DRS for center fielders behind only Michael Bourn, the greatest number of runs he saved in a given season was six in 2016. He is currently at that total, despite only playing 368 innings.

Though it’s early to say if Trout improved defensively, he’s handled what has come his way without much issue through the first quarter of the season.

Chris Owings, Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Owings is tied for the lead of all outfielders in DRS, saving the Diamondbacks eight runs in the outfield—seven in right field and one in left. If not for costing his team two runs at second base, he would be tied for the second-most DRS in the league. Impressively, his eight runs saved have come in only 182 innings in the outfield.

Owings has led the Diamondbacks to the second most runs saved of any outfield in Major League Baseball. His eight runs saved in addition to Jarrod Dyson’s five, A.J Pollock’s four, and David Peralta’s two, with Steven Souza Jr. costing the team two in right field, give the D-backs outfield 17 runs saved. This is two fewer than the first-place outfield, the Milwaukee Brewers.

Check out Owings’ most recent Good Fielding Play from two days ago against Manny Pina of the Brewers here.

Albert Almora, Chicago Cubs
Albert Almora vaulted up the Defensive Runs Saved rankings on Wednesday — literally. His home run robbery against the Braves upped his total to six runs saved defensively, tied for second among center fielders.

Impressive catches have been Almora’s game this season. He leads all outfielders with nine Good Fielding Plays, all on fly ball or line drive catches.

Carlos Gomez, Tampa Bay Rays
The change of scenery and primary position had seemed to help Carlos Gomez find his defensive skills again until Wednesday, when he was placed on the disabled list with a strained groin.

After two below average seasons, where he cost the Astros and Rangers six runs in 2016 and the Rangers four runs in 2017, he has saved the Rays eight runs this season—second most in the league. He has saved nine in right field and cost one in center (his primary position for the previous ten seasons).

Gomez already has eight Good Fielding Plays—the most of all right fielders. Half of them are from holding a runner to a single on a ball that seemed more likely to be a double, the kind that doesn’t often make highlight reels, but is nonetheless important.

In fact, runners have only taken an extra base on 32 percent of their opportunities against Gomez (7 of 22)—the fifth lowest percentage among right fielders. In 2017, at his primary position of center field, runners took an extra base against him on 59 percent of opportunities (49 of 83), which ranked 27th of the 35 center fielders with at least 30 opportunities.

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