Stat of the Week: 2018 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders

By Mark Simon

With the 2018 regular season concluded, let’s look at the leaders in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman finished as the overall leader with 29. Chapman dominated all season, with his work being particularly outstanding on balls hit down the third base line. The next-closest third baseman in Runs Saved was Adrian Beltre with 10.

It also helped Chapman that he had an excellent defender on the other side of the diamond to handle his throws. The leader there was his teammate, Matt Olson, with 14. With Olson and Chapman at the corners, the Athletics allowed only 20 ground-ball doubles, tied with the Red Sox for fewest in MLB.

The outfield leader was a surprise — JaCoby Jones of the Tigers. Jones saved 21 runs, 11 in 55 games in left field and 10 in 67 games in center field. His 15 jumping catches (including a pair of HR robberies) tied for second in the majors behind Billy Hamilton’s 18.

The DRS leaders at the individual outfield positions were (from left to right) Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Mookie Betts. Cain’s 20 Runs Saved were a career-high, with the key reason being an 11-run improvement from last season in his arm rating (from costing the Royals six runs to saving the Brewers five). Gordon and Betts each led their position for the third time in their careers, with Betts having done it each of the last three seasons.

Andrelton Simmons was the co-leader at shortstop, joined by Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed. Simmons was a standout defender in both directions and tied for the MLB lead with four Double Play Runs Saved. Ahmed had his best season at the position, with his super-strong throwing arm helping him record the bulk of his Runs Saved on balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole. Kolten Wong of the Cardinals finished as the top second baseman. He had a 20-run improvement from 2017, finishing with 19 DRS.

The Diamondbacks led MLB with 157 Runs Saved, so it’s not surprising the team had three positional leaders. Joining Ahmed is catcher Jeff Mathis, whose 17 Runs Saved in only 523 innings were five better than anyone else there. Also, pitcher Zack Greinke finished tied with Julio Teheran and Masahiro Tanaka with each saving his team seven runs. Mathis was Greinke’s personal catcher and helped him with outstanding numbers in both pitch framing (9 DRS, one shy of the MLB lead) and pitch-blocking (he led the majors with a 96.4 percent blocking success rate).

Greinke, one of the better athletes among pitchers, will be trying for his first Fielding Bible Award. Those winners will be announced just after the conclusion of the World Series.

2018 Defensive Runs Saved Leaders
Position Name DRS
 C  Jeff Mathis 17
 1B  Matt Olson 14
 2B  Kolten Wong 20
 SS (tie)  Andrelton Simmons 21
 SS (tie)  Nick Ahmed 21
 3B  Matt Chapman 29
 LF  Alex Gordon 18
 CF  Lorenzo Cain 20
 RF  Mookie Betts 20
 OF (Overall)  JaCoby Jones 21
 P (tie)  Zack Greinke 7
 P (tie)  Julio Teheran 7
 P (tie)  Masahiro Tanaka 7
 Team  Diamondbacks 157

Let’s also note that September’s top defensive player is Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The month represented a significant turnaround for Longoria, who struggled on defense early in the season, then was injured and missed 34 games from mid-June to late July.

In September, Longoria performed like the player who had 11 Defensive Runs Saved last season and who saved an average of 13 runs defensively from 2008 to 2013. He finished with 9 Defensive Runs Saved for the month, pushing his season total from -3 to 6. His six Good Fielding Plays tied for the most of any third baseman. Longoria totaled five plays by either sliding, diving or jumping in September. He totaled eight for the season prior to that month.

Defensive Players of the Month
Month Player Team, Pos
April Matt Chapman Athletics, 3B
May Lorenzo Cain Brewers, CF
June (tie) Trea Turner Nationals, SS
June (tie) Alex Gordon Royals, LF
July Keon Broxton Brewers, CF
August Adam Engel White Sox, CF
September Evan Longoria Giants, 3B