Visualizing the Range of MLB’s Best and Worst Outfielders in 2018

By ANDREW KYNE

The primary component of Baseball Info Solutions’ Defensive Runs Saved metric is the Range & Positioning system, which rates each fielder’s success at converting batted balls into outs.

Fielding Bible Award winners Alex Gordon (LF), Lorenzo Cain (CF), and Mookie Betts (RF) were among the best at their respective positions in 2018 according to Range & Positioning Runs Saved.

Using BIS’s batted ball location data, let’s visually compare the outfield range of Gordon, Cain, and Betts with other defenders at their positions who did not fare quite as well.

A few notes on the following graphics…

  • Each point on the plot represents a catch made by the outfielder.
  • The points are sized relative to the “Plays Saved” value for each out. If our system determines a play should be made 60% of the time and the outfielder makes the catch, he gets credit for 0.4 Plays Saved (1-0 minus .6). The better the play, the bigger the scatter point on the plot.
  • Outs with a Plays Saved credit of 0 were removed (meaning 100% expectation of making the catch — “a can of corn” for the outfielder).

Left Field

Excellent: Alex Gordon (+10)
Poor: Trey Mancini (-14)

LeftField

Having split time between left field, first base, and DH, Mancini did not have as much volume here, yet he still cost the Orioles 14 runs with his range and positioning in left. The numbers back up what the image shows: Mancini was particularly poor on medium and deep balls (16 plays below average).

On the other hand, Gordon was excellent en route to his fourth career Fielding Bible Award. The only outfielder with more “Good Fielding Plays” than Gordon this year was Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton.


Center Field

Excellent: Lorenzo Cain (+13)
Poor: Adam Jones (-19)

CenterField

As the image illustrates, Cain was excellent on deep balls — the best among any outfielder, in fact, at +13 plays.

Jones rated negatively on both shallow and deep balls, while also not exhibiting as much lateral ability as Cain, especially to right-center (possibly a product of defensive positioning).


Right Field

Excellent: Mookie Betts (+12)
Poor: Nicholas Castellanos (-17)

RightField

Betts’ dominance reveals itself in the right-center gap. The American League MVP and World Series Champion also did well on deep balls, while still making a bunch of high-quality plays in front of him.

The image nicely shows Betts’ ability to cover all of right field. He registered +6 on shallow balls, +4 on medium, and +4 on deep. Betts and Adam Duvall were the only outfielders to save at least four plays in all three areas at one position.

Castellanos appears to have made a decent number of plays going towards the line, but struggled in other areas. He rated particularly poorly on deep balls (17 plays below average).

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