Who has been a better defender at third base: Arenado or Machado?

With Manny Machado signing a 10-year contract with the Padres and Nolan Arenado inking an eight-year extension with the Rockies, the question comes to mind: Which one of them has been the better defensive third baseman?

Machado is moving back to third base this season after playing most of 2018 at shortstop for the Orioles and Dodgers. He has saved 84 runs in just shy of 6,500 innings at third base, including 35 in 2013, the most in a season by any player since Defensive Run Saved (DRS) was first compiled in 2003.

Machado’s career total amounts to 13 DRS per 1,000 innings.

Arenado has saved 109 runs in a little less than 7,500 career innings. That comes out to 14.6 per 1,000 innings. It’s fair to say that Arenado has fared a little better over the course of his career, though not overwhelmingly so.

The difference between Arenado and Machado is minimal when it comes to Range & Positioning. Both are good at turning balls hit down the line and “straight on” (the area where a third baseman typically plays) into outs. Arenado is a little better when it comes to balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole.

But Arenado has accumulated a big edge in Runs Saved from Good Fielding Plays & Defensive Misplays. He has 14 for his career, compared to 1 for Machado.

Good Fielding Plays & Misplays are charted by Video Scouts using criteria originally designed by Bill James and modified by BIS staff. They account for situations in which a player made an above-average effort to make a play, or in the case of Defensive Misplays, erring in a way that had a negative consequence.

Examples of Good Fielding Plays include Web Gems such as the kind you would see on a highlight reel, but also things like preventing a single from being a double by cutting it off, or making a quick pivot to convert a double play. Misplays can be something like slipping, breaking in the wrong direction, or failing to hustle during a play.

Here are some types of Good Plays & Misplays in which Arenado has some of his biggest advantages.

Type of PlayArenado CareerMachado CareerArenado Advantage
Cutting off a runner at home1263.8 runs
Keeping the ball in the infield1452.9 runs
Giving up on the play (misplay)172.5 runs
Good force play1661.6 runs

Arenado’s advantages come from one to two plays a year in each of these types. Sometimes little things can make all the difference.

One comment

  1. If the third baseman fields a ball and throws it to first, it is recorded as a 5-3 out. Thanks

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