How amazing of a defensive season could we see in 2020?

BY ALEX VIGDERMAN

One of the silver linings of the shortened MLB season is that we could see some outstanding small- sample performances. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark and Eno Sarris reviewed some exciting possibilities along those lines.

Here, as we tend to do at SIS, we’ll look at things from a defensive perspective. What are the best 60-game runs of defensive excellence that we could see this season?

To look into this question, I used our new PART Runs Saved, which we introduced earlier this year as the primary component of Defensive Runs Saved. How well has a player done in a 60-game span in a season (going back to 2013, at least)?

Best 60-game single season PART Runs Saved performances, 2013-19

PosPlayerSeasonPART Runs Saved
1BFreddie Freeman201810
2BJonathan Schoop201716
3BMatt Chapman201919
SSAndrelton Simmons201720
LFAdam Duvall201814
CFJuan Lagares201415
RFMookie Betts201717
Pitchers and catchers excluded because they accumulate games and PART Runs Saved differently

First off, let’s acknowledge how impressive some of these totals are! Saving 15 runs is enough to lead the position in some seasons, and these players accomplished that over less than half a full season.

It might not surprise you to find out that the best of the best are also quite good in short sprints. Each of Chapman, Simmons, Lagares, and Betts won the Fielding Bible Award in the season they had their outstanding stretch, and except for Lagares that wasn’t the only season they were crowned the best defender at that position.

The outstanding runs from Freeman and Schoop are more representative of the funky results we might see in a shortened season. Both of them were below average at converting batted balls into outs over the balance of their outstanding seasons, with Freeman costing the Braves two runs and Schoop costing the Orioles five runs.

While we’re not in the business of disparaging players in any way, it’s only fair to look at the other side of the coin, the players who were exceptionally poor defensively in a short spurt.

Poorest 60-game single season PART Runs Saved performances, 2013-19

PosPlayerSeasonPART Runs Saved
1BLuke Voit2019-10
2BRickie Weeks Jr.2014-16
3BColin Moran2019-16
SSEduardo Nuñez2013-21
LFTrey Mancini2018-12
CFCharlie Blackmon2018-20
RFMelky Cabrera2019-13
Pitchers and catchers excluded because they accumulate games and PART Runs Saved differently

Like with the runs of excellence, this list includes some of the most outstanding single-season performances we’ve seen. Blackmon and Nuñez finished with the most and second-most runs cost in a single season in the PART era, with Nuñez doing so in roughly half of a full season of innings.

Which of the perennial Fielding Bible Award contenders will dominate this sprint of a season? Who will crash that party with a surprising stretch of excellence? We’ll know in a couple months!

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