For The Glove of The Game: Early Impressive Defensive Work

By MARK SIMON

You can’t say much to quantify any player or team’s defensive performance through one week of the season. But you can find plenty of things that you’re looking forward to seeing more of.

Such as …

Michael A. Taylor’s arm

Royals center fielder Michael A. Taylor had two assists (and a home run) on Opening Day to jumpstart his season. Both came without the help of a cutoff man and that matched the number of similar assists he had in 36 games in center field in 2019 and 2020 combined.

Taylor’s 10 Outfield Arm Runs Saved rank fourth among center fielders since 2017. Kevin Kiermaier leads with 13 in that time, though if you prorate Taylor’s numbers to Kiermaier’s nearly 3,000 innings, Taylor would come out just ahead.

Chad Pinder’s go-get-it’ness

This was another one from Opening Day, as Pinder made a pair of excellent catches in right field. Pinder missed much of the 2020 season due to injury and he’ll miss more time now with a knee sprain suffered on one of these plays. We’ll see when he returns if he can continue to pick up on the numbers he compiled in 2018 and 2019.

Pinder totaled 19 Defensive Runs Saved in those two seasons, which ranked 14th among outfielders. He did that despite ranking 102nd in innings played in that time.

The Brewers’ infield defense

We knew that the signing of second baseman Kolten Wong would make the Brewers defense better. The move seems to have paid immediate dividends. Through six games, the Brewers have converted 52 of 61 ground balls and bunts into outs this season. Their 85% out rate on those balls ranks No. 1 in MLB.

The Brewers ranked 24th in that stat last season. Props to Wong, shortstop Luis Urias, third baseman Travis Shaw, and first baseman Keston Hiura for their work so far.

The slick plays from Jonathan India

The talk of Cincinnati is how many runs the Reds are scoring. One catalyst has been rookie second baseman Jonathan India, who is hitting .476 with 10 RBI in six games.  He also leads the majors with 4 Good Fielding Plays.

Good Fielding Plays are what you think they are – plays made by a fielder that resulted in an unlikely out (think: “Web Gems” or MLB Network “Premier Plays”). But they’re also things like keeping the ball in the infield to prevent a runner from a chance an extra base. We’ve got one of each to show you.

Here’s your garden-variety nifty play:

And here’s India preventing Paul Goldschmidt from scoring on a base hit by keeping the ball in the infield:

Gavin Lux, Deluxe Defense

Dodgers fans have been waiting for Gavin Lux to be a full-time player and it looks like they’ll get their wish this season. Lux totaled 9 Runs Saved in 40 games at second base in 2019 and 2020. Early returns in 2021 look good so far, with a combined 3 Runs Saved at second and shortstop, including this play against the Rockies in which he was playing second base but was positioned like a shortstop.

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