One of the weaknesses of advanced defensive systems was how they handled things when a team was playing a shift. This wasn’t too big of a problem earlier in the decade but as more and more teams embraced shifting on a wider basis, it was something that needed to be addressed. Defensive Runs Saved has done just that with their new PART system, which breaks down as follows:
You can read more about the system over at the Fielding Bible but here’s what you should know:
We are transitioning from evaluating “how often did a player make that play?” to “how often did a player make that play given where he was positioned?” We are interested in evaluating an infielder’s range skill from his starting point. Thus, the Positioning component is not included in the player’s Defensive Runs Saved total.
Additionally, this system evaluates all infield plays, not just ones involving an unshifted defense. These changes gain significance given the dramatic changes in player positioning in the last few years (with significant increases in defensive shifting).
Baseball Information Solutions made the announcement of the update to DRS back in late October. Fortunately, the changes were not immediately incorporated into the DRS numbers at FanGraphs, which allowed me to copy what the Mets’ infielders had registered under the old system. Below is that information, with the first number being the old DRS and the second number being the updated PART DRS:
Amed Rosario – (-16), (-10)
J.D. Davis – (-9), (-9)
Robinson Cano – (-6), (-6)
Pete Alonso – (-6), (-3)
Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) – (-3), (-1)
Joe Panik – (-2), (-3)
Jeff McNeil (2B) – 0, (-1)
Hechavarria (2B) – 1, (-1)
Luis Guillorme (SS) – 1, 1
Todd Frazier – 1, (-3)
Guillorme (2B) – 1, 2
Dominic Smith – 1, 1
McNeil (3B) – 3, 4
These infielders went from a combined (-34) to a (-29), meaning on a team level for the infield, the more robust evaluation did not move the needle very much. This was still a poor defensive team. Individually, we see a six-run upgrade for Rosario (although he rates 19th out of 21 shortstops with enough innings to qualify for the FG Leaderboards) and a three-run upgrade for Alonso. The biggest loser was Frazier, who saw his DRS drop four runs.
It’s difficult to make too many inferences from these numbers, as we don’t know if or how different players in the lineup altered the Mets’ thinking on shifting. Were they more aggressive moving Frazier around than they were when Davis or McNeil was playing 3B? Also, is it merely coincidental that the shortstops amassed a net +8 while the second basemen had a combined (-3) or does that indicate something about what the Mets prioritized with their shifts?
The new PART numbers are available back to 2013. Back near the end of the 2017 season, there was a post which indicated that the Mets’ infield defense had a (-65) DRS. Let’s see how they rate now:
SS – (-31)
3B – (-15)
2B – (-12)
1B – (-4)
That’s a (-62) so again we see on a team level that not much changes. That same post also had numbers for 2014-16 so let’s look at those old numbers and compare them to the updated PART DRS. The first number will be the total from the 2017 post and the second number will be the PART:
2016 – (-34), (-32)
2015 – (-45), (-43)
2014 – 8, 10
Again, very little change for the Mets on a team-wide basis. The most interesting thing is that at one point, the Mets were actually in positive numbers for infield defense. What happened between 2014 and 2015? David Wright‘s last full season was 2014 and he had a +6 DRS. Ruben Tejada put up a +7 in 2014 as the primary shortstop. The next year Wilmer Flores was the main guy at short and he put up a (-7). In all, three positions were in positive numbers in 2014, with only Daniel Murphy in the red. But the Mets went to the World Series in 2015, even with their leaky infield defense.
It would be extremely helpful if we had this breakdown available for all of the other teams. But it’s nice that we can at least evaluate things for the Mets. We see that you can shift a player into a position where a ball is more likely to be hit. But you cannot shift him into better hands, better range and a better arm.