Inside Edge on the Cubs

barney1Last week, Fangraphs added fielding data from Inside Edge to its player pages and leaderboards. Inside Edge scouts grade every play on a scale from impossible (0% chance of a successful fielding play) to almost certain / certain (90-100%). In between we have remote (1-10%), unlikely (10-40%), about even (40-60%) and likely (60-90%).

The data only go back to 2012, and we’re necessarily dealing with small sample sizes. We should be careful not to draw too many conclusions from this, but it’s fun to peruse and might still lead to some insights.

Let’s see how the Cubs fared in 2013. I’ve included all players who fielded at least 500 innings with the team plus anyone else who figures to play prominently with the team in 2014. For Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus, I only factored in their time with the Cubs. George Kotarras and Donnie Murphy had so few fielding attempts last year that I didn’t bother including them.

Almost Certain / Certain (90-100%)

NAME POSITION # of plays % successful
David DeJesus OF 176 100.0%
Nate Schierholtz RF 234 99.6%
Justin Ruggiano OF 231 99.6%
Alfonso Soriano LF 155 99.4%
Darwin Barney 2B 377 99.2%
Ryan Sweeney OF 130 99.2%
Junior Lake OF 112 98.2%
Luis Valbuena 3B 172 97.7%
Anthony Rizzo 1B 292 97.3%
Welington Castillo C 33 97.0%
Starlin Castro SS 480 96.5%

Likely (60-90%)

NAME POSITION # of plays % successful
Ryan Sweeney OF 8 100.0%
David DeJesus OF 7 100.0%
Junior Lake OF 10 90.0%
Nate Schierholtz RF 9 88.9%
Anthony Rizzo 1B 16 87.5%
Darwin Barney 2B 19 84.2%
Justin Ruggiano OF 11 81.8%
Luis Valbuena 3B 20 80.0%
Alfonso Soriano LF 8 75.0%
Starlin Castro SS 39 66.7%
Welington Castillo C 6 50.0%

About Even (40-60%)

NAME POSITION # of plays % successful
Ryan Sweeney OF 2 100.0%
Welington Castillo C 7 71.4%
Darwin Barney 2B 14 57.1%
Anthony Rizzo 1B 13 53.9%
David DeJesus OF 4 50.0%
Justin Ruggiano OF 2 50.0%
Starlin Castro SS 17 47.1%
Luis Valbuena 3B 11 36.4%
Nate Schierholtz RF 4 25.0%
Junior Lake OF 2 0.0%
Alfonso Soriano LF 2 0.0%

Unlikely (10-40%)

NAME POSITION # of plays % successful
Anthony Rizzo 1B 5 40.0%
Welington Castillo C 41 39.0%
Justin Ruggiano OF 3 33.3%
Ryan Sweeney OF 3 33.3%
Darwin Barney 2B 8 25.0%
Nate Schierholtz RF 8 25.0%
Luis Valbuena 3B 4 25.0%
Starlin Castro SS 14 21.4%
Junior Lake OF 4 0.0%
Alfonso Soriano LF 3 0.0%
David DeJesus OF 2 0.0%

Remote (1-10%)

NAME POSITION # of plays % successful
Darwin Barney 2B 14 14.3%
Starlin Castro SS 19 10.5%
Welington Castillo C 11 9.1%
Nate Schierholtz RF 7 0.0%
Anthony Rizzo 1B 5 0.0%
Luis Valbuena 3B 5 0.0%
David DeJesus OF 4 0.0%
Justin Ruggiano OF 4 0.0%
Junior Lake OF 2 0.0%
Alfonso Soriano LF 2 0.0%
Ryan Sweeney OF 1 0.0%

Nobody in baseball made an impossible play. They’re not being hyperbolic by labeling them impossible.

What sticks out the most to me is that the overwhelming majority of plays are routine except for the catcher position. That makes sense, because a catcher fielding a ball isn’t exactly routine to begin with. Shortstops also seem to have more non-routine plays, a testament to the difficulty of the position.

As I said, the samples are too small to make any strong claims. There are still some things that make sense. For example, nobody should be surprised to see Castro rank last when it comes to making routine plays. Looking outside of the Cubs, Derek Jeter’s outcomes perfectly line up with his reputation of being a guy who can expertly handle routine plays but struggles with anything that requires good range. He scores well in the three easiest categories but hasn’t successfully fielded a single play that Inside Edge says a shortstop would have a 40% chance of making.

There was some talk last week about whether or not the Cubs were properly executing defensive shifts in 2013. This might be able to test that. A team who places its fielders in the right spots should see more routine plays. If a fielder is in a spot where the ball is hit, he shouldn’t have to move as much. I might explore that this week if I don’t see that somebody else has already covered it.

Regardless of whether or not this has much practical use, it’s another fun baseball-related thing to look at. You can’t have too many of those.

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