Re: JBJ described as a defensive upgrade over Jacoby
posted at 1/29/2014 9:46 PM EST
I've heard multiple times myself about scouts not liking Ellsburys routes to balls. No One can take away his speed, which hides some of that judegment. But scouts are in love with Bradelys defense. He was regarded as the best defensive player in MLB's top 100 prospects.
Lastly, his rating is counterintuitive to the general perception of his abilities...and anything that is counterintuitive will generally not take hold in the public consciousness. Red Sox Nation regularly observes Ellsbury making dynamic catches in right- and left-center fields; therefore, these metrics cannot be correct.
But those who have developed the metric explain he typically gets below-average jumps, takes bad routes to the ball, and has a below-average arm. They argue that the observations of the untrained eye are incorrect.
So imagine my surprise today when, in the course of a quibble with a coworker about the (in)utility of fielding percentage, I noticed that Jacoby Ellsbury has the second-lowest UZR of any major league centerfielder. Now, he’s not half as bad as the worst centerfielder, Vernon Wells, who weighs in at -20.4, but Ellsbury’s -8.5 is shocking. And appalling.
And while last year, in 546.2 innings, his UZR was at least positive (an even 3.0), that’s still nothing to write home about.
I can only conclude that I — along with Boston’s more sober-faced, straight-laced commentators — have been bamboozled, fooled, duped by our own eyes
For years and years boom and I were Jacoby's biggest supporters, most notably against the continuous "Jake" bashing by softy the clown. You guys all know my history with the clown, so it does not come easy for me to say that during those "great debates", softy mentioned how Jacoby gets slow breaks on many balls hit in his direction and often takes bad routes on balls hit to CF. I didn't want to believe it. However, after closer observation, I did notice what I felt were "more-than-the-norm" bad breaks and angles.
It was not a bias against Ellsbury that led me to that conclusion, in fact, if anything, I was biased towards Jacoby, and it would have made me look better had I determined that Ellsbury got great breaks and took great angles on balls hit his way. Then, I looked at the data, such as RF/9 and the range portion of UZR/150, and it supported the view that even with Jacoby's tremendous speed, his range did not match what it perhaps should have been.
From 2007 to 2009 there were 30 CF'ers with 1500+ innings. Jacoby finished tied for 12th at +2.6 in the RngR component of UZR. While being 12th out of 30 is not bad, especially for your first 3 years in MLB, with Jacoby's speed, it makes sense that the reason he was not top 3, had to be because of bad breaks and bad angles. The number supported my more recent observations and softy's long-standing position. (Note: his poor arm- which everyone agree he has always had- brought his overall UZR/150 rating to #18 at -0.9).
I continued to closely watch Jacoby in CF, much as I try and closely watch SS defense. There are times, the TV angle from behind the plate shows a hit to CF, and you are able to see the CF'er in the same frame. It appeared to me that Jacoby was continuing to get bad breaks and take bad angles, but at a lesser rate as the years went by. I'm not sure if he ever got to the "norm", because it is hard for me or anyone else to watch every play to every Cf'er over a season, so again, I turned to the data. Sure enough, the same metrics showed a vast improvement in comparative terms, in fact it showed Jacoby number 1 in RngR at +39.4 (perhaps not #1 in RngR per inning played, however). His UZR/150 the last 4 years was +13.7, which placed him 3rd in MLB out of the 34 CF'ers with 1500+ innings, despite having the worst ARM factor in MLB (Cf'ers with 3200+ innings). Clearly, he improved on that weakness. His speed probably helped a lot, but I seriously doubt it could bring him up to #3, if he was continuing to get bad breaks and take bad angles at a high rate. My guess is, he probably became about average or slightly above average in breaks/angles and his speed bumped him up to the top 3.
Looking at the overall numbers with the Sox from 2007 to 2013, Jacoby placed 4th in UZR/150 out of the 29 CF'ers with 3000+ innings at +8.0. He tied for 3rd in RngR at +42.0, which is not broken down into RngR/150. (Note: he had the second worst ARM.)
The recent Jacoby was certainly a big plus on defense, a big plus on the bases, and had a decent OBP for a leadoff hitter. he showed good power at times, but was inconsistent in that area. We are going to miss a lot of the unsung aspects of Jacoby's skillset, but I do think JBJ can start off at a better defensive place than jacoby did in 2007. He may not be as good as the 2013 Jacoby (7th in UZR/150), but soon he very well could be. I'd bet he will be better than Jacoby's overall Sox UZR/150 of +8.0 by year 2 or 3.