Blue Jays: How Well do Blue Jays Infielders Stack Up According to StatCast

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 27: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays turns a double play over Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 27: Cavan Biggio #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays turns a double play over Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh inning during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 27, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Statcast has introduced their new infielder defensive metric, Infield Outs Above Average. I’d like to take a look and see how the Blue Jays defenders stack up.

You may have noticed in the last four years the use of Statcast on MLB broadcasts. Statcast is a system that can track everything that happens on the field from spin rates of baseballs, to launch angles of batted balls, to where players are positioned, to where the ball ended up. Statcast started measuring all MLB games in 2015 using a Trackman Radar system coupled with an Optical Camera.

Just this week, Statcast came out with a new metric IOAA (Infield Outs Above Average). Similar to Outs Above Average, that came out a few years ago for outfielders, it compares each play a defender makes or doesn’t make to every similar play that has come before it. IOAA takes into account the direction (Forward, backwards, left, or right), distance the defender has to go, and time it takes to get to the ball on every play.

For example, let’s say a player traveled 20 feet forward in a 1.5 seconds to get to a ball which results in the average MLB defender completing the out 85% of the time. The defender would be rewarded 0.15 IOAA  if the out was completed or a -0.85 IOAA if the out was not completed. Players are debited and credited on every play they are involved with to create a number for how far above or below average at making outs. All of these numbers and metrics can be found at baseballsavant.com.

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Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays had eight infielders meet the “Qualified” requirement that Statcast set up. Qualified just means a 2B, SS, and 3B made one fielding attempt per one game the team played (so at least 162 fielding attempts) or a 1B made one fielding attempt per two games the team played (81). The infielders are Cavan Biggio, Freddy Galvis, Eric Sogard, Brandon Drury, Bo Bichette, Justin Smoak, Rowdy Tellez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

I have to warn you now….the numbers are not very good.

  1. Galvis: 11 (Ended up with 12 and ranked 10th in MLB)
  2. Biggio: 7 (21st in MLB)
  3. Drury: 4 (42nd in MLB)
  4. Sogard: 3 (Finished with 5 and ranked 27th in MLB
  5. Smoak: 2
  6. Tellez: -1
  7. Bichette: -4 (115th out of 139 in MLB)
  8. Guerrero: -16 (139th out of 139 in the MLB)

Two of the three players that most Blue Jay fans consider to be a big part of the future were well below league average in turning balls in play into outs. While most of us will admit that we didn’t believe Vladdy would do great on this list, seeing Bichette put up a -4 in limited time is a bit disheartening. IOAA is a cumulative stat, meaning, the more opportunities that one gets the more this stat is effected. If Bichette played a full season, would this number be worse?

Well enough with the doom and gloom.

I do not believe they are going to continue to be this bad. With more repetition and experience, I am sure they will improve as a defensive unit. Bichette was a -2 going to his right (into the hole), with a better idea of the timing and speed of the MLB, he could improve with better arm strength and better positioning. Vlad was a -10 when the ball is in front of him. He could improve with better conditioning when he has to charge on the ball, and with basic repetition to become more sure-handed. If you follow Vlad through Twitter or Instagram, you will know that he is working very hard on his conditioning. These guys are both very young and will improve.

Biggio was a great surprise in my opinion. He was a plus 7 and didn’t give an out away to average going in any direction. He was specifically very good at balls in front of him and to his left. I hope he stays at 2nd, although rumours have said he could try some outfield this season.

Smoak, Galvis, and Sogard are no longer with the Blue Jays and were all above average defensively. This leaves a void and/or opportunity for the next wave to  fill that gap. Travis Shaw will most likely get the most reps at First base. He has played the majority of his time over the last three years at 3rd or 2nd base. He has put up positive IOAA numbers in each of the last three years, and in 2017 was ranked 3rd out of 137 qualified infielders with a plus 11 IOAA.  He will not have the opportunity at 1st to create that kind of value, but it does show that he is a competent defender and will definitely help the younger infielders out there.

It is easy to forget about Brandon Drury. He is still on the Blue Jays if you didn’t know. He played last year as a utility infielder and as a bench player for some of the year. He managed to be above average and could/should be a good defensive option off the bench this upcoming season.

dark. Next. Your eyes don't lie about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Lastly I want to mention that these are specifically defensive numbers and do not show a player’s total value. Obviously, all Blue Jays fans would love to have a great defence along with a great offence. When I show you that Vlad Jr. was the worst qualified infielder according to Infield Outs Above Average, that does not mean I want him to be benched or substituted. He can and will provide a ton of value in other ways.  Fernando Tatis Jr. put up a -13 IOAA last season, but provided enough offensive value to put up a 4.2 bWAR season. Whether Vlad has to be moved off third base or not, he will provide value to this team for many years to come.

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