Last week we talked about OAA (Outs Above Average) for the outfielders, so this week we will talk about OAA for the infielders. I spoiled it last week that Javy Baez led all of the infielders in OAA for the 2019 so let's find out what goes into the stat.
This is how I described OAA for outfielders is determined: "Outfield OAA analyzes many things like how hard was the ball hit, how long was it in the air, and how far away was the landing spot to the defender (this determines catch probability). The lower the catch probability, the tougher the play for the outfielder."
The same is mostly true for infielders as well. OAA looks at how far a defender had to move to get to the ball, how far the defender is from the base where the out is recorded (i.e. is Javy trying to throw a runner out at first base or second base?), and how much time does the defender have to make the play.
I believe the first two criteria OAA analyzes is fairly self-explanatory, but what does it mean by how much time they have to make the play? This is where OAA from the outfield to the infield is extremely different. For the outfield calculations, OAA does not care about the offensive runner's speed. The ball hit in the air will be the same no matter how fast the batter is. For the infield however, this can be critical. Is Albert Pujols trying to leg out a grounder (he is one of the slowest people in baseball) or are you trying to throw out Billy Hamilton (one of the fastest)? The less time the defender has to make the play, the harder the play is. An infielder's arm strength is now a key part to the equation.
One thing I did not dive into in the outfield segment of OAA is you can see how well a player is moving towards a certain direction. If you want, go back and check out the differences between Heyward and Schwarber on balls hit in front of them, behind them, and to the left and right of them. Let's take a look at the left side of the Cubs infield, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant.
First off the rankings is how each player rated on the Cubs for OAA. Like I said before, Javy led all of baseball in OAA for the infield with 19 Outs Above Average. Kris was a little better than average at +2 OAA. Looking at Javy's breakdown, he is extremely good at moving towards his left and coming in to field a ball. No matter where Javy moves on the infield, he is above average defensively. Kris on the other hand is just above average moving to his left and right, average going back towards the outfield, and just below average coming in to field a ball. He has beautiful eyes though so I will cut him some slack (the MVP bat helps as well).
If you want to check out the rest of the Cubs infield 2019 stats, I have linked the page for you here.
Overall, I am extremely excited about OAA for both the infield and the outfield. I believe these stats are the future for evaluating defense and they provide a ton of information that UZR and DRS do not.
There are only four more Saturdays before opening day so the next two weeks we will dive into WAR for both hitters and pitchers. Then the following two weeks I will keep open so if you have any questions or want to know more about a specific stat or learn about one I did not cover, we can do that then!