So I have briefly mentioned this website in the introduction post but Baseball Savant has a lot of really interesting stuff. They use a thing called Statcast which tracks virtually everything on the field. It can tell you how fast a pitch spins, how hard and at what angle a hitter hit the ball, and exactly how many feet a fielder had to go to get a ball. Seriously, check out the site if you haven't before because there is a bunch of neat things.
One of the stats that came out a few years ago from Statcast is a thing called OAA or Outs Above Average. The first version was strictly limited to outfielders and that is what we will go over today. The infield version of OAA came out just this past month and we will cover that next week. Both of these stats is what I hope will become the norm for fielding statistics because they are both amazing at giving us information.
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. For example, let's say a ball was hit and Jason Heyward had a 30% chance of catching it. If Heyward makes the catch then he is rewarded with +.70 towards his OAA. If he fails to make the catch then .30 gets deducted from his OAA. At the end of the year we get a pretty straight forward number of where an outfielder ranks.
Looking at Heyward's 2019 season, his OAA was 8, so he generated about 8 outs more than the average outfielder (tied for 11th best in baseball). Kyle Schwarber on the other hand had a -10 OAA so clearly there is room for improvement. OAA has been tracked since 2016 so let's look at both Heyward's and Schwarber's career in the outfield since 2016.
It's a bit hard to read so click here if you want to see Heyward's OAA page. His fielding is broken down each year for the times he played RF, CF, and all OF combined. In 2016, Heyward was a +16 OAA (fourth best in baseball). In fact, Heyward has been one of the 15 best outfielders in baseball since OAA has been recorded. Let's take a look at Schwarber now.
Schwarber has had a much rougher time over the same period of time. Added up, he is a -26 OAA which puts him near the bottom of the list for all outfielders and that includes his missed 2016 season when he had that scary injury in Arizona. Thankfully Schwarber mashes baseballs and that is what the Cubs are hoping for every year. FYI, Nick Castellanos rates below Schwarber at -33 OAA so that is why some people were scared about seeing an outfield of Schwarber/Heyward/Castellanos over an entire season.
Of the four outfielders the Cubs will most likely be running out there the most this season, Heyward leads the way at +38 OAA for his career. Almora ranks second with +15, and Happ is at -6. Next week we will look at the infield OAA which is brand new. As a sneak peak, Javy Baez led all of baseball in OAA for 2019. He truly is El Mago.