UZR leaders, by position over past three seasons.

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Since UZR has been looked at as “suspect” recently, with it’s grade
on Mark Teixeira.  Here are the top five at each position over the past
three seasons.  And three seasons is much better than one…

1B:  Albert Pujols, Casey Kotchman, Kevin Youkilis, Todd Helton, Lyle Overbay.

Does anyone dispute that?  Pujols has been regarded as the best
defensive 1B in the game for a few years now.  Kotchman is notorious
for being a powerless wiz with the glove.  Youkilis is solid, albeit
unspectacular, and really doesn’t make many errors at all at first. 
Helton and Overbay both have been known to flash the leather.  I do
think Tex is of quality on the defensive side.  But I am no scout
either.  He makes plays look great, but are they great plays?  I’m sure
some of them are…

2B:  Chase Utley, Brandon Phillips, Mark Ellis, Dustin Pedroia, Placido Polanco.

Utley is going to go down as one of the best 2B ever, and his
defense has a lot to do with it–whether the casual fan knows about it
or not.  Phillips has the rep.  Ellis is kind of like a lesser Derek
Jeter, that has always been the better defender with respect to
position.  Pedroia is a good defender, and Polanco has that same
reputation.  More sure handed, then rangy I’ve heard on Polanco.

3B:  Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Feliz, Rolen, Inge, Beltre.

If there is evidence that UZR is legit over a three year sample,
then this is the position that should be used as an example.  Zimmerman
is probably the best of the bunch now, although it’s very close, and
disputable.  Feliz was the best just a few years ago.  Rolen may be the
greatest of all time, if not, then top three.  Although I really cannot
name anyone other than Schmidt that would be in that top three.  Inge,
although qualifying as a catcher too, is a great defender who never hit
much until this season.  And Beltre’s greatest strength has been his
glove.  Yes, hacking away wasn’t Beltre’s strength.

SS:  JJ Hardy, Jimmy Rollins, Jack Wilson, Troy Tulowitzki, Orlando Cabrera

Hardy being the best in UZR over a three year period kind of gives
me the urge to acquire him to field SS with the Red Sox.  I knew he was
capable, but did not know that he led the league in UZR over this
stretch.  Rollins looks slick in the field, so the metric backs that
up.  Jack Wilson is notorious for his glove-work.  Tulo, ditto.  And
O-Cab was good before this year, when he has seemingly taken a decline on defense.

RF:  Randy Winn, Austin Kearns, Alex Rios, JD Drew, Jeff Francouer

Well, Winn apparently gets the job done.  Kearns doesn’t look the
part, but I have never heard anything bad about his defense.  Rios is a
guy that could play center, as he will in Chicago, it seems.  Drew has
the range, and gets good jumps.  But he doesn’t seem to field ground
balls well, something that doesn’t apply much to an outfielder anyway. 
And Drew definitely doesn’t won’t run through a wall for you, or even
lay out very often.  Francouer has a cannon for an arm.  If he could
learn to lay off a pitch, or two, then he would be a fine player–maybe.

CF:  BJ Upton, Coco Crisp, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron

Upton likes to make his plays look good, but I never questioned his
brilliant range.  Crisp is awesome when healthy out in center.  Beltran
too.  Rowand will actually run through a wall for his team, and seems
to be a great teammate.  He is actually higher than I might have
thought thought, based on what I have heard recently.  Mike Cameron is
known for his defensive prowess as well.

LF:  Matt Holliday, Carl Crawford, Alfonso Soriano, Josh Willingham, Carlos Lee.

This is simply a lack of fielders that qualify.  Holliday above
Crawford though?  Maybe the Red Sox will look at Holliday to improve
their sub-par defense, as Bay is not good out there.  But Holliday will
probably command too much on the open market.  Crawford is great, and
could probably play center if given another opportunity.  Soriano is
surprising because he seems to make some blunders.  Both Willingham and
Lee are pretty terrible, but only nine left fielders qualify.  They are
both well into the negatives.  If I were to change the minimum innings
requirements, then Eric Byrnes and Fred Lewis would take their spots.

So there you have it.  UZR for the past three seasons.  Much
greater, and more reliable then simply looking at this season.  If you
are wondering, Tex falls in 7th among 18 qualifying first baseman.  So
yes, he is an above average defender at first, but he might not be great.

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