When fans discuss baseball around America, offense is usually the first thing we speak of. “Chicks Dig the Longball” was a hot catchphrase in baseball years ago, but the reality is EVERYONE does. But there is another catchphrase that rings true in every sport; “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”
But what quantifies “great” defense? Today’s game has evolved beyond only using simple statistics like fielding percentage to judge a player. Now analytics helps us look deeper into the stats, thus giving us a better assessment of what a player’s true defensive value is.
There are plenty of bros who flash the leather on an elite level, but the three below have the potential to add more hardware to their trophy cases.
Mookie is without question a Top 5 player in today’s game, and his manager Dave Roberts already gave us the breakdown earlier this season as to why. “He’s scoring runs at a crazy clip. He’s on base. He’s slugging at a ridiculous clip, too. And he’s playing Gold Glove defense, too,” the Dodgers’ manager told reporters.
Does anybody make a big catch like @mookiebetts?
— MLB Now (@MLBNow) April 19, 2021
Let’s focus on that last attribute. Last year, Betts seemed to fall off a bit defensively as he played through multiple injuries. The injury bug hasn’t visited Mookie as much this season, and as a result his defensive metrics are among the best in baseball. According to baseball-reference Betts is second in putouts and fielding percentage, and fifth in assists among right fielders. And let’s not forget that cannon of an arm he has, which has led to four double plays from right.
The Baltimore Orioles are a fun bunch to watch, especially with Cedric “CM Storm” Mullins flying around in Centerfield. Mullins has a perfect fielding percentage so far this season and has turned three double plays from center. That mark is the best in baseball among all center fielders right now, and he is second in assists.
Mullins has worked hard to improve his defense, especially his arm strength, and the results have been everything he and the Orioles had hoped. Fresh off a season that saw him join the exclusive 30/30 season, it will be interesting to see where Mullins finishes in the Gold Glove conversation.
Marcus Semien was a good defensive shortstop before making the switch to second base in order to secure his first big payday. Not only did Semien play well enough to get his paper, but he also secured his first Gold Glove. Now a member of the Texas Rangers, Marcus looks poised to repeat as a Gold Glover. He currently ranks first in putouts amongst second basemen while ranking second overall in assists among his position.
He is primarily a second baseman, but Semien has been able to slide over to short whenever his ball club needs it. He has made six errors at second this season (one error came at shortstop), two less than he made last year.