When you think of the best defensive outfield, you consider trios from the Anaheim Angels, Milwaukee Brewers or even the Atlanta Braves. All great outfield groups, but no one is playing better defense right now that the Arizona Diamondbacks outfield of Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock, and Cody Ross.
The Diamondbacks are leading the NL West with strong pitching and great hitting. One overlooked reason for their early success is the play in the outfield, even without the departed Justin Upton and injured prospect Adam Eaton.
Inning for inning, no one in baseball is currently playing better defense than Pollock. Yet according to UZR, the best defensive outfielder is the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez–a mere .7 points ahead of Pollock. Yet in terms of UZR/150–adjusted for 150 games to compare players who have participated in unbalanced innings–Pollock is over four points ahead of Gomez. To further put the comparison into context, Pollock has also played nearly 100 innings less than Gomez and has just four fewer defensive runs saved (DRS).
And despite what those defensive numbers are saying right now, I consider Parra the main asset of the group. He’s already tied his career high in DRS with 14 after playing half the innings he played in 2011, the year he set the mark. While the likes of Alex Gordon and Alex Rios are among the elite outfield arms in MLB, Parra is right there with them having saved 3.5 runs with his throwing ability and accuracy.
Last night’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers is the perfect example of Parra’s ability to challenge runners :
The last facet of the Diamondbacks’ outfield is a platoon of Ross and Jason Kubel. Kubel is the real liability of the group. While Ross has had some up and down years, he’s still a better defender than Kubel–though Kubel’s power requires him to get just as much playing time as Ross. Ross is off to a pretty good start playing right field, but when he’s shifted to left is where the problem occurs. In right, Ross is a carrer 9.1 UZR (4.9 in ’13) while in left he’s a -2.1 (-1.3 in ’13). Ross has saved seven runs so far in 2013, which is a third of his career DRS.
Obviously the keys to the Diamondbacks’ defense is Pollock and Parra, who have combined for 25 DRS and 81 plays made out of the ‘zone’ (Parra leads all outfielders with 51 plays OOZ)–no outfield tandem can compare.
As a whole, the Diamondbacks outfielders are second in the league in RZR behind the Oakland Athletics (.937 vs .933) and two runs saved behind the Brewers (33 vs 31). Their outfield speed allows them to get to balls efficiently and they commit one of the lowest ratio of errors to other outfield groups.
Disagree with me? Let me hear why.
But for now, allow Mr. Parra to tell you that you are wrong.