A couple years ago, The Fielding Bible
took baseball by storm with John Dewan’s Plus/Minus system to evaluate fielders. This year, he’s back at it with The Fielding Bible–Volume II in which he takes all the metrics created in the original volume and distills them into Defensive Runs, a statistic that can show how good a player is at preventing runs.

I’m going to delve into Red Sox-centric statistics here, but if you want to read the entire sneak peek that I received of The Fielding Bible–Volume II right here (PDF).

Let’s summarize, though, the relevant excerpts from this sneak preview that we learn for our beloved Red Sox.

Firstly, Jason Bay is among the best in the game in saving home runs over the last three years. He’s stolen three would-be home runs, tied for fourth-best in the bigs. Only Torii Hunter (7), Gary Mathews Jr. (5) and Corey Patterson (4) have more.

Obviously, Bay won’t be saving very many home runs unless he suddenly figures out how to do a vertical leap of over 30 feet. Still, it’s nice to see that he can pick off some home runs if we’re playing on the road. As you’ll see in a moment, though, it doesn’t mean he’s a good fielder.

Now, let’s go position by position and see where Red Sox players fall in terms of runs saved over the past three years and over 2008. See the table below in which, moving horizontally gives you the position, player, runs saved over the past three years and runs saved in 2008. The parenthesis indicate where they placed overall in their position.

(Keep in mind that the three-year run saved category actually harms Dustin Pedroia and other players with less than three full years of playing time, as they didn’t have enough playing time accumulated to compete with those that put in three full years.)

3 yrs
K. Youkilis
19 (3)
4 (10)
D. Pedroia
9 (13)
12 (4)
M. Lowell
14 (10)
5 (13)
J. Lugo
-14 (29)
-5 (26)
M. Ramirez
-28 (33)
-3 (26)
J. Bay
-14 (31)
-8 (32)
C. Crisp
10 (14)
-3 (24)
J. Ellsbury
3 (15)
J. Drew
6 (18)
-5 (26)
J. Varitek
-6 (25)
1 (11)
J. Bard
-14 (32)

So what does this mean? It means that the Red Sox boast one of the better fielding clubs in the league, but it’s not exactly a run-away competition.

At first, Youkilis is one of the best fielders in the league, although not as good as the hyperbole would have you think. Still, top 10 in 2003, third best over the last three years? Yes, please.

Pedroia looks to be a very underrated defensive second baseman and should only get better if he can run more efficiently, something he reportedly worked on this offseason.

Mike Lowell may not be the greatest fielding third baseman alive anymore, but he’s up there… nothing to complain about.

I have no comment on Julio Lugo.

Manny was such an abortion in left field that even though Jason Bay isn’t considered an average left fielder by any means, he’s an amazing improvement for us. The Green Monster mitigates most of the damage, so we should only really suffer in the field for 81 games, and his improvement on defense may even cancel out our loss of Manny’s offense.

Looks like we won’t lose any beat by shifting to Jacoby Ellsbury full-time in center, eh?

As for Drew, I’ve always anecdotally heard that he was a good defensive outfielder; it’s nice to see that reflected in this table. But his -5 in 2008 is cause for concern. Is it declining skills or is it just his back problems?

Not sure what to make about Varitek’s numbers. Here are his numbers per year for the last three years: -3 (26th), -4 (25th) and 1(11th). Looks like Varitek’s defense is overrated, and it may be his pitch-calling and defensive acumen that’s truly valuable.

What do you guys think? What do these numbers tell us (if anything)?