Over the last few weeks, a couple of players with disputed defensive reputations have been traded. Nyjer Morgan was posting crazy good UZR numbers as a left fielder in Pittsburgh, and his outfield defense was the primary reason the Nationals acquired him. However, when the deal went down, a decent contingent of people claimed that Morgan’s numbers were inflated due to park effects in Pittsburgh that weren’t accurately being accounted for. The claim was that Morgan’s defensive numbers were inflated due to the context he was playing in.
Likewise, when the Mariners traded Yuniesky Betancourt to Kansas City, Dayton Moore caused quite the stir when he stated that he had no faith in metrics like UZR due to their unreliability. Betancourt is kind of the anti-Morgan, with horrifically terrible UZR numbers, but enough defensive talent that he should be better than what the metric indicates he’s performing at. Again, the question of context was raised – would Betancourt’s UZR improve once he got out of Seattle?
So far, we’ve only got a couple of weeks of data to look at, but the answers to date are resounding.
In 160 innings in center field since being traded to Washington, Morgan has a +4.9 UZR, which translates to +26.5 UZR/150. That’s actually higher than his UZR/150 while playing left field for the Pirates. If there was something about playing half his games in Pittsburgh that inflated his numbers, it apparently went with him to Washington. Or, more logically, it never existed in the first place. In reality, he’s just a fantastic defensive outfielder, no matter where he plays.
Betancourt? Still terrible. In 81 innings for KC, he’s posted a UZR of -1.8, which is a -25.2 UZR/150. That’s even worse than the level he was playing at for Seattle. Since Moore claimed it was obvious which players are good with the glove when you watch them on the field, I wonder how he’s felt about his new shortstop the last week and a half, where he’s been failing to get to balls and costing his pitchers outs. But hey, at least he’s posting a .156 wOBA, so it’s not all bad right? Oh.
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