Highs and Lows of UZR 2007-9: Dunn

As explained in the overview post, here, this is part of a series looking at the best and worst defensive performers over the past three combined seasons. Rankings are done by adding a player’s UZR with his aggregate positional adjustment so as to level the playing field with regards to difficulty. Essentially, it’s removing the grading curve.

Previously covered:
The Best
5th, Ryan Zimmerman 43.7 runs above average.
4th, Omar Vizquel 45.8 runs above average.
3rd, J.J. Hardy 48.7 runs above average.
2nd, Franklin Gutierrez 51.4 runs above average.
1st, Chase Utley 54.8 runs above average.

The Worst
5th, Jason Bay -64.9 runs to average.
4th, Ken Griffey Jr. -66.9 runs to average.
3rd, Jermaine Dye -80.6 runs to average.
2nd, Brad Hawpe -101.1 runs to average.

Tonight, the worst player from 2007-9: OF Adam Dunn.

In a remarkable come from behind loss, Adam Dunn managed to out suck Brad Hawpe right at the finish line to steal this title from him. Though Dunn cannot claim to be as consistently poor as Hawpe, he can lay claim to the single worst season by UZR in this covered period.

Adam Dunn‘s -46.2 runs to average in 2009 not only edged out Hawpe’s -43.6 from 2008 and Griffey’s -37.1 from 2007 as the worst overall season, but he managed the biggest gap between leader and second place in any category since Barry Bonds last played. As previously mentioned, Brad Hawpe was the second worst fielder in 2009. His fielding was -27 runs below average. Adan Dunn (-46.2) was nearly 20 runs worse than that. 20 runs, almost two whole wins worth of extra bad.

Of course, Dunn’s terrible was not limited to just 2009 or else he would not be atop this esteemed list of iron gloves even with his astounding 2009 figure. His 2008 was up to snuff as well, finishing second to Hawpe at -35.9 runs and he was the sixth worst aggregate fielder in 2007 leading to his total of -108.1 runs against average for the three seasons combined.

Adam Dunn is so bad in the field that he loses roughly two wins of value by not being a DH. And that includes factoring in the hitting penalty faced by full time DHs. His contract is not a bad one, it’s just a comically bad match although there is something poetic about seeing lineups with Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman manning the infield corners.



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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


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dan
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dan
6 years 7 months ago

Adam Dunn, born to be a DH.

Muzz
Member
Muzz
6 years 7 months ago

I think it is silly to think that a guy could do 40+ runs of negative value to a defense in one season. Don’t get me wrong, I love UZR, but in one season samples, especially in a season like Dunn’s where he split playing time between three positions, the sample size is to small and the result is very flaky. And it doesn’t just occur in a negative way; Ben Zobrist was propelled to an 8.6 win season with +26 runs of defense, but his UZR/150 at RF and 2B are darn near impossible to accomplish. His UZR/150 suggests he is a better 2B than Chase Utley which I doubt is the case. I think you need to take UZR with a grain of salt when it is in these small samples, and look more at the career averages of a player to determine how good/bad he is in the field.

Toffer Peak
Member
Toffer Peak
6 years 7 months ago

His three year total was -108.1 so this is not based off of just one season.

The fact that he played multiple positions should not matter when 1. he played equally awful at all three and 2. each position is only weighted by the amount of “time” he spent there.

CMC_Stags
Guest
CMC_Stags
6 years 7 months ago

So by that logic, if Dunn played SS for the whole year, it wouldn’t be possible for him to end up with 40 runs of negative value?

The Hit Dog
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The Hit Dog
6 years 7 months ago

I can’t be the only one who wants to see Adam Dunn play SS… just once…

tdotsports1
Member
6 years 7 months ago

Managed to out suck Brad Hawpe, that was funny! Tough for an offensive linemen (and a slow one at that) to be a skilled defender…

Jack
Guest
Jack
6 years 7 months ago

He was actually Peyton Manning’s backup quarterback in college… Not a lineman

nesta
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nesta
6 years 7 months ago

I don’t see how his UZR adds up to -46 runs.

Travis
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Travis
6 years 7 months ago

-36.3 fielding and a -9.8 fielding adjustment.

Dave R
Guest
Dave R
6 years 7 months ago

I keep adding up the numbers and getting Dunn at -46.1 for the season. What am I missing that makes it -46.2?

Patrick
Guest
Patrick
6 years 7 months ago

Dave,

Possibly a different source for UZR, with a slightly different rounding error. Perhaps Matthew grabbed UZR for Dunn from somewhere other than Fangraphs and they rounded slightly differently at some step in the calculation.

UZR’s a stat with a lot of calculations/steps that go in to it and it’s not hard for something like an error of 0.1 (remembering also that that’s the error after rounding off, the actual error could be much smaller) to be introduced due to some differences in calculation.

That’s just my speculation, though.

And, also… There’s something that may be misunderstood here: UZR isn’t some magical thing that measures how good of a fielder you are, in some strange vacuum. It measures HOW WELL YOU FIELDED. After the fact. With the principal inputs being plays you made or didn’t make!

So, unless I misunderstand how something is calculated, Ben Zobrist WAS that useful, at least according to the data fed to UZR. Perhaps the stringers coded things badly – If you believe the Fans Scouting Report on Ichiro, the stringers out at Safeco must be doing something pretty damn funny. (I believe someone at Basebally Analysts or THT studied this exact thing a bit, for Ichiro. As a man with a reputation as a spectacular defender who UZR doesn’t think so highly of.)

Back to the point:
UZR is measure of runs saved. Well, OK, probable runs saved. IE, the plays made by that player saved, on average, X runs. We can’t say how many runs a play actually saved because we don’t know what would have happened had the play not been made… But we know what happens on average when similar plays aren’t made, and that’s more or less how UZR decides the run value of a play made or not made.

So, is Ben Zobrist a better fielder as a second baseman than Chase Utley? It seems very unlikely. However… While he was at second base this year, his fielding contributions, as measured by UZR, were more significant in the same amount of ‘time’. (I believe UZR uses defensive games rather than actual innings and I confess I get lost on the details there.)

That doesn’t mean he’s better at playing second base than Utley. It just means that his fielding (again, as a rate stat, not a total) at second base was more valuable than Utley’s. The thought, if you believe that Utley is the better field, would be that Zobrist got somewhat lucky – He was well positioned for a number of ordinarily very hard plays, or something similar.

But… Think of a hitting example.
Chase Utley hits, whatever Chase hits… Like… .290/.380/.500 (super-duper lazy of me, I know) over the course of a season. In one particular week, Pedro Feliz gets lucky and hits .450/.500/.800. Now, is Feliz a better hitter than Utley? Well, no. But that week of his was more valuable. Similar to the UZR here. Utley should most likely be expected to field better than Zobrist in the future, but that doesn’t mean Zobrist wasn’t better than Utley while he was at second base. (Substitute “hit” for “field”, “Feliz” for “Zobrist”, and “during that week” for “while he was at second base”.)

This inflates his rate stats beyond what’s reasonable if you project them over the course of a season… But no one is DOING that. In using his total UZR for the year (Not /150), we’re looking at what he actually DID.

So… Would I take Utley over Zobrist to build a team around? Leaving the question of age out, it’s Utley, hands down. He’s most likely the better player. But, if you believe UZR – and sample size has NOTHING to do with it when calculating player effectiveness in this particular season, rather than expected future value or measuring true skill – then Zobrist had the better season.

Dave R
Guest
Dave R
6 years 7 months ago

Patrick, thank you for your explanation. I wasn’t sure if I was looking at the right numbers. Good to see it was probably just a different way of rounding up the numbers… or a slightly different UZR rating from a different site!

Hark
Guest
Hark
6 years 7 months ago

Good explanation, but re: Ichiro and UZR…what are you smoking? UZR loves Ichiro just as much as the fans do.

He has never once posted a negative UZR. This season, he was tied for second in UZR (the counting stat itself) for right fielders, and a solid third for UZR/150. Even tossing in the RF positional adjustment, Ichiro’s UZR is still +5 per year on average.

Ichiro is a good defender. He’s not on the top 5, obviously. But +19 over three seasons (that’s with the positinal adjustment thrown in)…I don’t know where someone thinks “UZR doesn’t think so highly of” Ichiro. UZR thinks quite highly of Ichiro.

Michael
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

The thing is that the Fans seem to think he’s a +25 fielder in right field, while UZR is fairly consistent at around +10.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick
6 years 7 months ago

“So, is Ben Zobrist a better fielder as a second baseman than Chase Utley? It seems very unlikely. However… While he was at second base this year, his fielding contributions, as measured by UZR, were more significant in the same amount of ‘time’. (I believe UZR uses defensive games rather than actual innings and I confess I get lost on the details there.)”

Clarifying here –
Original:
While he was at second base this year, his fielding contributions, as measured by UZR, were more significant in the same amount of ‘time’
Clarification:
I mean here that per amount of time ACTUALLY SPENT at Second Base, Zobrist was more useful than Utley this year. IE, as a rate. That doesn’t mean he’s a better fielder there! It really doesn’t. It just means he fielded better, according to UZR, in the limited time he was there.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
6 years 7 months ago

Where’s Manny minus his bat? I thought he would’ve cracked this group. What, then, is his value to the Dodgers, or lack of?

LeeTro
Member
Member
LeeTro
6 years 7 months ago

Manny finished 11th at -53.5 runs. His worst stretch was ’05-’07, resulting in -74.9 runs. I think Fenway has a negative impact on UZR, considering how much he has “improved” since going to LA. Also part of the reason why Bay is #5, though he was starting to go downhill in ’07.

Manny was worth 2.7 WAR, app. $12.2M. He’ll probably be about a -10 UZR next year, so he needs about 40 hitting runs to be worth his $20M contract.

Terry
Guest
Terry
6 years 7 months ago

It’s virtually impossible to lose 2 wins by NOT being a DH.

Congrats Adam. You’re truly a generational player.

BTW, isn’t Adam Dunn the perfect symbol for the Reds organization of the last decade and a half?

MisterRedLegs
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

I always wrote during my days of covering the Reds that these two were the worst outfielders in the league. Again, I am right.

They are also the worst teamates. Bad interviews too.

Colm
Guest
Colm
6 years 7 months ago

Having watched the Mariners a lot, I’d have thought Raul Ibanez’s 2007 season would get him a look in.

With Raul in left and a gimpy Jose Guillen in right that was an horrific outfield to watch.

Colm
Guest
Colm
6 years 7 months ago

Wow. Raul was only -20.5 for the season that year. And Guillen only -6.8. What a couple of amateurs.

Obviously, as a Mariners fan, I’ve been spoiled by some of the best defensive outfields that anyone has ever seen (Winn-Cameron-Ichiro and the early 2009 Chavez-Gutierez-Ichiro).

Toffer Peak
Member
Toffer Peak
6 years 7 months ago

You forgot to account for his positional adjustment. With that included Raul’s overall fielding value (what this series has been measuring) was -28.2.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick
6 years 7 months ago

Hark,

Sorry, you’ve got a good point about Ichiro. I stated my case much too strongly, on the basis of things I’d read rather than carefully examining the numbers.

Mea culpa and thanks for pointing it out.
I don’t think my point is completely hollow – as Michael said, Fans think he’s insanely great. But UZR certainly doesn’t think he’s bad, which is what you’d think from my post…

Sorry. :)

Benne
Guest
Benne
6 years 7 months ago

I’m fairly certain that I could field a better LF and 1B than Adam Dunn. Sure, I’d still suck, but at least the fans won’t slash my tires, on the simple fact that I’m at least better (or, at least, somewhat halfway-competent) than Adam Dunn.

Mitchell
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Mitchell
6 years 7 months ago

I don’t understand why Adam Dunn is not a DH. If Mike Rizzo has half a brain, he’ll trade him to an AL team this offseason. His value would be so much higher if he were just playing the right position. (ie. not playing any position.)

BTW, did anyone else notice that Dunn hasn’t always been an epically bad fielder? His 2002-2004 UZR’s: +6.2, -3.5, -2.4. Not great, but not bad either. Plus he stloe 19 bases in 2002. It seems he used to be kind of fast, but he has slowed significantly with age.

TCQ
Guest
TCQ
6 years 7 months ago

Yeah, not surprising with his body-type.

Dave R
Guest
Dave R
6 years 7 months ago

Dunn wants to play the field. He’s said he has no interest in just being a DH.

Mitchell
Guest
Mitchell
6 years 7 months ago

Then someone should send him the link to this article. Someone like him refusing to DH is just plain idiotic.

Pete
Guest
Pete
6 years 7 months ago

“BTW, did anyone else notice that Dunn hasn’t always been an epically bad fielder? His 2002-2004 UZR’s: +6.2, -3.5, -2.4. Not great, but not bad either. Plus he stloe 19 bases in 2002. It seems he used to be kind of fast, but he has slowed significantly with age.”

It hasn’t been age as Dunn is only in his early 30’s, it has been the fact that he hasn’t taken care of himself, conditioning wise, in recent years.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick
6 years 7 months ago

Didn’t I read somewhere he played shortstop in college and maybe started there in the minors? He wasn’t great, but the mere fact that he could play it at all says he was a pretty solid fielder. Ah well… Fat dudes age fast.

don
Guest
don
6 years 7 months ago

It blows my mind that a guy who was a good enough QB to play at UT can have a below average arm in the outfield.

Andrew
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Isn’t this a sign that teams should put more of an emphasis on fitness? He’s easily 300lbs now. If he lost 15-20lbs of that I’m sure it would do wonders for his range. I don’t think getting that big is tolerated in any other professional league.

There is some truth to the unathletic fat baseball player stereotype…

JCA
Guest
JCA
6 years 7 months ago

A special season like Dunn’s deserves more than just a sum of his UZR. Is there a way to break down his UZR by month and position. If my memory is right, much of his negative rating at first base was piled up before the Nick Johnson trade and immediately after it. IIRC, he was running in th -40 UZR/150 at first at midseason, and ended up with -25. Did he actually improve once he settled into one position instead of spot duty at first?

His career UZR/150 at first in a little over a season is 17.9. Granted, that’s based on only a little over one season of play and that season is based on games spread over the early part of his career, when he was closer to average, and later, when he was seeing mostly spot duty and turning in bad seasons. Could it be that his talent at first is better than his “2 win pick up if he were a DH” suggests?

tom s.
Guest
tom s.
6 years 7 months ago

if we could break uzr down by month, it wouldn’t help. uzr is not very meaningful over a month. a month’s worth of uzr would more measure the noise in the sample than the month’s defensive performance.

that’s why the series looks at 3 seasons worth of data.

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