The Mets’ new defensive metric: Defensive Efficiency

M BaronIt’s no secret the Mets could be a very defensively challenged team in 2015. 

Assuming they’re healthy, there are fair questions about the middle infield defense, their first baseman remains a work-in-progress, their corner outfielders are suspect and arguably out of position, and their catcher has had issues throwing and catching the ball.

Those are a lot of holes for a team expecting to contend in an era now centered around pitching, speed, and defense.

The Mets are cognizant of this, as its perhaps their biggest flaw. But in a well written and supported report for the Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond says the Mets have developed their own specific metric called, “defensive efficiency,” which measures an individual’s ability to turn expected outs into outs.

“Defensive efficiency takes into account, among many other factors, the opposing batter, the Mets’ pitcher, the count, the base-runner situation—virtually anything that can be evaluated empirically.” Diamond explains in his report. “It goes far beyond basic spray charts and more rudimentary efficiency ratings used on some publicly accessible websites, which only show how often a team turns batted balls into outs.”

Part of improving one’s defensive efficiency, according to Diamond, is knowing a hitters tendency both in a given count and against a certain pitch type. Tim Teufel provides his infielders with a daily scouting report before each game which includes this data on each player, and it’s the player’s job to know each hitter and their tendencies. The infielders then get the sign from the catcher to know what pitch is coming and they align accordingly at the last possible second.

Still, the Mets understand the value of range – essentially, it’s difficult to compensate for a lack of it. However, in the case of Wilmer Flores and his range issues, the club has always felt if he was in the proper position, he could compensate for his lack of range with his above average reach with his arms, which combined could protect his weakness.

Applying the data derived from this metric is designed to aid Flores – and others – in that regard.

Alderson basically said the same thing to Diamond while not specifically referring to Flores, with the application of defensive efficiency in mind.

“To the extent that a guy has everything except range, I think guys like that are playable,” Alderson told Diamond. “To the extent that a guy can do everything except make the routine play, can’t turn the double play, poor arm, they’re not playable.”

There are going to be some instances when their science won’t apply, and they know that. But the idea is to take a bet and be completely in sync, specifically on the infield which could help cover the necessary ground on a per-play and per-batter basis.

“We can do a better job of playing the odds,” David Wright told Diamond.

Again, that’s the goal.

Read Jared Diamond’s must-read report and learn more about Defensive Efficiency in the Wall Street Journal here.