Monday, February 22, 2010

North Klapisch: Red Sox answer Yankees’ brawn with defense

Today, their universe revolves around pitching, defense and run-prevention — Whether the Sox’s arms can contain the Yankees’ run-scoring machine will be the biggest question of the summer. But after watching the Bombers lead the majors in virtually every offensive category in 2009, Boston GM Theo Epstein decided there had to be a smarter way to recapture the East.

While Boston's defense is certainly improved from last season, they don't even project to be the best defense in the division. Here's how I have the primary starters for each team projected defensively for 2010, using a weighted average of 2006-2009 zone rating and UZR with some regression towards the mean and aging factored in.

Pos Red Sox RS Yankees RS Rays RS
1B Kevin Youkilis 4 Mark Teixeira 3 Carlos Pena -2
2B Dustin Pedroia 9 Robinson Cano -1 Ben Zobrist 14
3B Adrian Beltre 8 Alex Rodriguez -4 Evan Longoria 14
C Victor Martinez 3 Jorge Posada -5 Dioner Navarro 2
CF Mike Cameron 5 Curtis Granderson 6 B.J. Upton 3
LF Jacoby Ellsbury 2 Brett Gardner 8 Carl Crawford 12
RF J.D. Drew 2 Nick Swisher 0 Gabe Kapler 9
SS Marco Scutaro 3 Derek Jeter -4 Jason Bartlett 2
Total 36 3 53

RS: Runs saved compared to average, using an average of zone rating and UZR

We have sample size issues with several of these projections, particularly with Ben Zobrist, and the standard caveats about the reliability of defensive metrics apply as always. The benches could also change the overall numbers a bit. Despite that, I'm pretty comfortable in stating that Tampa's defense should be the best in the AL East, and will probably be neck and neck with Seattle for best overall defense in the AL in 2010. Despite that, I'm sure we'll be hearing about Boston's defense all year.

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