SIS Blog

The Best and Worst of Pitching Defense

We’ve all seen it.  Runner on first, chopper back to the pitcher for an easy double play…. and the throw sails into center field.   While watching a game last week where this exact event occurred, I asked myself who is actually the worst fielding pitcher in all of baseball, and what is the proper way of coming to the answer?

Greg Maddux was universally regarded as the best fielding pitcher of his generation, and possibly ever, with a major league record 18 Gold Gloves.  More recently, Mark Buehrle has succeeded Maddux as the “best fielding pitcher,” winning the Fielding Bible Award and Gold Glove the last four years. He has a chance for his fifth in 2013.

The likes of Maddux and Buerhle have helped their cause by fielding the position with quick reflexes, barehanded snags, and, for Buehrle, an unforgettable between-the-legs flip on Opening Day 2010.   It is easy to recognize those who show up on highlight reels and win the hardware.  However, how do we classify those who don’t?

Worst Net (GFPs – DMEs) Since 2008

A.J. Burnett142122-29
Matt Garza41516-27
James Shields152118-24
Clayton Richard91120-22
Jon Lester61612-22

Looking at good fielding plays (GFPs) and defensive misplays and errors (DMEs), A.J. Burnett could be seen as the worst fielding pitcher.  Since 2008, Burnett leads all pitchers in errors and is fourth in DMs.  Second on the list is Matt Garza, whose fielding woes received some attention earlier this season.  In an August game, Oakland bunted four times against Garza, who then expressed his anger on Twitter.  However, Oakland’s moves were with good reason as Garza has 12 errors since the beginning of 2011, the most of all pitchers.

Best Net (GFP – DMEs) since 2008

Zack Greinke316322
Jake Peavy20857
Bronson Arroyo20677
Kenny Rodgers12417
Livan Hernandez201127
Jesse Litsch16367

Buehrle has been the pitcher to receive the most accolades.  However, by using the measure of Net (GFP-DME), Zack Greinke has been the best fielding pitcher.  His 22 Net (GFP-DME) are 15 clear of second place since 2008, and Greinke has never won a Gold Glove in his career. Although Buehrle has the second most GFPs in this time frame, he only has a Net (GFP-DME) of 5, which ranks tied for twelfth among pitchers over that span.


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