Phillies Defense at the 12 Game Mark

Why are you picking on me? I'm not even on the team anymore! - Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

I was worried about the team's defense going into the season. So far, it looks like I was right to be concerned.

Going into the season, one of my two biggest concerns was the team's defense. (The other, as I'm sure anyone who has had an inkling of an interest in the Phillies over the past three years shared, was Roy Halladay.)

The Phillies already had major question marks on defense at the end of 2012. Ryan Howard has never been great at first base (which is a kind way to make this point. ) Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are aging. And Domonic Brown has had serious trouble in the outfield. With the addition of third baseman Michael Young, who has only played third base regularly for two years in his long career and hasn't played the position more than just a few innings here and there since 2010, and Ben Revere, who has a great glove but a horrible arm, the off-season acquisitions seemed to be lining up to make the team's defense worse, not better. (And that's completely ignoring Delmon Young, something I'd like to do all year.)

So how's defense working out for the Phillies so far? On the surface, they seem to be doing pretty well. The team has only 4 errors, which is tied for second in the NL and fourth in the majors.

However, errors are a highly imperfect measure of a team's fielding. Looking at more advanced statistics tells us that there is a lot to be concerned about. One such statistic is Fangraphs' Fld stat. That stat tells us how many runs a team has added (or lost) from its fielding as a measure above replacement level. So far, the Phillies are worst in the NL, at -3.9. (Padres are the second worse at -3.4. There are four AL teams worse than the Phillies.) Baseball Prospectus has a different defensive stat that measures "defensive efficiency," or what percentage of batted balls are turned into outs. The Phillies are 9th in the NL in that measure.

Going back to Fangraphs and looking at individual contributors, for the most part, the players are performing as expected. Domonic Brown is the worst on the team with a -2.0 individual score. Jimmy Rollins is fielding the best, contributing 0.5 runs with his glove. How about the newcomers? Michael Young is, as expected, in the negatives, at -0.4. But surprisingly, Ben Revere has not had a good start, as he is second worst on the team with a -1.4 contribution to the team with his fielding. Also in the surprise category, Howard has so far been ok, contributing 0.4 runs with his glove.

All the usual caveats apply, especially with fielding stats and with only 12 games. But, as an overall defensive team, the early numbers confirm my pre-season concerns for the Phillies.

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