Karpin’s Korner: What is O-A-A? Cub-Flub? A-Rays-ing Race

I have a major problem with defensive metrics and now another “insightful” stat (that I had not heard of) has been added to the mix.

OAA (Outs Above Average) has come onto the scene and is being used by Major League teams to evaluate infield defense. According to an article in the Daily News this week, OAA tracks “player movement and measuring everything from a defender’s distance to the ball and base, judged against the runner’s speed.”

Even those who swear by this data, admit there are flaws with the defensive metrics. A couple of years back, GM Brian Cashman indicated that he didn’t buy into some of the defensive metrics but the Yankees are one of those teams that now value this data and that may have led to their decision to let Didi Gregorius walk.

For some strange reason, the defensive metrics do not reflect well for Gregorius. In fact, he rates very low in that regard.

Here’s how Gregorius ranked according to OAA. Last year’s Yankee shortstop (he only played half a season) was -13 runs below average. In 2017, Gregorius was -3 and a -7 in 2018. This data indicates that Gregorius was regressing defensively at short, but did he really regress defensively over the past 2 and a half seasons? I still saw pretty good range, his arm was a bit erratic coming off the Tommy John surgery last season but Gregorius was still a darn good defensive shortstop.

On the Mets side, OAA showed that Amed Rosario was a better fielder as the year went on and finished with a +3 rating. Duh, did you really need OAA to tell you that. If you watched the games and you knew anything about the game, you saw with your own eyes that Rosario showed great progress as a defender last season. Did you really need data to tell you that?

A couple of years back, Brewers CF Lorenzo Cain’s defense was being questioned thanks to the data. All he did last season was win a Gold Glove. ‘Nuff said.

The Cubs have actively tried to trade Kris Bryant, but because of what they’re asking for in return, plus defensive metrics that label him as being a liability at third base, and a service time issue, there have not been many teams that are hot to acquire the former NL MVP.

NBC Sports Chicago quoted a former GM as saying, “The Cubs’ asking price for Bryant is a joke. They want nearly ready major league talent at the level of a Gleyber Torres type or close and there is no chance a team is going to give them a package of those caliber of players.”

The former GM added, “I like Bryant but he is not a Top 30 player in baseball in my opinion. He is mediocre at best as a defender at third base. His swing has changed dramatically since 2016 and I question if he is truly 100% healthy. Sure, he has ability and he is a big, strong man but his offensive impact is nowhere close to what he looked like when the Cubs won the World Series.”

That’s his opinion, but it’s one I differ with.

For one thing, why are the Cubs so down on Bryant. This is a player who just turned 28 years old, is in his prime, probably has his best years still ahead of him and by the way, played a number of positions for the Cubs last season including 1B and the outfield.

I wouldn’t “give up the house” in a deal for Bryant but if I had a team that was a third-baseman shy of being a top World Series contender, I would definitely consider it. Reportedly, the Dodgers may be a player.

It’s been an interesting off season for the Rays. Tampa swing a deal with the Cardinals as they acquired outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Azozarena for left handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore and catching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.

Tampa’s offense was their problem last season and they’ve made it a point to address that weakness this winter. Martinez’ defensive woes have labeled him a prime candidate to DH, while power hitting OF Hunter Renfroe was acquired in a trade with the Padres.

The Rays plan to move away from the “opener.” A rotation that features a healthy Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell to combine with Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos, plus a potential fifth starter, (two way player Brendan McKay is a candidate for this spot) is right there with the Yankees’ starting rotation in the AL East.

Remember, Tampa won 96 games last season, they always seem to find players, particularly pitchers, and, on paper, are better than last year. The Yankees have improved and are definitely the favorite in the East, but the Rays could give them a tougher run for the division title in 2020.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com

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