In 2012, the Philadelphia Phillies could not count defense among their strengths. There were multiple reasons for this, such as the personnel the club was forced to begin the year with due to injuries to key defenders like Chase Utley, as well as the existence of poor gloves like Juan Pierre, Hunter Pence, and Ty Wiggington combining for far more playing time than any defense should have to handle.
The result? The Phillies ranked just #22 in Defensive Efficiency, the percentage of balls in play converted into outs. Fortunately, a rotation and bullpen filled with pitchers who miss a well above-average number of bats meant that the defense didn't hold the club down as much as it could have if they were, say, in possession of the Minnesota Twins' staff. Nevertheless, there was absolutely room to improve heading into 2013, above and beyond simply waiting for a full season of Utley.
Instead of pulling a Zduriencik and attacking their defensive shortcomings, Philadelphia might have made things even worse on the defensive side. Ryan Howard, who actually contributed positively to the defense by missing over 90 games in 2012, is healthy and as likely to play a full season in the field as anyone. Replacing Placido Polanco, Kevin Frandsen, and Wigginton at third is Michael Young, who was a terrible defensive player years before he was forcibly changed into a designated hitter. The Rangers have used Young at every infield position as well as designated hitter the last two years, yet despite the fact that he started 140 of his 315 games in those two seasons as the DH, Baseball-Reference lists him as costing the Rangers over four wins on defense, Fangraphs has him at minus two wins, and Baseball Prospectus, while the kindest of the bunch, still has him in the red. Whether you agree with the accuracy of these defensive metrics or not, it's clear -- and has been for about a decade -- that Michael Young is a bad defensive player, one who will be asked to play every day with a glove on once more at the age of 36.
Phillies Get Young-er and Defense Stays Ugly
The Good Phight | Feb 5