Defense is the New Moneyball?

An interesting article for your mental digestion, Yankee fans, by the great Peter Gammons on “Falling back in love with defense” showing that baseball people and fans alike are slowly coming back to the point where defense is now being valued nearly as much as offense.

One GM even goes so far as to say, “I still believe that one of the factors that has hurt some of the good offensive free agents this winter, like Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn, is the concern about how many runs they give back defensively. There is a great deal more appreciation for defense than there was a decade ago.”

Gammons goes on to cite teams like Tampa and Minnesota who have had great success with a philosophy that revolves, to a great extent, on defensive prowess.

Why is defense making a comeback?  Several reasons come to mind:

1) The sheer cyclical nature of the universe had to rear its head at some point.  We have been in an era of unprecedented offensive statistics that are difficult for fans and GMs alike to ignore.

2) Not only the traditional numbers, themselves, but the sabermetric statistics have increased attention upon offensive production.  The developments in this area have been so prominent that it was easy for GMs to fall in love with these metrics.  Stats like VORP and WARP seem to be able to measure a players actual value and PECOTAs project what they will do next year.  If you’re a GM trying to make a decision, you have all these offensive numbers to help your process but no way to value defense… until recently with UZR’s and run projections and the Fielding Bible which are beginning to tap into how defense actually impacts the game.

Billy Beane created a wave of teams who tried to implement his statistics-based philosophy to attempt to assemble a cheap, winning formula for their team, but now there’s something even better.   Defense is an even better way to build a cheap winner precisely BECAUSE  it’s difficult to measure.  A defensive wiz who puts up meh statistics will cost you almost nothing in arbitration and, until recently, was horribly undervalued on the free agent market.  Now we just need a catch phrase as good as Moneyball.  Hmmmm…. Gloveball, Cashglove, ugh.  Too bad Golden Glove is already taken.

4 thoughts on “Defense is the New Moneyball?

  1. A new repect for defense can also be attributed to a reaction to the steroids backlash. Players used steroids to become better offensively. It didn’t necessarily help them on the defensive side of the field. Now that we are no longer getting 60-70 homeruns a year, a player who can provide a great defense is more respectable.