Two, the reason Crawford didn’t know that he could get to the ball is because he has poor range for a left fielder. He basically admitted it afterwards, saying, “I didn’t think it was clearly my ball. That’s a long run for me.”
So if we’re really going to analyze the fielding woes that doomed the Dodgers in their 3-2 loss to Philadelphia last night, it’s not as simple as logging the number of errors (for the record, they have made errors in five straight games, a total of eight in that span). The best defensive metrics are never that simple.
What do the complicated metrics say?
FanGraphs’ Range Runs statistic measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, as determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Range Runs says that the Dodgers have four above-average fielders at their positions (among regulars): Yasiel Puig in right field (+2.3 runs), Juan Uribe at third (+2.2), Andre Ethier in center (+1.4) and even Crawford in left — albeit barely (+0.3).
Ethier has been below average this season when he shifts to right field (-0.5), as is Dee Gordon at second base (-0.2), Adrian Gonzalez at first base (-0.6), Hanley Ramirez at shortstop (-0.8) and Matt Kemp in center, by quite a bit (-2.0).
Translating that 2 into layman’s terms: The average center fielder has enough range to prevent two more runs from scoring than Kemp, and we’re less than a month into the season. That might be fine, except that Ethier and Crawford don’t offer much range in left and right, respectively. With Kemp in center, no wonder Puig acts like the only fielder capable of overcoming the limited range of literally every player around him — he is.
Maybe that’s why Kemp feels compelled to call off Puig on fly balls hit within 10 feet of him, which he did at one point Monday night.
A team’s fielding percentage tends to fluctuate with mistakes, like the occasional poor throw. Even Mark Ellis makes an occasional poor throw. Puig, for what it’s worth, hasn’t been charged with an error this season.
Range, however, is more fixed. So long as the body parts responsible for running are healthy — Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez, Gonzalez and Gordon fall in this category — it’s unfair to expect significant improvement in their range. If anything, ordinary wear and tear might restrict their range further as the season goes on.
So it’s fairly safe to say the Dodgers have a range problem. Monday, Crawford complicated things by underestimating even his own range and not calling off Ramirez on a ball that should have been his.
It was a tough play to watch, and there will probably be more of those in the future.
Some bullet points for a Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day:
• Howard Cole, writing for LA Weekly, authored the definitive rant for all those who can’t watch the Dodgers on TV at home: “So earth to all parties – Time Warner Cable primarily, the Dodgers organization secondarily, and the rest of the dregs involved in the process: You are all the bad guy.”
• Today is the anniversary of Fernando Tatis hitting two grand slams off Chan Ho Park in the same inning. Here’s what it looked like in real time (with Mark McGwire looking on) and here’s what Tatis tweeted today:
15 years ago i invented swag by hitting 2 grand slams in the same inning off of chan ho park…much respect to Park
— Fernando Tatis (@FTatis23) April 23, 2014
• AwfulAnnouncing.com invites you to grade the TV announcers in the National League west.
• Two Florida lawmakers, motivated by Puig’s escape from Cuba, are trying to pressure MLB to change its treatment of Cuban players — and are willing to tie state money for stadiums to the issue.
• Playwright William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago today. Turned out his characters had a lot to say about baseball.
• The Arizona Diamondbacks have the majors’ worst record at 5-18. If you only read two stories about what the turmoil might mean for manager Kirk Gibson and GM Kevin Towers, this one has the players’ perspective and this one has the front office perspective.
• Happy birthday to Andruw Jones (37).
• So much of the music I’ve heard in the last five years falls under the category of “What 80’s Music Should Have Sounded Like.” This song, Preben Goes to Acapulco by Todd Terje, is what jazz in the 1980s should have sounded like: electronic and frenetic, yet restrained enough for it to all make sense: