The Padres Outfield Defense is Not as Bad as You Think

May 8, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (7) makes a catch over the wall on a ball hit by New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (not pictured) during the sixth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres’ outfield defense is getting a bad rap that it doesn’t deserve. 

Defensive numbers are far from perfect. There are no clear metrics like wRC+ or OPS for offense, to measure just how good a defender is at his position. There are so many factors at play, such as the players’ foot speed, jump on the ball from contact, shift position, and ballpark dimensions. This makes it a very difficult task to fairly judge a player defensively, especially as a team unit.

The Padres, for one reason or another, are routinely criticized for their outfield defense this season. Of course, there have been moments where that is 100% valid and a concern, but since most Padres fans only closely watch the Padres and no one else, their view of where the Padres stand as a team compared to other teams’ outfields is skewed.

Since those defensive stats are so raw, let’s run through several and find out if there is a common theme.

Errors

The most blatant and obvious defensive stat is errors committed. Like a false start in football highlighting an offensive lineman, an outfield error brings one play into the spotlight while that same outfielder has made dozens of solid defensive plays aside from that one error, but they go mostly unheralded until a mistake is made.

As a unit, the Padres outfield has committed seven total errors, which is a far cry from the worst in baseball, which belongs to the Seattle Mariners at 15 errors. There are nine teams in Major League Baseball that have committed more errors as an outfield than the Padres.

Rank Team E
21 Padres 7
22 Rangers 8
23 Cardinals 8
24 Orioles 9
25 Cubs 9
26 Rockies 9
27 White Sox 10
28 Blue Jays 11
29 Giants 11
30 Mariners 15

 

Wil Myers, who has been tasked with playing left field and center field this season, leads the Padres outfielders with three errors. Franmil Reyes has committed two, and Hunter Renfroe and Josh Naylor have committed one apiece.

Manuel Margot has gone error-less in over 300 innings in the outfield this season.

Fielding Percentage

Right along with errors, fielding percentage is one of the more “old-fashioned” defensive stats, calculating the putouts, assists, and errors over how many chances total a player is given. The Padres have a .982 fielding percentage, which is 19th in the big leagues. Of course, that’s not going to win any Gold Gloves, but that is far from the worst in the league.

Rank Team Field %
19 Padres 0.982
20 Indians 0.981
21 Rangers 0.981
22 Tigers 0.98
23 Orioles 0.978
24 White Sox 0.974
25 Cardinals 0.974
26 Cubs 0.973
27 Rockies 0.973
28 Giants 0.972
29 Blue Jays 0.97
30 Mariners 0.965

The Padres rank higher than several respectable teams with playoff aspirations in outfield fielding percentage.

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)

Now we get into more metric defensive numbers. The Padres outfield as a whole is currently at +4 Defensive Runs Saved, which is good enough for 11th in baseball. Hunter Renfroe boasts a +7 Defensive Runs Saved number, the best on the team by a large margin. Reyes brings the total number down as he is at -4 DRS, otherwise the Padres may be near the best in baseball. Myers comes in at a dead-even 0 DRS.

Rank Team DRS
1 Dodgers 25
2 Twins 22
3 Astros 21
4 Brewers 15
5 Rays 14
6 Giants 10
7 Athletics 6
8 Braves 6
9 Cubs 6
10 Red Sox 4
11 Padres 4
12 Angels 2
13 Nationals 1
14 Phillies 0
15 Royals -1

The Padres are much closer to the better outfields, or at least the perfectly average outfields, than they are the worst outfields in the league (the Rockies are dead last at -19 DRS).

Renfroe ranks seventh among all outfielders in the league in DRS, better than the likes of Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, and Tony Kemp.

Rank Name DRS
1 Cody Bellinger 16
2 Lorenzo Cain 13
3 Kevin Kiermaier 10
4 Byron Buxton 9
5 Mookie Betts 8
6 Alex Verdugo 8
7 Hunter Renfroe 7
8 Ronald Acuna Jr. 7
9 Jake Marisnick 6
10 Joey Gallo 6
11 Steven Duggar 6
12 Carlos Gonzalez 5
13 Gerardo Parra 5
14 Mike Trout 5
15 Max Kepler 5

Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR)

UZR is very similar to Defensive Runs Saved, but occasionally they disagree. However, in the case of the Padres outfield, they nearly mirror that of DRS, but UZR favors the Padres outfield more than Defensive Runs Saved does. The Padres are at 4.4 UZR, which is eighth in the league. Again, Renfroe paces the Padres outfielders with a 4.2 UZR. The only regular outfielder that is below 0 is Reyes at -1.4. Margot is behind Renfroe at 1.4 while Myers continues to bring in very average numbers, with a 0.9 UZR.

Rank Team UZR
1 Twins 14.9
2 Astros 12.2
3 Dodgers 10.9
4 Rays 8.3
5 Diamondbacks 8.1
6 Brewers 6.4
7 Phillies 5.8
8 Padres 4.4
9 Cardinals 3.9
10 Athletics 3.2
11 Cubs 3.1
12 Royals 2.7
13 Yankees 2.6
14 Giants 1.4
15 Red Sox 0.7

San Diego seems to have a better outfield than several playoff hopefuls in the league.

Catch Probability

When looking at Statcast defensive numbers such as Catch Probability, the numbers once again favor the Padres having an average-to-slightly-above-average outfield defense. Baseball Savant ranks catches as 1-star, 2-star, 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star, based on the percent chance of a catch, with 1-star catches being routine plays that should be made 91-95% of the time. When looking at the most routine catches, in the 1-star category, the Padres make those catches 93.3% of the time, which is 10th-best in that category (keep in mind Statcast does not split outfield and infield stats).

OAA means “Outs Above Average.” The Padres have five, which also ranks highly as a team.

The numbers, however imperfect they may be, all indicate that the Padres outfield defense is at least average, if not respectable. Also, in this investigation, we found that Hunter Renfroe is turning into a solid defender on top of the wallop he brings with his bat.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

2 thoughts on “The Padres Outfield Defense is Not as Bad as You Think

  1. Thanks Nick, that was enlightening, encouraging, and great research. I enjoy your articles! Now if only the “boy” could bring up their less then average OBP, and hitting with runners on base! Last nights 7 run inning was a good start! Go PADS!

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