Defensive Runs Saved

We have literally spent several thousand man-hours of research working to improve our methods to evaluate defense in baseball.

Everything that we know summarizes into what we call Defensive Runs Saved. Some folks have started calling it DRS for short. That’s OK. It comes in handy at times to have a short name for something. DRS or DRS System. Or just Runs Saved. All OK. Sometimes people have called it The Fielding Bible system. That’s OK too. Or sometimes it’s called the Plus/Minus System. That’s OK too, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. The Plus/Minus System was the focus of the first volume of The Fielding Bible and remains the cornerstone of the Defensive Runs Saved System. The Plus/Minus System is the most important methodology that we use to measure defense. But it is only one of eight major methodologies that summarize into Defensive Runs Saved.

These eight methodologies are:

  • Plus/Minus Runs Saved (All Non-Catchers)
  • Catcher Adjusted Earned Runs Saved (Catchers)
  • Catcher Stolen Base Runs Saved (Catchers)
  • Pitcher Stolen Base Runs Saved (Pitchers)
  • Outfielder Arm Runs Saved (Outfielders)
  • Bunt Runs Saved (Corner Infielders, Catchers, Pitchers)
  • Double Play Runs Saved (Middle Infielders and Corner Infielders)
  • Good Plays/Misplays Runs Saved (All Fielders)

DRS is a straightforward concept. If a player has positive Defensive Runs Saved, he has helped his team defensively. When we say Austin Jackson had 29 Defensive Runs Saved in 2011 for the Tigers, it means he has helped his team prevent 29 runs from scoring, compared to an average center fielder, because of his excellent defense. That was the best performance by any defender at any position in baseball last year. Logan Morrison had -26 runs saved for the Marlins playing left field in 2011. A negative runs saved number is below average. Morrison cost his team 26 runs because of his poor defense, the worst defensive performance in baseball in 2011. A player with a runs saved total around zero is average. Kevin Youkilis was exactly average playing third base for Boston in 2011 with exactly 0 runs saved.

That’s generally the range. The best players can save about 30 runs defensively in a single season, and the worst players get close to -30. Using the rule of thumb that 10 runs is about equal to a win, Austin Jackson’s defense all by itself accounted for three Detroit Tiger wins in 2011.

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