MLB's 10 Most Error-Prone Defenders
The stigma surrounding the title "poor defender" in baseball is difficult for a player to shake.
In addition to being highlighted nightly on SportsCenter rolling around in the outfield (or infield) as opposing baserunners run furiously around the bases, a connotation of laziness and complacency often accompanies the poor-fielding player.
If you wanted to know who the most error-prone defenders in MLB were, the best place to start would be MLB.com's league leaders. There you'd find the worst offenders in the league, led by young sensation Starlin Castro.
But that's the funny thing about errors. Shortstops make the most of the them.
While that certainly makes sense due to the difficult nature of playing shortstop, the game's most demanding position, it also doesn't mean that shortstops are the worst offenders in the realm of "most error-prone." A good portion of their errors are due to the position itself.
For that reason, this list is not simply a laundry list of the league leaders in errors. Instead, it is a look (weighted by position) at the worst bumblers in the league.
No. 10: Matt Garza
There really is no rhyme or reason as to why Matt Garza should be on this list—well, that is, if you consider only the seasons prior to 2011. For some reason, in 2011 Garza caught the error bug—badly.
Before this season, he posted a respectable career fielding percentage of .934. Unfortunately for him, this year Garza had more errors in one season than he had in his entire career beforehand. He collected a total of seven errors in 33 total chances.
Like most poor-fielding pitchers, Garza's violent delivery and follow-through may be mostly to blame for such a poor showing in the field.
No. 9: Prince Fielder
Prince Fielder is such a prodigious power hitter that it seems like nitpicking to call him out for his bad glove. Really, that's not actually true.
While he did lead all first basemen with 15 errors in 2011—a rather prodigious number itself, considering his position—Fielder is actually fleet of foot and agile for his size. He has decent range but a below-average arm.
Still, the Brewers didn't hire him for his glove, and neither will the team that spends $200 million on him this offseason.
No. 8: Ryan Raburn
It's a common misconception to believe that utility men play so many different positions because they are defensively talented; in fact, it is usually quite the opposite.
Such is the case with the Detroit Tigers' Ryan Raburn. Sure, it was exciting that Raburn picked up second base availability for my fantasy team partway through the season, but in reality, Raburn at second was a terrible move for Jim Leyland's club.
In just 201 total chances in 2011, Raburn committed 10 errors for an ugly .950 fielding percentage.
No. 7: Alfonso Soriano
It was easy to overlook Alfonso Soriano's shoddy defense when he was mashing 35 home runs and stealing 30 bases every year. But when your offensive prowess fades and your defensive skills don't get any better, you're bound to get a lot of negative attention.
Soriano's defense was never any good. In five straight seasons ('01-'05), Soriano committed at least 19 errors at second base, and although moving Soriano to the outfield was a good move (really, the only move at one point), he still routinely misplays batted balls and commits a ton of mental errors.
No. 6: Elvis Andrus
Elvis Andrus is a very underrated offensive weapon. He steals bases, hits for a decent average and even added a little power to his game this season, hitting five home runs and collecting 60 RBI.
Defensively, however, he's questionable.
While he has good range, as his impressive 19.2 career UZR would suggest, he has also averaged at least 20 errors in his first three full seasons in the majors. If he could be a bit more conservative in the field, he could find his way off this list very easily.
No. 5: Rickie Weeks
Rickie Weeks is probably the worst-fielding natural second baseman in the league. Although in 2010 Weeks improved his defense, posting a .980 fielding percentage, he reverted to his old ways this year, tying for the NL lead in errors by a second baseman.
That's actually worse than it sounds. Though he tied for the league lead in errors, he had nearly 300 fewer chances in the field than Dan Uggla, the second baseman with whom Weeks tied.
No. 4: Casey McGehee
Casey McGehee nearly lost his starting role as the Milwaukee Brewers' third baseman this season when his offense suddenly disappeared. At that point, he wasn't really bringing anything of worth to the table since his defense is atrocious.
On a horrible defensive team (like the Milwaukee Brewers were this year), McGehee was the worst. In 2011, he committed 20 errors and had the lowest fielding percentage of any position player on his team (.943).
No. 3: Yuniesky Betancourt
Yuniesky Betancourt's introduction on this list officially makes the Milwaukee Brewers infield the most error-prone in the major leagues. Luckily for them, they have a pretty slick-fielding outfield.
It's not really fair to classify Betancourt as a bad fielder. In fact, he reminds me a lot of former New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez, who consistently placed himself among the league leaders in errors and was also a regular contributor to Baseball Tonight's top defensive plays.
Betancourt is much the same. While he will tally his fair share of errors, he is also one of the most creative and acrobatic shortstops in the league today. Still, that doesn't stop him from being error-prone—and error-prone he certainly is.
No. 2: Pedro Alvarez
Pedro Alvarez had a very disappointing season with the Pittsburgh Pirates this year. Touted as a possible breakout rookie, Alvarez ended up spending much of his season on the DL and in the minors.
When he was playing at the major-league level, he wasn't very good. At third base, Alvarez committed 14 errors in just 214 chances to go along with his .191 batting average and four home runs.
So much for a breakout rookie season.
The Pirates have considered (and ought to consider) moving Alvarez to left or right field, where he can concentrate more on his performance at the plate. The move could help him much in the same way it helped the resurgent Alex Gordon this year. Also, Alvarez's powerful arm would translate nicely to the outfield.
No. 1: Mark Reynolds
There really is no question for the No. 1 spot on this list. At third base, Mark Reynolds was awe-inspiringly bad for the Baltimore Orioles this year, committing 26 errors in just 253 total chances for a fielding percentage south of .900.
If that's not enough to convince you, the 35 errors Reynolds committed back in 2008 should.
Mark Reynolds is a superb offensive talent, but the guy wears an iron glove, and the Orioles would be wise to hide him at first base or in the outfield as often as possible next year.