Trying To Pinpoint Lagares’ Defensive Problems
By DRS, the Mets are the worst defensive team in the National League. That is somewhat expected based on a number based upon the talent that was here. However, it is more than just the raw defensive talent, we are also seeing good defensive players like Juan Lagares really struggle defensively.
As noted by Mark A. Simon of The Athletic, the Mets have been one of the three worst shifting teams in all of baseball. In fact, the Mets are one of just four teams in baseball who has seen their shifts cost them runs. While it should be noted this article deals with ground balls and infield defense, it does speak to how the Mets are processing the data and putting their fielders in a poor position to field the ball.
As we saw with Manny Machado going from the Orioles to the Dodgers last year, we can see how teams shifting can help create poor defensive numbers for good fielding players. Possibly, that has been the case with Lagares who has an uncharacteristic -3 DRS in center this year.
When you look at Lagares’ sprint speed, he still has the same speed. According to Baseball Savant, Lagares’ sprint speed is 28.1 feet per second. Last year, when Lagares had a 17.2 UZR/150 and 5 DRS in just 128.1 innings, his sprint speed was 28.5 feet per second. In 2017, his sprint speed was 28.6 feet per second, and he had a 15 DRS and 22.8 UZR/150 in 566.2 inning in center.
Yes, he’s a step slower. Actually, it’s less than a step. While not impossible, it would be strange to suggest just that small of a drop off would turn Lagares into a Gold Glove caliber center fielder to a negative in the outfield.
According to a new stat, Lagares is just not getting the same “Jump” as he used to get on balls.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com described jump as a stat “which helps us measure how quickly an outfielder gets moving toward the ball, often before a full sprint is even required.” Technically, the definition is “How many feet did he cover in the right direction in the first three seconds after pitch release?”
With respect to Lagares, his Jump is 0.4 feet versus average, which puts him above-average among Major League players. His 35.3 feet covered is among the top 14 in the game. On the surface, these are good numbers, especially with him having good speed and reactions. However, there is more to it.
In 2019, he has had poor routes to balls. If you have watched games, you can see how many times he has just missed a ball. Your eye test is substantiated in the numbers as Lagares is no longer getting the Jumps he used to get. Back in 2017, Lagares was at a 1.6 feet versus average. This tells you part of the story.
What’s interesting is Lagares actually covered less ground. Sure, the 35.1 feet covered is a de minimis difference than the 35.3 feet covered this year. The same can be said of his drop in sprint speed.
Overall, when looking at the numbers, Lagares is just not the player he once was. He is a hair slower, and it has partially attributed to his ability to get to balls. This mostly show up in his “Jump.” That said, it’s difficult to put this all on Lagares.
Effectively speaking, Lagares has the same tools he had back in 2017 when he was playing like a Gold Glover. The main difference now is the Mets have someone else shifting the team. Whoever it is taking over, they are just not doing an effective job in putting players in the right spots. As a result, we not only see the Mets as the worst defensive team in the National League, we also see them putting still effective players in the wrong spots thereby creating career worst seasons.