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2016 Diamondbacks Preview: The Defense

A look at the defensive projections for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

We can't really have a conversation about 2016 without a brief look at 2015.  Our outfield defense with Ender Inciarte (14.5 UZR) and A.J. Pollock (6.5) was enough to overcome most of the shortfalls that came from Mark Trumbo (-5.2 UZR) and Yasmany Tomas (-8.4 UZR).  In all, the teams UZR of 23.8 was good enough for 3rd behind the World Series champions Kansas City (50.9), and San Francisco (37.2).

The loss of Ender with his 14.5 UZR rating should be of great concern.  As great as we all know A.J.'s defense to be, Ender was the best defender according to UZR, even topping Nick Ahmed's 11.3.

As for the infield, the only significant personnel change is the swap out of Aaron Hill (.6 UZR) for Jean Segura (.4 UZR).   On the surface this looks like a fairly even trade with perhaps the Diamondbacks winning by virtue of money gained. But going by fielding with positional adjustment, since Segura played SS last year while Aaron played at mostly 2nd and 3rd base,  Segura (6.7 DEF) is markedly better than Aaron (1.5 DEF).

The one thing to bear in mind however, is the number of games played.  While Segura started most of the season at SS with 139 games, Aaron only started in 38.  One could argue that less playing time not only affected Aaron's accumulative numbers, but didn't give him much chance for improvement and staying in game shape.  Still, monetarily and even mathematically Jean Segura adds value to the club where as Aaron was a bit more of a boat anchor.

Now, on to projections vs reality.  Defensive projections are incredibly lacking.  In fact, we really only have DEF (which is positionally adjusted) and FLD which is not positionally adjusted, but both statistics are based on UZR. So I just went with Fielding since it was the easier stat to grab from the data.  Below is a chart of the players with a good chance of playing this year, and the players from last year.

Infield 2015 Steamer ZiPS Depth Charts Avg Change
P. Goldschmidt 5.1 7.4 6 7.2 1.8
Aaron Hill* 0.6 -2.8 -2 -3.1 -3.2 Brewers
Chris Owings -7.5 0 2 0.7 8.4
Nick Ahmed 11.3 3.2 9 4.9 -5.6
Jake Lamb 8.1 2.8 4 3.8 -4.6
Welington Castilo -2 0.1 -4 -1.8 0.1
Jarrod Saltalamacchia* -2 -2.2 -5 -3 -1.4 Tigers
Jean Segura 0.4 0.4 -1 -0.2 -0.7
Phil Gosselin -1.5 -0.5 1 -0.1 1.6
Brandon Drury -0.2 -0.2 5 0.9 2.1
Tuffy Gosewisch 1 0.3 2 0.5 -0.1
Chris Herrmann 3.1 0.3 -3 -0.3 -4.1
A.J. Pollock 6.5 7.2 7 7.2 0.6
David Peralta -2.4 -1.5 -2 -1.7 0.7
Ender Inciarte* 14.5 3.8 7 4.2 -9.5 Braves
Mark Trumbo* -1.8 -4.7 1 -1.6 0 Orioles
Yasmany Tomas -14.1 -1.9 -8 -2.8 9.9
Peter O'Brien -0.3 0 -11 -1.3 -3.8
Socrates Brito 1.9 -0.5 8 2.1 1.3

None of the projections have Ender playing anywhere near where he was last year with an average drop off of 9.5 points.  They also tend to think Nick Ahmed's defense was a fluke last year as well, so you may want to take these projections with a Mt. Everest sized grain of salt.  Some other interesting things of note is how much better they think Yasmany's and Chris Owings defense will be this year.

If one were to evaluate how well the FO did in dropping players at their defensive peak, and acquiring them while potentially on the upswing, I'd say all the projections say they're moving in the right direction.  Perhaps they aren't kidding about those new numbers guys they have helping to make decisions. But it should also be noted that the team is projected as a whole to fairly significantly under-perform compared to last year. Most of that downgrade can be attributed to Ahmed, Lamb having good years defensively last year, but expected to be closer to average this year. The addition of O'Brien in the outfield, though better numbers than Tomas, could still greatly hurt the team defensively.

There are some bright spots that help keep the loss of Ender to a slightly less harmful drop.  All three projections have Chris Owings improving his defense to at least average, and Yasmasy was so incredibly bad that they think he has no where to go but up.  Perhaps the permanent move to the OF has a lot to do with this.

Overall, the teams is projected to do worse defensively this year once you take out the 4 players who left.  On average the FLD is projected somewhere around 17.1 and does downgrade the defense by some 17%.  Is this enough a drop to keep the team out of the playoffs?  As with everything, we'll see.