Defense Matters – Shortstop position

What has happened to CJ Abrams’ defense? Yes, he is an All-Star based on what he has done with the bat, not his defense. He is one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball. But he ranks last for all shortstops this season in defense before the All-Star break. His first-step decisions and being up on his toes ready just is not what he is doing this season. Abrams has become a defensive liability. Last night, he missed two balls in a good shortstop’s range. The day before that he had two fielding errors that turned into two unearned runs.

Statcast’s results have Abrams successfully fielding 73 percent of the balls in his range. Part of the problem is defensive positioning. Tampa has their shortstop in a spot to be successful 88 percent of the time while Abrams is positioned to have a 77 percent success rate. That might be the number one problem that it begins with positioning. But still, Abrams is not getting to balls he should get to, and the best defensive shortstops far exceed the expected success rates by 1 percent to 5 percent.

Last year, Abrams was a -9 OAA for the full season. He is already worse than that before the All-Star break at -11 OAA. So the question goes, why has his defense deteriorated so much?

Statcast even has where teams generally play a particular player. That’s isn’t how the Nats play against Lindor. There is plenty of blame to go around. Most of it starts with the coaching. The infield looks like swiss cheese for groundball BABIP against Nats pitching.

Last night was the perfect example of how bad a pitcher will look when plays are not made, pitches aren’t framed well by a catcher, and positioning isn’t close to where the ball goes. Sure, there was a flyball that literally blew out over the fence for a 3-run homer but how much did a missed strike call change that inning when the score was 0-0 and 2 outs? The bad luck BABIP factor seems evident at times. But sometimes you have to make your own luck.

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