McCutchen quietly improving his defense

Andrew McCutchen Defense

All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen made another tremendous run-saving grab on Tuesday night:

Really, he’s been doing it all year:

While his fielding percentage is down from last season, let’s look at some metrics that exhibit Cutch’s improvement as a defender…

rARM – Outfield Arm Runs Saved runs above average

2011: -3
2012: -3
2013: 4

McCutchen’s arm has historically been weak, but he’s actually saved some runs with it this season.

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rPM – Plus/Minus Runs Saved runs above average

2011: 8
2012: 0
2013: 5

He was an average 0 in 2012, but has saved five runs above-average this year.

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DRS – Total Defensive Runs Saved runs above average

2011: 5
2012: -5
2013: 9

Another run-saving stat that shows his improvement from last season.

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RZR – Revised Zone Rating

2011: .928
2012: .933
2013: .953

RZR measures “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” (Hardball Times). This is where Cutch’s speed really helps him out – anything hit into center field, he has a chance to catch.

His RZR has improved every season since he entered the league in 2009. A .940+ RZR is consider excellent, and Cutch has conquered that this season.

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UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating

2011: 3.4
2012: -8.8
2013: 6.4

Cutch posted a below-average -8.8 UZR in 2012, but has turned into an above-average 6.4 UZR defender in 2013.

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Andrew McCutchen catch Yoenis Cespedes

Sabermetrically-speaking, McCutchen probably deserved the criticism for his defense last year (-3 rARM, -5 DRS, -8.8 UZR), yet he still won the Gold Glove.

In recent years, OFFENSE has been a deciding factor for the award, even though it’s supposed to be for DEFENSE. McCutchen’s MVP-caliber offense in 2012 definitely played a role in his defeat of strong center fielders Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs.

However, the Gold Glove decision process will apparently feature a sabermetric component from now on. Cutch’s defensive metrics look good so far. Maybe he’ll really earn the Gold Glove this year?

Stats via FanGraphs

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