As the young San Diego Padres continue to come together and find their identity, they must never cease to emphasize the importance of sound fielding.
With about seven weeks of baseball remaining for the Padres, San Diego’s opportunity to evaluate their young talent and build for the future is waning.
Yes, the Padres have found a couple of starters who can hang around for the long term and only improve in Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet. They have also found exciting young outfielders to build on the future in Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, infielders in Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje, and an improving catcher in Austin Hedges.
While all of these position players are most valuable in the team’s lineup, their role in the field must not be overlooked. The common assumption about the major leagues is that position players are the best of the best, making them incapable of committing simple errors in the field. But obviously, mistakes still happen, and routine plays are botched more often than many realize.
As a result, organizations such as the Padres must consider more than offense and pitching when putting together the roster and lineup of the future. While this doesn’t mean taking steps back in the rebuild and choosing new players based on defensive effectiveness, it does mean placing a great degree of emphasis on solid defense to the players the club already has.
After all, the Padres haven’t excelled defensively this season. They rank 28th in baseball in fielding percentage at .981, and have committed the fourth most errors. With a shaky pitching staff at best, a generous defense which makes a habit of donating bases to the opposition can only doom both starters and relievers.
But how much do defensive statistics really matter? Can it actually cost the Padres games, or just a base here and there? Considering San Diego’s 79 errors on the season, they can impact the team’s record.
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Just look at baseball’s 15th ranked team defensively, the St. Louis Cardinals. They have totaled 66 errors so far this season, over the span of the same amount of games as the Padres. This just goes to show that if San Diego were to even be an average MLB team defensively, they would have committed 13 fewer errors. And yes, 13 errors can be reflected in a team’s record one way or another.
Kansas City, baseball’s best defensive team, has committed just 47 errors in the same amount of games. This is 32 fewer than San Diego, almost a third of an error a game. Therefore, making drastic improvements defensively could prevent an additional error every three games. And it’s not like improving in this area is dependent on anyone but the defenders themselves. It’s as simple as paying better attention to detail and playing more sharply.
It may be all about batting average, home runs, and ERA to some. But the reality is, the fundamentals of defense still makes a huge difference, even in the major leagues. Improvement in this area would go a long way for the Friars, and the coaching staff needs to remind the team of this as they look to finish on a high note in 2017.