Defensive Runs Saved is a statistic that measures how many runs a player saved as compared to the average player at his position.  You can find a detailed overview of how this statistic is calculated at The Fielding Bible.

There are many defensive metrics that a General Manger relies upon when measuring a players defensive ability, but defensive runs saved seems to be the most tangible for fans.

The Recent Attention to Defensive Runs Saved

The Los Angeles Angels made headlines when they traded for Andrelton Simmons of the Atlanta Braves.  Angels fans gasped when they saw that Billy Eppler had traded away the Angels top 2 organizational prospects in Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.  What the Angels got in return, however, was a defensive wizard.  Many experts called this a win for the Angels largely because Andrelton Simmons had 25 defensive runs saved in 2015.

Not surprisingly, given Billy Epplers fondness of defensive metrics, the Los Angeles Angels are now one of a number of teams (including of course the St. Louis Cardinals) being linked to Jason Heyward in free agency.  While Heyward is a much better offensive player than Andrelton Simmons, it is his 22 defensive runs saved in 2015 that is driving his value. MLB Trade Rumors has Heyward making $200 over 10 years in free agency.

I’m not trying to say that defensive runs saved is the only factor driving up his price, but his defensive ability is clearly a huge factor. In 2015 he had only a .797 OPS and 13 home runs, which is why MLB3 has him down to the 8th best free agent available.

The Market Adjustment of Defensive Runs Saved

Given the success of teams like the Kansas City Royals, is clear that the market vastly undervalued defensive metrics for years. It seems that now, however, the market is over adjusting.

Defensive runs saved specifically, is such a volatile number given the small sample size even in a 162 game season. Other defensive statistics have similar issues.  Advanced analytics are simply a way to measure what you see on the field, which is why we always preach that scouting and analytics are really two sides of the same coin.  They have to be looked at, however, in context.

We’ll see how the market responds to the defensive ability of Jason Heyward, but for now, it seems it will take a few years for fair value to adjust.

 

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