The 2007 defensive Plus/Minus Leaders and Trailers are out. I consider the Plus/Minus system to be the best defensive measurement system out there. Although, the numbers will not be released for all players until after the 2008 season, seeing the top and bottom is useful.
In particular, I wondered how Andruw Jones would fare. In a series of posts this summer, Jayson Stark and I debated Andruw’s defensive ability. Stark argued that scouts and Zone Rating said Jones was on the decline. I countered that Zone Rating was flawed and that I preferred the Plus/Minus system, which showed Jones was still among the best center fielders in the game. Though Andruw’s performance fell off quite a bit at the plate this year, I wondered how his defense looked.
Plus/Minus rates Jones as the second-best fielding center fielder in baseball in 2007, making 24 more plays than the average center fielder. That is one less than Carlos Beltran. Over the past three seasons, Plus/Minus rates Jones as the best, making 63 more plays than average. So, it looks like even if Jones has lost a step, he’s still near one of the best defenders in the game.
And The Fielding Bible Awards, determined by a group of voters, gives Jones the nod over Beltran—probably because of his superior throwing arm, which the Plus/Minus system does not measure.
Center Field – Andruw Jones, Atlanta
Last year Carlos Beltran won the award with Andruw Jones coming in second. This year Jones returned the favor, tipping the scales at 86 points to 80 for Beltran. Jones and Beltran both have great range, but it was probably Jones’ intimidating throwing arm that swayed the voters. It’s interesting that just a year ago Jones seemed to be slipping slightly from the consensus best center fielder he was a few years before. Perhaps we should also crown him “Comeback Fielder of the Year.”
It’s also interesting to note that all of the Braves outfielders score well. Willie Harris and Matt Diaz are +21 and +12 in left field, and Jeff Francoeur is +10 in right field. It will be interesting to see how Andruw Jones does away from the Braves next year, and how the Braves outfield changes without Andruw Jones in the lineup.