FanPost

Small-market teams are winning with defense

Justin K. Aller


I wrote a longer article for the site my friend just launched a few weeks ago. If you are interested in reading about how the Pirates, A's, and Rays are winning with defense, I hope you'll consider reading what I wrote in its entirety.

I'll provide the Cliffs Notes here. I pulled aside the ten teams with the smallest opening day payrolls for 2013. I ranked them by defensive efficiency (taken from Baseball Prospectus):

TEAM

DE RATING

MLB RANK

Oakland

.729

1

Pittsburgh

.728

2

Tampa Bay

.721

3

Kansas City

.709

10

Cleveland

.707

14

San Diego

.707

17

Miami

.704

20

Houston

.692

28

Minnesota

.690

29

Colorado

.689

30

The correlation between small market teams winning and playing good defense is uncanny. The A's, Pirates, and Rays are in the top 3, and they all currently hold playoff spots. The five teams in the top half of DE are above .500, while the five teams in the bottom half of DE are below .500. The correlation between winning and defense is much stronger than the correlations between winning and hitting or winning and pitching.

A big reason why small market teams have been able to play great defense is based on the skill sets of their outside acquisitions (players acquired via trade or free agency). Out of the 7 starting position players on the A's, Pirates, and Rays that were "outside acquisitions", they have put up career totals of 86.5 oWAR and 47.9 dWAR, while the 10 players that meet the same criteria for the three losing teams with the largest payrolls (Angels, Phillies, Giants) have put up career totals of 148.7 oWAR and -3.1 dWAR.

The defensive shifts that the Pirates have utilized have been well-documented. I thought it was interesting to take a look at the players the Pirates and other small market teams have acquired in order to augment their defenses. If I write a Part II for the article, I want to explore in more detail how glove-first players are cheaper on the free agency and trade markets compared to sluggers.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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