As we enter the 2014 baseball season, Miami Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria remains something of an enigma on defense. Marlins players, coaches, management and broadcasters rave about Hechavarria’s outstanding glove work. Team president Michael Hill even claimed that he was “befuddled” that Hechavarria was not a finalist for the Gold Glove award last season.
Defensive metrics tell a vastly different story, though, as Hechavarria ranked dead last in 2013 in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) among the 10 National League shortstops with over 1000 innings played. He also ranked 8th out of 10 in Defensive Runs Saved with a -3 figure. The negative figure indicates he actually cost the Marlins 3 more runs than the average shortstop with his fielding. Gold Glove winners are generally in the +15 range in DRS and last season’s Gold Glover, Andrelton Simmons, was a ridiculous +41 in this metric. In other words, Hechavarria appears to have been a long way from a Gold Glove and wasn’t even an average shortstop based on the metrics.
How could there be such a disparity between the two opinions? The Marlins must be seeing something in watching the shortstop play on a daily basis that impresses them.
The explanation may be found in a certain defensive that does kind of like Hechavarria’s defensive work at shortstop. It’s called Inside Edge Fielding and it assigns a difficulty grade to every defensive play based on the probability of the play being made. The grades assigned are as follows:
Using the Inside Edge metric, Adeiny Hechavarria ranks 1st among National League shortstops in percentage of plays made in both the Remote and Unlikely categories. In the Unlikely category, he is far ahead of second place finisher Simmons. Here is the data:
This may help explain why the Marlins see a Gold Glover and the metrics see a player struggling to be average. The team sees him making highlight reel, web gem type plays on a regular basis which leads them to believe he is an outstanding defender. The metrics, on the other hand, will note that he completed only 386 plays in the 90-100% category, while Brewers shortstop Jean Segura completed 474 plays in that category in a similar amount of innings played, so it discounts his value.
The good thing is that Adeiny was just a rookie in 2013, so he will likely get better. Marlins fans old enough to remember Alex Gonzalez when he first came up will recall that he also had a tendency to make the highlight reel play while whiffing on the routine grounder early on in his career. Gonzalez would eventually go on to become arguably the best defensive shortstop in Marlins history, which indicates that with a little more experience Hechavarria could grow into the Gold Glover he has always been believed to be.
Do you think Adeiny Hechavarria can grow into a Gold Glove shortstop this season? Or will he always play second fiddle to Andrelton Simmons?