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Defense Wins Ball Games

   by ASA - 06/01/2007

The age-old adage of “defense wins ball gamesâ€쳌 has been used perhaps more than any other cliché in sports history. But that doesn’t mean it has lost any meaning, especially through the first third of this year’s baseball season.

Take a look at this year’s fielding statistics and you’ll see that seven of the eight worst defensive teams in baseball this season own records below .500. Five of those seven teams are in last place, with Tampa Bay, Texas, Washington, Cincinnati and Kansas City currently holding down the cellar in their respective divisions.

The only division not represented in that statistic is the National League West, where last-place Colorado actually owns baseball’s best team fielding percentage. But that’s not nearly enough to disprove that defense does indeed win games, or at the very least, doesn’t lose them.

The last place Devil Rays, Rangers, Nationals, Reds and Royals, along with the Marlins and Astros, boast seven of baseball’s eight worst fielding percentages and are a combined 72 games below .500. That’s an average of more than 10 games below .500 per team.

The primary result of all these errors is unearned runs, which eventually lead to losses. The Florida teams – the Rays and the Marlins – have been hurt the most by their fielding miscues as each squad has allowed 34 unearned runs this year.

The Marlins have probably been hurt more by their errors than any other team in baseball. They are just one game below .500 and are just minus-3 in run differential. Eliminate the unearned runs, though, and they move to plus-31 in run differential, which would more than likely make a big difference in the standings.

Not surprisingly, many of the individual league leaders in errors reside on these teams. Florida’s Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez are second and third in baseball in errors with 11 and 10 blunders, respectively. Texas’ Ian Kinsler is second with 11 errors while Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton is third with 10 miscues. Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman and Kansas City’s Tony Pena are tied for seventh with nine errors each. Cincinnati and Houston, meanwhile, prefer to spread the wealth around the entire roster.

Fielding is often among the least looked upon statistics when analyzing baseball matchups. But not taking defense into account could prove to be detrimental to bettors everywhere.

Statistics show that poor defense often times leads to losing so be cautious of the fielding impaired when placing your bets.

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