Here is a topic for debate. Do the Washington Nationals have the best infield in baseball? It is a question that can boggle the mind for days. The main reason is that the offensive numbers are easy to look up and are grounded in mostly tangible things. Except for rare instances where an official scorer makes an odd decision a hit is a hit and there can’t be much debate about it, and a walk and a strikeout are always just that. For the most part offensive stats are grounded to tangible things.
Defensive stats, on the other hand, are much more subjective. Even a stat like UZR that many people put a lot of weight behind are subjective. They are based on the opinion of a person sitting in a stadium deciding if the average short stop could have made a play or not. Many people smarter than me say that the defensive stats we have now are 60% accurate. The advanced stats we use today are better than anything we have had in the past, but they still aren’t very good, and don’t tell us as much as we could garner from watching the game.
Watch Ryan Zimmerman play defense at third and then turn on any other game in baseball. A play will happen where you wonder where the third baseman was on that hit. Why wasn’t he there to make the play? That should be routine. Those are the thoughts that Ryan Zimmerman has implanted in our brain. Ryan Zimmerman makes difficult plays look routine. He makes plays that no other third baseman in baseball makes look like they should be made, and that is what is hard about grading defense.
The Washington Nationals defense in the infield can’t be questioned. The have Ryan Zimmerman at third, two strong armed short stops with range up the middle, and one of the steadiest first basemen in baseball in Adam LaRoche at the corners. If you want to use advanced stats to judge the Nats defense they rank seventh in UZR for first, fourth for second, fourth at short, and eighth at third. The only team to rank in the top ten at every infield position.
As far as offense goes the Nationals four main infielders have an average wOBA of .343 which is less than the Reds, who may have the best offensive infield in baseball, at .368, and less than the New York Yankees who have a combined wOBA of .361. When the defense is added into the equation though it isn’t even close. The Nats have an infield that is both solid with the bats and the gloves, and while they don’t have a single excellent bat they don’t have any poor ones either.
While the pitching staff has gotten all the attention in 2012 as the best staff in baseball it is about time the infield start getting a little love, and as they take hit after hit away from the opponents and then counter with rockets of their own all over the field they should be known as the Department of Defense.