Orlando Hudson is a four-time gold glove winner, including last season, when during the stretch drive he was usurped at second base for the Dodgers by ex-Nat Ronnie Belliard. 

While I'm not going to debate Joe Torre's decision making there, I would like to offer some points to consider for everyone clamoring for Mike Rizzo to sign Orlando Hudson to play second base for the Nationals next season, with the idea of improving the middle infield defense.

For the purposes of this debate, I'm leaving the offense out of the equation because the stated goal here, remember, is to upgrade the middle infield defense.

Hudson's UZR/150 last season was -3.7 which placed him 13th among 20 qualifiers in the majors.

UZR is the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.  UZR/150 is the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, per 150 defensive games.

However, UZR does not measure an infielder's arm, nor does it value an infielder's ability to catch fly balls or line drives--it only measures a player's proficiency at turning ground balls into outs, so it's not a perfect guage.

Now as we read above, the components for infielders UZR are:  Range, Double Plays and Errors.

Hudson was recorded with only eight errors last season, which put him in the top third of second basemen.  His range factor was 4.7, which put him in the middle of the pack.  Where Hudson's UZR number took a real hit was in double plays.  He participated in 68 DPs, which was 17th out of 20 qualifiers.

Here's another strange thing regarding Hudson's defensive season last year.  He was second among qualifiers at putouts:

Chase Utley, PHI--354
Orlando Hudson, LAD--325
Robinson Cano, NYY--308

But Hudson was only 14th in assists.  It's difficult to reconcile the fact that his range was average, but his assists total was in the lower third.  He's just not making all the plays he used to be able to, relative to everyone else playing second base in the majors last season.

Judging by the UZR/150 number, it's easy to say "Hudson's slipping as a fielder".  And he probably is.  He is 32, after all.

To put it another way so that it's relative to Nationals fans, Hudson's UZR/150 was -3.7 last season.  Cristian Guzman's UZR/150 at short was -2.6.  So relative to position and competition last season, statistically Guzman was a marginally better shortstop than Hudson was a second baseman.

Back to Ronnie Belliard for a moment.  His UZR/150 was a robust 6.6, meaning he was a better than average defensive second baseman last season, compared to -3.7 below average for Hudson.

Maybe Joe Torre knew what he was doing.

For what it's worth, Adam Kennedy, another name that's been kicked around, was -14.8 last season.

Consider all this as you contemplate upgrading the middle infield defense.

Rizzo likes to say that he uses statistics to back up what his eyes see.  In his pursuit of Hudson, at least as a defensive upgrade, he must be trusting his eyes.

2 comments

  1. Garrett // February 2, 2010 at 10:47 PM  

    Hey guys,

    I enjoy reading the site and am happy to see that you guys are into some of the more advanced statistical metrics. One thing to note about UZR: it is something that is uniformly reputed to be vulnerable to sample size variations over the course of a sample as large as a season or two.

    As a counterbalance, many people prefer to incorporate Tom Tango's Fans Scouting Report on defensive ability, found here:

    http://www.tangotiger.net/scout/

    Players are rated by fans on a 1-5 score across a variety of factors, with 5 being highest. While there is valid concern about self-selecting bias and the like, the results are informative.

    O-Dawg checks in with a composite 4.04 rating.

    http://www.tangotiger.net/scout/index4.php?teamid=119&team=Los%20Angeles%20Dodgers

    For comparison, Zim sits at 4.31:

    http://www.tangotiger.net/scout/index4.php?teamid=120&team=Washington%20Nationals

    In conclusion, while I think the analysis here points in the right direction, I personally would hesitate to write Hudson's defensive ability off too much. UZR, in my opinion, is part of the answer, but not a complete one.

    I enjoyed the analysis again and look forward to reading more in the coming months. Also, great coverage of the Winter Caravan for us out of towners!

    PS- Sorry if the links don't work; the page itself is pretty self-explanatory (Hudson is listed on the Dodgers).

  2. Dave Nichols // February 3, 2010 at 12:23 AM  

    Garrett, thanks for the comment. i should have prefaced the article saying that this is just one way to evaluate players defensively. i included the caveat that UZR only rates infielders on ground balls, but should have made a little more disclaimer. thanks for reading and commenting!