It is time to talk about Bobby Witt Jr.s defense – Royals Review

    baseball america 2022 scouting report on bobby witt jr. comes in 262 words; praises his work ethic, talks about his fantastic 2021 minor league baseball campaign, and explains his unique set of offensive skills. but he spends less than 20 words defending him, simply saying this:

    witt is the complete defensive package at shortstop with steady hands and a strong, accurate arm.

    Likewise, the 2021 baseball america scouting report for witt gave him a 60 fielding and 60 shooting rating and only said this:

    Reading: Bobby witt jr defensive play

    there’s no question about him being defensive. He projects to be a solid shortstop with elite hands, a good first step, and good body control, completing the package with an accurate, positive arm.

    On the offensive end, the ingenuity has been as expected. It’s a tough adjustment for major league pitching, and Witt has already made improvements: In the first half of his 2022 season so far, Witt slashed .228/.269/.439. after June 5, he hit .287/.332/.464. Rookies don’t usually start running, and Witt’s best offensive season is almost certainly ahead of him.

    The same can’t be said on the defensive end, where witt has legitimately been the worst defensive shortstop in the majors. In hindsight, it could be argued that Baseball America and other outlets were too dismissive, or not critical enough, of Witt’s defensive shortcomings.

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    but witt has made some really wonderful plays. Do you remember the beginning of the year? The plate play he made in a fantastic patrick mahomes emulation? that was cool.

    witt has also made a number of other really solid plays diving to his right and throwing across the diamond to catch the runner at first base, like this one:

    So why has he been so bad at shortstop this year? don’t take my word for it, take the defensive stats. If you’ve read any of my articles before, you know that I like to average the defensive runs saved and final zone rating to account for both systems, which I then convert to a rate per 1000 innings stat. By this measure, AvgDef/1000, Witt has been by far the worst defensive shortstop among the 26 who have amassed 500 or more innings at the position this year.

    Individual fangraph defensive grade components aren’t kind to witt’s shortstop range, but positioning and small sample size objections can be a factor for sample sizes larger than the 500+ innings of witt in short, so I won’t get too hung up on them. which is not really forgivable: the ingenuity is making mistakes at an extremely high rate. With 14 errors, Witt is making an error every 40 innings or so, more than double the rate at which his teammates make errors. that’s bad!

    even worse is the kind of mistake witt makes most often: they’re plays he really should be making, fundamental mistakes you just can’t make. Witt’s five throwing errors aren’t great, but they’re only slightly below the league average in that regard, while his nine fielding errors are more than any other shortstop.

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    what’s going on with witt’s defense then? Because it’s not just Baseball America that thought Witt was a shortstop lock. while fangraphs gave witt lower fielding and shooting ratings than ba (45 and 50, respectively), they too thought witt would be a “viable defensive shortstop”.

    While his throwing stroke seems atypical at times, these issues appear to have been resolved and witt has consistently thrown strong, accurate throws to first base, sometimes using his athleticism to do so in spectacular fashion. Witt has experience all over the infield and made his debut as a third baseman, but became the favorite to receive most of the shortstop reps when Adalberto Mondesi tore his ACL. Mondesi’s injury was a blow to the royals’ defensive flexibility, but it doesn’t affect Witt’s projection at all and, in fact, could relieve some of the mental load he would have had playing all over the field. p>

    royalty has the luxury of being resourceful at shortstop and hoping he gets past him, because bad teams have that superpower, one they rarely use. But any negative description of Witt’s shortstop defense wouldn’t be too harsh: bad, terrible, embarrassing, unplayable.

    would witt be better at third base? absolutely. not only does it require less technical skill than shortstop, but we even have some data that wits are better at third base. According to AVGDEF, Witt’s third-base defense is at -0.1 runs per 1,000 innings, or, essentially, just around the league average, more than 18 runs better than his shortstop defense. That’s the difference between a below-average center fielder and the ultimate Lorenzo Cain.

    Ultimately, it may be the staff who contribute to the decision. the royals don’t have a third base tree right now and they lack a long-term solution there. Meanwhile, Nicky Lopez has proven himself to be a perfectly viable starting shortstop, a position that actually suits his bat better. Additionally, Maikel Garcia and maybe even Adalberto Mondesi provide additional coverage in shorts.

    This is one of those decisions I’m glad I don’t have to make. Witt certainly has the defensive chops to be a good shortstop. at the same time, his defensive mistakes have nothing to do with those abilities. And while he might be a better fit at third base, Witt has more value at shortstop.

    what to do? well, look and see, for now. I hope they are just growing pains. because it’s always frustrating to see that an athletic talent isn’t what you expect on defense.

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