Adrian Beltre’s Glove and C.J. Wilson’s ERA

By R.J. Anderson //

Eno Sarris already wrote about Adrian Beltre’s impact on the Texas Rangers’ offense. Due to the nature of fantasy scoring, Beltre’s individual defensive value will not result in points. Instead, the only way fantasy owners can reap the excellence of Beltre’s defense is to pick up the Rangers pitchers who seem most likely to benefit.

The recipe for a pitcher who stands to gain from Beltre’s presence includes a pitcher who gives up plenty of balls to the left side. A large ratio of those balls should be of the groundball variety. While Beltre is sure to make a snag or two on a liner and track down a fly pop-up here and there, he’s going to make his living off scooping and firing grounders at a prolific rate.

Using Baseball-Reference’s groundball-to-flyball ratio (which includes line drives as flyballs), it turns out that only three of the Rangers 2010 pitchers finished above the league average mark of 0.79. Oddly enough, each is a southpaw. Ageless set-up man Darren Oliver (0.90), swingman Matt Harrison (0.88), and starter C.J. Wilson (0.98) vary in fantasy value. There is no reason to ever own Harrison, Oliver is a nice get in leagues that value holds, and Wilson might be considered one of the better pitchers in the American League if he can continue the success he found in his first season of starting.

Therefore, Wilson is going to get the attention here.

In 2010, batters held a batting average of .090 against Wilson on balls hit inside the infield (well above the American League average of .078). Batters also managed a .206 batting average on groundballs hit against Wilson (AL average was .231) and .556 on bunts (AL average was .449). Since exact batted ball locations are unavailable, assumptions have to be made based on the infielders’ overall defensive value.

FanGraphs’ UZR suggests that the only below-average defender on the Rangers infield last year was (then) third baseman Michael Young, with Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, and Elvis Andrus rating as either average or above-average at their positions. That’s not to say UZR is perfect or that Young is responsible for Wilson’s mishaps on grounders per se.

But it does indicate that in a vacuum, the Rangers defense should be improve, with Beltre the vacuum cleaner set to replace Young at third base. And that should help Wilson retain some of his strong 2010 value, which included a sparkling 3.35 ERA.

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