by Daniel Gettinger
Last week, Corey Brock pointed out Kevin Kouzmanoff has the highest “fielding percentage of any Major League third baseman (.988) and the fewest errors (3).”
Brock argued, “the number of errors and fielding percentage the Padres’ third baseman has in 2009 certainly show that he should be, at the very least, in the discussion for the holy grail of awards for fielders.”
Kouz’s lack of errors are great, but not making errors on balls a player gets to is only one component of defense. The other major defensive component for a third baseman is range. And Kouzmanoff does not have great range. UZR feels Kouzmanoff’s range has been -1.4 runs below average.
His overall UZR of 2.3 (3.4 UZR/150), seems about right to me. It reflects Kouz’s consistency on balls he gets to (4.1 errors runs above average), but dings him for his below average range.
Baseball Prospectus is even harsher. Their fielding metric sees Kouzmanoff’s fielding as about 5 runs below average this season.
The problem with fielding metrics is they are not very precise. Over long periods of time, they seem to do a pretty decent job, but even a sample of 115 games (the number of games Kouz has played this season) is not sufficient to reach any definite conclusions.
That said, in 2008, UZR saw Kouzmanoff as 2.7 runs above average. Like this season, Kouz made few errors, but displayed only passable range in 2008. Based on his stats this year, as well as last year, I feel comfortable stating that Kevin Kouzmanoff has been a slightly above average fielder this season and projects to play the same way the remainder of the season.
Average fielding is fine, but it is not gold glove worthy. The N.L. gold glove winner at third base should be Ryan Zimmerman. It is not a close call.
Due to his phenomenal range, UZR feels Zimmerman has been 16 runs above average with the glove this season. Zimmerman’s past suggests such a positive UZR may not be a fluke. He struggled with injuries last year, but in 2007, Zimmerman was 17.4 runs above average at third base.
No other N.L. third basemen is within 10 runs (approximately one win) of Zimmerman defensively. Pedro Feliz and Casey Blake, both of whom trail Zimmerman but lead Kouzmanoff in UZR, have been 4.7 and 4.3 runs above average defensively.
Kouzmanoff has been solid with the glove, but to even consider him for the gold glove is ludicrous considering how good Zimmerman has been. Limiting errors is great, but getting to the ball is important as well.