Stolen Goods: The Myth Of Defensive Diminishing Returns

Most of you probably know him from Fangraphs, but others will know Dave Cameron from U.S.S. Mariner. Recently, in defense of Jack Zduriencik and his defensive posture this offseason, Cameron wrote one of the most insightful pieces on team construction which I have read in a long time. The article, titled The Myth Of Defensive Diminishing Returns, explains why the law of diminishing marginal returns does not apply to defense:
"Put simply, almost every single ball in play that matters is only catchable by one player. On a line drive to left field, the quality of the defender at second base is completely irrelevant. That the team already has Franklin Gutierrez and Jack Wilson doesn’t matter when the hitter smashes a line drive down the first base line – the only variable on the defensive side is the quality of the first baseman. If he’s lousy, then the play isn’t getting made, regardless of how good his teammates are defensively."
There is much more meat to Cameron's thesis in the article itself and I highly recommend giving it a thorough reading. Perhaps even a forwarding or two.

9 comments:

The 'Bright' One said...

its going to be funny when the Mariners suck it up this year

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Put it on the Board, the Mariners are an 86+ win team

The 'Bright' One said...

I'm not predicting they will suck, i'm just saying it would be funny if they do. Oh, and way to stick up for Z with 86 wins. Start printing the pennant...

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

86+ = 86 or more. 86 is my floor

The 'Bright' One said...

I'm not sure i believe the law of diminishing returns applies to any aspect of baseball.

The point brought up against adding more and more bullpen guys doesnt make sense to me either. I dont believe adding another great reliever will take innings away from another great reliever on the same team. There are more than enough innings that need to be pitched in a given season season.

Say 3 relief innings per game for 162 games is 486 innings. One great reliever can pitch 80 amazing innings. You still need 5 more relievers at 80 innings each to fill those innings. So i dont see the setback in signing 5 more stud relievers to pitch those innings, if run differential is the ultimate goal.

The law of diminishing returns may apply if you believe that each successive run or win is harder to attain than the one before...run 6 in a game is harder to get than run number 5. Or win 102 is harder to attain than win 101 was. But i dont particularly believe that rhetoric, hence i dont believe in the law of diminishing returns in baseball

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Its not about total innings, but inning quality. No need to pay $10 mil per reliever to play low leverage innings and there are only so many high leverage innings available

The 'Bright' One said...

If you had read my comment, i said "if run differential is the ultimate goal". You're stance is that "run differential is the ultimate goal only in high leverage situations."

A great way to make a high leverage situation into a low leverage situation is to throw out carlos silva into the game. Actually, you will be presented with less high leverage situations if you let carlos silva pitch at all, hence you definitely will not need any high leverage pitchers.

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

huh?

what i said is it is about economizing run differentials. While it would be nice to toss joe nathan in at every inning, its oft unnecessary and paying for high leverage when you need that guy for low leverage is a waste of cash resources. Even Carlos Silva can't blow a 10 run lead.

Now that I said that, I know he's going to...just to prove me wrong

The 'Bright' One said...

just like even a horrible defense cant blow a 10 run lead...and now the cubs are going to