Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

If you are reading this, there is a remarkably decent chance that you are a somewhat invested baseball fan. As a baseball fan, you probably ...

Brad Hawpe

 Remember Brad Hawpe? If you weren't a devout Rockies fan in the Tulo era, then probably not. But off-brand Marty McFly was a pretty fun little player. He played in a better era of baseball, in which hitters were not blatantly cheating but still had the upper hand of their counterparts on the mound. A late bloomer, Hawpe peaked from his age 26-30 range after limited playing time in his first two seasons. In that stretch, over 585 games and  2338 plate appearances, the sweet swinging lefty hit 288/384/518 for a 902 OPS. Unfortunately, this excellent 902 OPS comes out to just a 124 OPS+ due to the Coors field park adjustment. Coors Field was actually at its "low" in terms of measurable hitter friendliness around this time. There are a few explanations for this, the main one being the humidor installed to increase drag on baseballs after 2004. However, I would also theorize that this might have just coincided with an era of Rockies pitchers that were effectively tailored to suit Coors Field, but that's just me. Hawpe peaked at the same time that the Rockies peaked as a franchise.

Defensive runs saved was not a fan of his work in right field during this stretch. Per DRS, he cost the Rockies -56 fielding runs from 2006-2009 and that is not even counting the hefty positional adjustment penalty placed on corner outfielders. UZR was not any kinder to him. This defensive atrocity prevented Hawpe from being even a league average player despite his consistently excellent offense.

Here's the thing: Rockies outfielders have often been absolutely atrocious by measures of defensive production. Although some of this can be attributed to the Rockies ultimately being a poorly run organization that doesn't develop talent very well, it is reasonable to assume that the comical Coors Field outfield proportions combined with the altitude makes defense at Coors a tricky endeavor. I don't know how much evidence there is to truly support this. The reason one would believe this is just because DRS and UZR are fairly simple measures that track simple batted ball data, but this isn't the case for Statcast's Outs Above Average measure, which very much incorporates fielder positioning and catch difficulty.  I expected the Rockies to rank very poorly in terms of outfield DRS and UZR but decently well in terms of outfield OAA since 2016. Instead, the Rockies are 24th in rPM (plays made, DRS' measure of range), 14th in RngR (UZR's measure of range) and 28th in OAA (statcast's measure of range, since it doesn't incorporate arm performance anyways). So, unless OAA is even more biased against teams with cavernous outfields, then that level of anecdotal evidence doesn't mean much. I could always derive my own OAA using public statcast data, and then compare the Rockies home/road splits in that time, but I'm currently working on something else and am too lazy to do so.

Anyways, Brad Hawpe. Maybe he wasn't that bad of a defender. It is worth pointing out that the data has improved since the late 2000s, and DRS especially is more reliable these days. Hawpe was still a smooth ass hitter who walked a lot and peppered the gaps. He also hit a home run in the world series. Mike Trout has not. Curious. 

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