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Kevin Kiermaier, king of Statcast Catch Probability

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Another range of defensive stats where Kiermaier appears at the top of the rankings.

Tampa Bay Rays v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Baseball Savant, the gift that keeps on giving, has released a catch probability leaderboard based on Statcast distance an outfielder needs to travel and hang time for fly balls. Yesterday, Fangraphs wrote two pieces about the new data., one highlighting the best and worse performers, and the other highlighting the most improved or declined players within the two years of data available.

Within the former, Fangraphs compiled the two seasons’ worth of data into a chart. On the left side of this table, the top 10 players in plays made over expected. On the right side, the same, but per 1,200 innings. Guess who’s no. 1 in both categories.

In no big surprise Kevin Kiermaier rates as the outfielder who has made the most above-average plays among all outfielders the last two seasons. This is Kevin Kiermaier’s world, and we’re just living in it.

What Is Catch Probability?

Catch probability takes the hang time and distance traveled by the outfielder to determine the odds that the outfielder makes a similar play.

The plays that are routine and made over 95% of the time are thrown out.

Catch Probability Distributions

Play Type 2015 Freq 2016 Freq 2015 Catch% 2016 Catch%
Play Type 2015 Freq 2016 Freq 2015 Catch% 2016 Catch%
5 Star 23% 24% 9% 8%
4 Star 14% 13% 43% 40%
3 Star 15% 15% 69% 67%
2 Star 16% 16% 85% 82%
1 Star 32% 32% 93% 93%

It is important to note that defenders aren’t split by position. As such center fielders are overvalued and corner outfielders are undervalued compared to UZR and DRS. UZR and DRS compare defenders to their position with a zero sum total instead of the outfield as a group.

The biggest difference in this metric is defenders are judged based on their starting location on each individual play instead of a static spot. Positioning will still matter as some players are better making plays coming in or going out, but a lot of the positioning noise should be removed.

This metric also only is useful in determining range value as there is no arm component in the data.

Kevin Kiermaier Defensive Wizard

Kevin Kiermaier Catch Probability

Year 5* Made 5* Opp 5* % 4* Made 4* Opp 4* % 3* Made 3* Opp 3* % 2* Made 2* Opp 2* % 1* Made 1* Opp 1* % +/- +/- per 150
Year 5* Made 5* Opp 5* % 4* Made 4* Opp 4* % 3* Made 3* Opp 3* % 2* Made 2* Opp 2* % 1* Made 1* Opp 1* % +/- +/- per 150
2016 3 10 30.0% 14 16 87.5% 11 15 73.3% 15 15 100.0% 34 36 94.4% 13 22
2015 7 25 28.0% 28 31 90.3% 27 31 87.1% 28 28 100.0% 57 59 96.6% 33 28

One thing that jumps out is the lack of opportunities Kiermaier had to display his skills last season compared to 2015. He played 1,188.2 innings in 2015 and 872.1 innings last season due to breaking his hand. However he had 89.1% more opportunities in just 36.3% more innings.

The biggest decrease in opportunities is shown in five star opportunities. In 2015 he had 250% more opportunities, but his success rate was similar.

In two years he has yet to miss a single two star play in 43 opportunities.

As for turning plays into runs the difference in linear weights between a single and an out is +0.70 runs, so that would be the minimum amount any play is worth. Doubles are worth +1.00 runs. Triples are worth +1.27 runs. Robbing a homer is worth 1.65 runs. With fly balls a majority of the plays are going to be turning extra bases into outs, so the value of a play is roughly going to be in the neighborhood of a run.

Kiermaier is an absolute beast defensively and this is one more range of stats that show just how elite he is. Kiermaier absolutely deserved the extension that has reportedly been agreed upon. The Rays pitchers will sleep well knowing that Kiermaier could be patrolling centerfield for the next six plus years.