Ender Inciarte: The Atlanta Braves center fielder who didn’t allow hits
While there’s certainly merit in being able to pull off an absurd Web Gem-worthy play, it’s perhaps more important to excel on the everyday ones – something Ender Inciarte did flawlessly in his 2016 Gold Glove season.
For years, the Atlanta Braves pitching staff could rest easy knowing that balls hit to center would meet the ever-present glove of Andruw Jones. A few years later, Michael Bourn provided a similar service.
Now, it appears that Ender Inciarte is ready to take over as the team’s chief creator of instant outs.
Ever since making his debut with the Diamondbacks, Inciarte’s electric defense has jumped off the screen. Today, the increasingly available data provided by Statcast has helped to visualize just how great he is with the leather.
Take a look at these charts tweeted out by Daren Willman. All of the graphics come courtesy of Baseball Savant, the home for publicly available Statcast data.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) January 6, 2017
It’s hard to see from the embedded tweet but the top left corner shows Inciarte’s base hits allowed, the bottom left corner shows catches for outs. The four remaining graphics include information based on a fielder’s starting point (for easier to read images and much more check his full Baseball Savant page).
For the two images on the left, each event (be it a hit or an out) is graphed based on hang time and distance from the fielder’s starting point to where the ball lands.
As shown in the top left image, not only did Inciarte make it to literally every possible “easy” play, he also only allowed a single hit on a play considered to be “routine.”
While there’s not currently a way for the public to look at the play-by-play data associated with the charts, it would be interesting to see what that one “routine” play actually was.
Miscommunication? Caught in the lights? Who knows? The ball was over 80 feet from him, perhaps it was one he had to track over his shoulder that landed at the track. Regardless, it’s hard to envision him just whiffing on a play.
While he flirted with perfection on easy and routine plays, as illustrated by the other chart, he also showed off his quickness and range.
According to that data, he made, by my count, 14 different “highlight” plays plus four that actually graded as more difficult than that. One of the plays that fell beyond the highlight band shows him covering just over 60 feet in just over three seconds.
That Statcast data shows Inciarte to be an elite defender should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched him play. However, it’s still nice to see that the most advanced means of defensive analysis praises the Atlanta center fielder just as highly as the eye test.
Note: If you have an hour or two to spare, these new defensive charts over at Baseball Savant are interesting and engrossing. Unfortunately for Atlanta the charts for Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp (linked here and here) are a bit less encouraging.
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