StaTuesday: Brewers' Cain ranks among best in final defensive rankings

November 5, 2019

Back in mid-June we presented the initial results of the Society of American Baseball’s (SABR) Defensive Index rankings (SDI).

As we mentioned back then, according to SABR, these rankings account for roughly 25% of the selection process used in determining each season’s Gold Glove winners, which were announced this past Sunday.

The Defensive Index is compiled from different fielding metrics and incorporates a myriad of categories (for a more detailed explanation, please click here).

Anyway, as you well know by now, Milwaukee center fielder Lorenzo Cain won his first career Gold Glove. In case you’re wondering why (note: we’re sure you’re not), here’s a few reasons in the manner of some of his highlight catches.

Back in mid-June, Cain was tied for 21st among all qualifying National League players in SDI with a 2.8. In the final result, he was 10th at 10.2. Only one center fielder had a better SDI than Cain in all of MLB and, ironically, it came from the NL, where Washington’s Victor Robles had an 11.1. Only four center fielders overall had an SDI of 6.0 or greater.

Cain, Robles and Boston’s Mookie Betts (10.4) are the only outfielders in all the majors to post an SDI of 10.0 or higher. Not too shabby. But then again, we’ve always known that about Cain, who last season had a 6.4 SDI.

Milwaukee had some other solid defenders as well. And, as it turns out, the best of the bunch are both free agents.

Mike Moustakas was rated as a second baseman in the initial SDI, but back at third base he registered a 2.3. In 2018, he had a 2.2 SDI in his time with Kansas City (he wasn’t with the Brewers long enough to qualify).

Catcher Yasmani Grandal had a -0.1 SDI back in mid-June, but was strong defensively after that, finishing with a 2.2, good for seventh among qualifying NL backstops.

Well, that’s another bargaining point in that pair’s favor this offseason.

Milwaukee had no qualifying players at pitcher (perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise since Zach Davies led the team with 159 2/3 innings), first base or second base.

Shortstop Orlando Arcia finished with a -3.8 SDI (he had a -3.6 in mid-June). There were four NL shortstops with a worse rating, including former Brewer Jean Segura (-4.7) and division-mate Kevin Newman of Pittsburgh (-11.6).

Right fielder Christian Yelich, who didn’t qualify for the SDI in his MVP season of 2018 since he split time between center and right, came in at a 0.2, fifth among NL players at his position (and just one of five with a positive rating).

Ryan Braun didn’t fare as well (hmmm, a move to first base, anyone?), bringing up the rear among NL left fielders with a -3.8. That wasn’t the worst in the majors, though, as four AL left fielders had a worse SDI, “led” by Boston’s Andrew Benintendi at -6.2.

And, hey, at least the Brewers didn’t have Colorado’s outfield, which featured RF Charlie Blackmon (-10.5) and CF Ian Desmond (-14.7), two of the five NL players with an SDI of -10 or worse.

The Pirates, by the way, had the other three. Oof.

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