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Has Alec Bohm improved defensively?

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Field stats are still very subjective to me. There has been so much improvement in trying to determine what type of player a player is now that we don’t go so rigorously by determining percentage and fouls. These two stats are still useful, but only to a point. Player A may have £996 on the field, but if he can’t move more than 2 or 3 steps left/right, is he really that good with the glove? Adding Hawkeye to pitches has helped a lot because it’s able to more accurately capture what a player is doing on the field, how well they’re moving, etc. so that we don’t have to rely on our own personal ideas about the player.

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However, we still feel like we’re far from being completely right about every player. There are many different advanced stats around the field that can be increasingly or vastly different from each other. If you trust Hawkeye as much as some, you may rely on the Above Average (OAA) outs as your stat of choice. Perhaps you would like to run the Running Above Average (FRAA) as stated by Baseball Prospectus. Defensive Courses Saved (DRS) Is it your weapon of choice? Good and great, but that’s what makes gameplay statistics so difficult. The amount of variation from one number to the next can distort the reality of assessing a baseball player’s ability to manipulate his glove.

I’m burying the tablet, of course, trying to steer you away from the harsh reality I can feel in my bones. You come in wondering if there are some stats that show Alec Baum significantly improved in 2022 compared to 2021 and lead you with diatribes about how disappointing fieldwork statistics are.

So, has Bum’s performance on defense improved in 2022? Well, this is a bit complicated.

There are four very standard stats we use when evaluating defense. In two of them, Bohm has improved (a little). In one, it got a little worse. In another case, which is supposed to be pretty accurate, it was a little worse.

Boom’s defense in numbers

year OAA from Excuse me / 150 DRS
year OAA from Excuse me / 150 DRS
2021 -2 -6.2 -1.5 -13
2022 -9 -2.5 -0.2 -17

It is this type of chart that makes things so difficult when it comes to analyzing field data. With batting, although many publicly available stats differ by a few points, they are at least on the same ballpark. Those field numbers are kind of hard to digest. One (FRAA) sees Bohm making some real progress with his glove, one (UZR/150) sees a little bit of improvement, one (DRS) sees it getting worse while the last (OAA) sees Bohm getting a lot worse last season. Who do you believe?

There are also people who have their own personal opinions on Bohm’s defense, and you can imagine what the “consensus” is among them. Without getting too deep in the weeds, you can imagine that a simple Twitter search on Bohm’s defense says a lot about the “eye test.” But social media isn’t always the best place to look. It’s regressive, determining a player based on the last play they made, and it doesn’t really paint the full picture.

So, I went searching to see if there was a definitive answer.

Let’s start with this great article by Matt Gelb back in mid-August. We’ve all seen the team hire Bobby Dickerson as a way to help Bohm improve on that fielding. Gelb was thorough in pointing out how Dickerson’s philosophy of field teaching helped Baum get him and make him better, at least in the eyes of the team. From the article:

No one ever pressured Bum that way… “Not as sincerely as Bobby does,” said Bum. “Coaches will challenge you and push you. Nothing against any of the other coaches I’ve had, but Bobby has definitely challenged me in a different way. Sometimes it’s brutally honest. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need to hear. He definitely challenges you from a place…you can tell he cares.” He really cares about his teammates. He really wants what’s best for them.”

Well, the team did some tough love. Sometimes this approach works, sometimes it doesn’t. If you lean on this, it worked and Bohm got better. The team thinks it’s better…but what are they going to say? “Sorry guys, our hopeful cornerstone at third base looks like a statue there.” Of course not, but the overall feel of this story is that the team, Dickerson specifically, thinks Baum has improved.

But what about the specific changes Bohm made for improvement? Obviously there wasn’t any digging into the details with this article, it’s likely that the team is protecting the methods they used to help Bohm improve, so the next thing to do is look at some videos to see if there are any changes.

We live in an age where every note is recorded. In retrospect, we’ve had to get used to some games on WPHL-17, some games on Prism and maybe a stray afternoon elsewhere on TV. Now, we can look at any play we want by simply typing the appropriate words into the search engine and bang – there’s the thing we want.

But we still don’t have a camera on every player at all moments of the match. There is simply no human power to do so. Therefore, we can’t really judge a player’s first move from season to season. There are questions we’d like answered about a player’s defense – how well they move from side to side, how fast their first step is, does they move better getting in or out, etc – and while we do have data on some of that, video can be helpful. Often.

What I could find were some small mechanical changes that seemed to make some difference to his throwing. In 2021, Baum was charged with 15 fumbles – seven field tackles, seven punts and one… unforced? I don’t know, Fangraphs doesn’t call it that, but there are a lot of bugs in 833 23 roles in the field. Last year, Baum was charged with 13 errors — six fielding, seven throwing — in 1,146 23 Roles in the field, more acceptable. It’s those mistakes that got me thinking. Did the team do something to help him mechanically?

Now, I’m not a coach, but there was a subtle, subtle change that made me wonder if the team was working on something. Here’s a play from 2021.

Now, let’s freeze the play just as Bohm lets go of the ball.

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Note the position of the glove. When editing, it is near the belt, well below the lettering. For you and me, that’s probably nothing, right? Now, let’s move on to 2022. Here’s a play from last season’s September.

Nice, easy, clean play by Bohm (thank you, Vladito, for not running too hard). Again, let’s freeze the play right at the point of release.

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You might look at both screenshots and say Bohm is more straight-forward in his move than I’d have: consider the runners in the play. The barely moving Guerrero versus Enrique Hernandez would likely change the dynamic of his body position. Instead, focus on his glove. He’s close to his chest, which is a very subtle thing, but perhaps a point of focus by the coaching staff trying to get more accuracy on his throws. Unless the team comes out and says that’s what they’ve been trying to do, we can’t be entirely sure, but it seems like something.

Again, without the team telling us what they’re doing (and there’s no reason to expect they would), we were kind of left on our own. Strictly judging by the numbers, the conclusion is that they are mixed. Go by the team and you will see a significant improvement. I? This year felt like less of an adventure each time the ball was hit to a bum. For the most part, I expected the ball to be played cleanly and thrown to the right spot every time Bum put his glove on.

Certainly Poetry Like it was better.

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