On a Scale of Charlie Blackmon to Willy Taveras, Brenton Doyle Is an 11

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Brenton Doyle
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports activities

Over the previous few weeks, I’ve achieved just a few big-picture tales issues like bunting and aggressive baserunning. Small ball, you may say should you have been feeling charitable. “That Max Carey-Lookin’ Nonsense,” you may say in any other case.

Throughout that course of, I stored working into Rockies middle fielder Brenton Doyle. Not actually, after all. Doyle is extraordinarily quick (98th-percentile dash velocity); I couldn’t run into him until I have been chasing him on a bicycle over stage floor, and even then it’d be dicey.

Doyle will get probably the most out of his legs. He’s 19-for-23 in stolen bases on simply 101 alternatives, and the defensive elements of his Baseball Savant web page are all in pink and pegged to the appropriate: 99th percentile not simply in arm worth, however vary as properly. Regardless of taking part in simply 112 video games, he’s been 19.4 defensive runs above common, making him the fourth-most helpful defender within the league this season and the second-most helpful non-catcher.

Sadly, the bat will not be so good. Doyle is new sufficient to the majors that he confirmed up at no. 19 on Eric Longenhagen’s most up-to-date Rockies prospect record from three months in the past. Eric put a 60 on Doyle’s energy however referred to as his pitch recognition “sushi uncooked” and his minor league strikeout fee “a ruby pink flag.” Certain sufficient, out of the 279 place gamers with a minimum of 300 plate appearances this season, Doyle is lifeless final in wRC+ at 36. He’s hitting .192/.242/.324 with a stroll fee of 5.3% and a strikeout fee of 35.0%, which is the fifth-highest amongst gamers with these taking part in time constraints. He can hit the ball arduous — his most exit velocity this yr is 111 mph — however he doesn’t make sufficient contact to entry his recreation energy. He has reached a 105-mph exit velo 14 instances this yr, or simply 1.8% of his swings and 1.0% of the whole pitches he’s seen. Worse, 5 of these batted balls had a launch angle of lower than 10 levels.

The factor is: Elite defensive middle fielders can get away with not hitting a lot. Like each denizen of the Delaware Valley, I’m having fun with the Johan Rojas Period fairly a bit. Kevin Kiermaier turned a Rays legend with a profession wRC+ of 98. Kevin Pillar goes robust in his eleventh main league season, and he has an 86 wRC+ for his profession, with one season over 100. And he’s solely the second-best energetic defensive middle fielder named Kevin who spent most of his profession within the AL East! Jackie Bradley Jr. was a extremely good hitter for a minute, however he stored getting huge league jobs for years even after his bat went off a cliff. The record goes on.

If Doyle is absolutely the most effective defenders within the league, he in all probability has to run a wRC+ over 40 to be an on a regular basis participant, however not by as a lot as you’d suppose. Already, WAR has him as merely a below-average participant despite the fact that he’s hitting just like the world’s quickest pitcher.

My curiosity in Doyle is threefold. First, he’s a quick man, and quick guys are normally attention-grabbing. Second, he’s an excessive outlier, and excessive outliers are normally attention-grabbing. Third, he’s on the Rockies, a bizarre group that I can’t stop gawking at. (Previously six months, we’ve had 12 non-RotoGraphs posts on the location, together with this one, that have been tagged to the Rockies and didn’t contain a selected transaction or prospects. Six of these have been interview items by David Laurila; I wrote 4 of the opposite six.)

On this case, Doyle matches in with a definite thread of Rockies historical past: their 30-year-long middle discipline dilemma. See, Coors Subject is thought for 2 issues: First, the air is skinny, so it’s straightforward to hit residence runs. Second, the outfield is gigantic, so the middle fielder wants to have the ability to run like a gazelle being chased by the cops, notably if the nook outfielders are within the lineup for his or her bats and never their gloves.

So should you have been working the Rockies, you’d exit in search of a middle fielder who can play a Gold Glove-caliber middle discipline and, on prime of that, hit for sufficient energy to take fullest benefit of the offensive setting. That sounds easy sufficient, till, after fascinated about the matter for 30 seconds, you notice that the participant you described is prime Ken Griffey Jr., and people don’t develop on timber. It’s arduous sufficient even to discover a participant who’s good at hitting and middle discipline protection. One of the best the Rockies have achieved for an prolonged time period is Dexter Fowler, vice-chairman of the Adam Jones College of The Superior Stats Hated This Man So I Didn’t Admire How Cool He Was In His Prime And I Remorse That Now.

Of their franchise historical past, the Rockies have had 43 particular person seasons of 300 PA or extra by a middle fielder, together with Doyle’s. I’ve plotted them right here, as offensive runs (hitting and baserunning) towards defensive runs (protection and positional adjustment) above or under common. I’ve highlighted 2023 Doyle in yellow, 2010 Carlos González in pink (this was the perfect season ever by a Rockies middle fielder by WAR), and 2018 Charlie Blackmon in brown.

The higher left quadrant represents gamers who have been good offensively however missing defensively — possibly the results of the Rockies taking a nook outfielder and seeing if he’ll stretch out to middle, as they did with Blackmon and González. We’ll name the highest left the Blackmon Quadrant. Backside proper is the alternative: above-average protection on the expense of offense. That is the Doyle Quadrant. The underside left contains gamers who have been below-average each offensively and defensively; on the danger of being unkind, let’s name this the Outdated Ian Desmond Quadrant. This has occurred fairly a bit, because the Rockies have usually had the participant procurement and improvement commensurate with a group that’s solely good as soon as each 5 years.

Gamers within the prime proper are above-average each offensively and defensively. That is the Griffey Quadrant. In 43 particular person seasons, the Rockies have gotten right here simply 4 instances: 2003 Preston Wilson, 2007 Ryan Spilborghs, 2009 Carlos González, and 2014 Drew Stubbs. Solely a type of seasons — Wilson in 2003 — concerned a participant who certified for the batting title, and as you may see, none of these gamers have been very far above common both offensively or defensively.

Generally, the Rockies have chosen one of many extremes — Blackmon on offense, most notably, but additionally Ellis Burks, who in 1997 hit .290/.363/.571 with 34 residence runs and obtained credited with 1.6 WAR for his bother. The Nineties have been wild, man. On the opposite finish are a bunch of slap-hitting quick guys: Juan Pierre, Tom Goodwin, Garrett Hampson, Alex Cole, Willy Taveras. (Stubbs was a shrewd gamble, I feel — a wonderful defender who had enormous holes in his swing however sufficient energy to make it depend when he did make contact.)

However Doyle is greater than only a Willy Taveras who isn’t outdated to grasp that I’m dashing to complete this text earlier than 5 p.m. as a result of I’ve tickets to see the Demise Cab for Cutie/Postal Service present tonight. THE ZOOMER MIND CANNOT COMPREHEND THE IMPORTANCE OF HEARING TRANSATLANTICISM AND GIVE UP BACK-TO-BACK AT THE SAME CONCERT! WE WERE MORE HEARTSICK IN 2003 THAN YOU CAN FATHOM!

The place was I? Proper, so: Right here’s each season of 300 or extra PA by a middle fielder since 2014, league-wide, 366 in all. As soon as once more, Doyle is highlighted in yellow:

So Doyle isn’t only a defense-heavy outlier by Rockies requirements; he’s doing one thing that we haven’t actually seen up to now decade. Right here’s one other option to categorical how wild Doyle’s season is: Measuring the distinction between his offensive and defensive worth. I wouldn’t advocate utilizing this as any type of large-n predictive stat, however for this little bit of trivia, it’ll do.

I’ll begin by going within the different route, as a result of the middle fielder with the best hole between offensive and defensive worth may be very humorous:

Most Offense-Heavy Middle Fielders Since 2014

Season Title Crew Off Def Distinction WAR
2022 Aaron Choose NYY 87.2 1.1 86.2 11.6
2016 Mike Trout LAA 67.0 -5.7 72.7 8.6
2019 Mike Trout LAA 65.9 -1.6 67.5 8.3
2018 Mike Trout LAA 69.2 2.8 66.4 9.5
2017 Mike Trout LAA 54.4 -8.0 62.4 6.3
2014 Mike Trout LAA 57.8 -4.5 62.3 8.3
2014 Andrew McCutchen PIT 51.3 -3.4 54.7 7.4
2017 Charlie Blackmon COL 41.3 -12.9 54.2 5.3
2018 Bryce Harper WSN 30.0 -22.4 52.3 3.0
2015 Mike Trout LAA 58.7 6.6 52.0 9.3

This simply appears like a listing of the perfect middle discipline seasons up to now decade, as a result of whereas it’s potential to be 50 runs or extra above common offensively, you’d should be prime Willie Mays however, like, a centaur in an effort to get 50 runs within the inexperienced on protection alone. To wit: 2022 Aaron Choose is probably the most offense-heavy middle discipline season up to now 10 years, and he was truly a barely above-average defender. See additionally Bryce Harper, who obtained on this record in his stroll yr, when he rated out as such a foul defender that folks have been apprehensive about his capacity to play the sector in his late 20s.

Let’s flip that desk upside-down and see the highest 10 on the opposite finish:

Most Protection-Heavy Middle Fielders Since 2014

Season Title Crew Off Def Distinction WAR
2023 Brenton Doyle COL -28.5 19.4 -47.9 0.4
2017 Adam Engel CHW -21.2 18.6 -39.7 0.9
2014 Jackie Bradley Jr. BOS -24.6 13.0 -37.7 0.2
2017 Billy Hamilton CIN -19.5 16.3 -35.8 1.8
2021 Jackie Bradley Jr. MIL -32.7 2.9 -35.6 -1.5
2021 Michael A. Taylor KCR -15.6 18.4 -34.1 2.1
2022 Myles Straw CLE -14.8 15.8 -30.6 2.1
2016 Jake Marisnick HOU -14.2 15.1 -29.3 1.2
2019 Kevin Kiermaier TBR -9.3 18.5 -27.8 2.6
2018 Billy Hamilton CIN -13.1 14.3 -27.3 1.9

Doyle isn’t simply no. 1 on the record; he’s first by greater than eight runs. His worth will not be solely skewed extra towards protection than Bradley, Kiermaier, Billy Hamilton, or Jake Marisnick, however he additionally makes these guys appear to be an growing older Matt Kemp.

If this half-season truly displays Doyle’s true defensive expertise, this could possibly be the beginning of a considerable main league profession no matter whether or not he ever learns the best way to hit a breaking ball. Both method, whereas we’ve seen gamers like Doyle earlier than, no one has ever been this Doyle.



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