Upgrading 2nd base–Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR)

I have seen quite a few rumors from various sources on the Cardinals and what they might do this offseason.  I think a lot of these rumors come from the fact that John Mozeliak stated that he would like to have “a couple of guys that could hit 15 to 20 homers”.  I got that from CBS Sports here.  I think that comment has sparked a lot of trade talks, particularly for the Cardinals at second base, even more specifically, Dan Uggla. 

Because of these comments, I see a lot of people asking how much of an upgrade Dan Uggla would be over Skip Schumaker on defense.  Because of these questions, I thought I would compare the two second basemen in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), against the other 2nd basemen in the NL.  There are other names on this list like Kelly Johnson that I’ve heard thrown around quite a bit lately as well.  FanGraphs defines UZR as:

 “The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.”

I threw in fielding percentage as well, even though I don’t think that’s a great stat, it still has relevance.  Here is a look at the UZR rankings for 2B in the NL in 2010.  I included players at 2ND base who played a minimum of 600 innings, ranked in order from best UZR to worst UZR.

PlayerUltimate Zone RatingFielding Percentage
Chase Utley10.3 .981
Brandon Phillips9.7 .996
Kelly Johnson7.1.988
David Eckstein6.21.000
Freddy Sanchez5.9 .991
Luis Castillo2.8 .993
Adam Kennedy2.7.980
Rickie Weeks1.8.980
Omar Infante0.0.978
Jeff Keppinger-0.6.990
Clint Barmes-0.7.986
Ryan Theriot-1.0.986
Martin Prado-1.6.987
Blake DeWitt-4.6.979
Dan Uggla -7.6.976
Neil Walker-10.8.985
Skip Schumaker-15.4.973

So what UZR tells us is that if we traded for Dan Uggla, we would get about the same play, maybe even little better on defense.  However, we would inject another 20-25 homers and add a run producer on offense.  I say maybe a little better on defense because Skip had a UZR of -7.4 in 2009, and I think his offensive struggles carried over on defense this year.  Maybe 2010 is the norm, but I’m not sure we will get to see.   

Uggla hit .287, had an OBP of .369, hit 33 HR’s and had 105 RBI’s in 2010.  He had a WAR of 3.7.  Compared against Skip’s line of .265/.328/5/42 with a WAR of 0.4 and it looks like he could be the player to put the Cards over the top.  I’m not saying in any way that the Cards are going to trade for Uggla or if it’s even possible with the Pujols contract looming.  I doubt the Cards go after Uggla, but he may be the bat Mozeliak is hoping for.  It might be the deal that allows Brendan Ryan and Jon Jay to continue to prove themselves, and take some of the pressure off the rest of the lineup.

On a side note, the gold glove awards came out today in the American League.  I have no idea how Derek Jeter won another one.  His UZR was -4.7 and he ranked 11th among AL shortstops who played at least 600 innings.  It seems crazy to me.  Also, Brendan Ryan led all MLB shortstops with a 11.5 UZR.  Alexei Ramirez was 2nd with a 10.8.

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