Aug 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstopEric Sogard
(28) turns a double play over Kansas City Royals base runnerChristian Colon
(24) during the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Royals won 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
I assume that you read the title, were either outraged or intrigued, and clicked to view what was to be said. If somehow this didn’t happen, allow me to repeat it: Eric Soagrd is the Athletics’ best option up the middle.
A’s fans have been knocking Sogard all season. It’s true that Sogie is currently hitting a mere .214, only has one home run and 16 RBIs. Those are just facts. It’s also true that since July 1st, Sogard is hitting .273.
But we aren’t here to tout Eric Sogard‘s offensive prowess. It’s Sogard’s defense that makes him valuable to the Athletics.
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First off, his range factor this season stands at a 4.97. According to MLB.com, “range factor is calculated by adding putouts and assists and then dividing that total by defensive innings played. It is a simple measure to determine how many successful defensive plays a player makes, as opposed to fielding percentage, which simply measures a player’s ability to avoid errors”. In case you’re wondering, Sogard’s fielding percentage is also .990, or 99%.
By comparison, Jed Lowrie‘s range factor is just 3.73.
The level of defense that Eric Sogard provides up the middle is invaluable. His defensive statistics are among the best at the position when compared to other full-time second basemen. Add in the fact that Eric Sogard has been playing stellar defense at short in Lowrie’s absence, and Sogard’s value to the team increases even more.
Take the Baltimore Orioles for instance. They have a kid by the name of Jonathan Schoop. His fielding percentage is .985, while his range factor is a 5.11. Schoop has played in 83 games, Sogard, 73. While Schoop has a little bigger surge of power in his bat (12 HR, 33 RBI) he is also hitting just .219. It’s safe to say that Baltimore uses Schoop because of the defense he provides. Any offensive boost is a bonus. The same can be said for Eric Sogard.
Moving back to the Athletics, Jed Lowrie is Sogard’s only competition for “best up the middle” if we’re taking into account offense and defense. Alberto Callaspo has a WAR of -0.9, while Nick Punto has accumulated a 0.6 WAR.
This may be a little surprising, but according to Baseball Reference, Lowrie’s total WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is 1.1 (1.3 on offense, -0.2 on defense). Eric Sogard’s WAR sits at an even 1.0 (0.3 on offense, 0.7 on defense). I know that Jed Lowrie is having a down year comparatively to last year, but the comparison can be made. This hasn’t been Sogard’s best season either. Last season Lowrie earned a 2.9 WAR compared to a 2.4 for Sogard.
As for the difference of 0.1, it is more likely that Eric Sogard saves a run in a big situation than it is that Jed Lowrie happens to be the one up with the A’s needing a big hit. There are a potential 27 outs in a game on defense. A batter is only guaranteed 3.
The point is this: offense is always nice to have, but it can come and go. Defense is more consistent, and defense wins Championships.