How Cardinals' Tommy Edman became a defensiv mitchell and ness atlanta braves e metrics darling and 'the most valuable defender in baseball'August 30, 2022
When you think of the best defensive players in baseball, what names come to mind?
Nolan Arenado’s probably at the top of your list, with Mookie Betts, Matt Chapman, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton and Ke’Bryan Hayes close behind. There’s one player you’ve prMLB Jacketsobably overlooked, but the defensive metrics love this guy.
It’s Tommy Edman, the Cardinals’ play-anywhere, do-everything defensive linchpin. atlanta braves austin riley jersey
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Check out The Fielding Bible leaderboard in Defensive Runs Saved, and there’s Edman right at the top, with 21 DRS. And venture over to Baseball-Reference dot com — but stay focused, because rabbit holes abound — and you’ll find that Edman has the best Defensive WAR of any player in the majors this year, at 2.8.
“He’s been extremely valuable for us, played great second base, shortstop for a while, a couple games at third now,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt told me before a game last weekend. “Guys like him are extremely valuable.”
Goldschmidt atlanta braves kids jersey 6 , who is chasing the NL Triple Crown, knows a thing or two about being valuable. He’s far and away the favorite to win the NL MVP award this season, and he has a good chance of winning his fifth career Gold Glove, tooMLB Snapback Hats .
But it’s Edman — who won his first Gold Glove last year at second base — who leads the bigs in DRS and Defensive WAR. But what, exactly, does that mean? It’s a fair question, so I went directly to the sources (via Twitter DM), asking this: “In the simplest terms, what does DRS/Defensive WAR tell the average fan? If a player leads the majors in DRS/Defensive WAR, is it fair to say he had the best defensive season of anyone in baseball?”
For DRS, I asked Mark Simon, a researcher and writer at Sports Info Solutions, which produces the Defensive Runs Saved statistic.
His reply: “Defensive Runs Saved is a way to quantify the entirety of a player’s defensive performance. While traditional defensive stats consist solely of putouts, assists, and errors, Defensive Runs Saved is able to consider play difficulty, plays not made, and other, position-specific aspects of a player’s defensive performance (such as the value of his pitch framing, bunt defense, or ability to keep runners from taking an extra base). While we generally encourage comparisons of players at their specific position, it is fair to say that a player who led MLB in Runs Saved had a great defensive season.”
And for Defensive WAR, I turned to Adam Darowski, the director of mitchell and ness atlanta braves product for Baseball-Reference (and essentially my own personal S atlanta braves jersey albies tathead guru).
His reply: “I would say it is more fair to say he was ‘the most valuable defender in baseball.’ Defensive WAR includes two components — the player’s Rfield (runs above average compared to other player at their position) and the player’s Rpos (the value of the position they played). For that reason, the leaders are almost always going to be players at premium positions. A good way to illustrate this may be Andruw Jones. His +235 Rfield is fourth all time. This means he saved 235 runs more than the average center fielder. But CF is not as valuable a position as shortstop or catcher, for example. This is why Jones drops to 22nd all time on the all-time Defensive WAR leaderboard with 24.4. The next outfielder (Paul Blair) doesn’t appear on the leaderboard until #61.”
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EdmMLB Kids Clothing an started the season as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman, but when shortstop Paul DeJong’s struggles at the plate became too much for the club to ignore, St. Louis sent him to the minors and moved Edman over to shortstop. It had been a minute since he’d seen extended time at the 6 spot.
Edman played shortstop in high school, then basically split time between second and short during his college career at Stanford and early in his professional career. He started 64 games at short for Double-A Springfield in 2018, but after that? Nine starts at Triple-A Memphis in 2019, 12 for the Cardinals in 2020 and three in the bigs in 2021. That’s it.
And suddenly, he was a full-time starting shortstop in the majors.
“His mentality, he’s not phased by anything,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol told me. “In the middle of a game, I might have to move him to right field. He can play short, second, it doesn’t matter. He’s there to play baseball and he doesn’t care where he’s standing. Sometimes when you move a guy positions, you’re nervous how it’s going to go. I don’t feel that at all with him. He’s like, ‘I want to play, you just tell me where to stand.’”
And, whaddya know, Edman was pretty good at shortstop.
It’s about keeping it simple.
“One thing that helps me is visualizing every pitch of the game being hit right at me, picturing a laser being hit right at me, so I’m never late on anything or surprised by it,” Edman said. “I try to treat it like I’m taking fungoes pregame, where I know the ball’s being hit at me. I know I’m going to be ready to go as soon as the ball hits the bat. Doing that helps me get a good first step and helps me be prepared.”
And that first step is key. I asked Stubby Clapp, the Cardinals’ first base/infield coach, what it is about Edman that allows him to not just be adequate, but exceptional at multiple positions.
“It’s his feet and speed,” Clapp said. “His hands and eyes work really well, but getting his feet down on time so he can get to balls was the biggest key. He’s done a phenomenal job of figuring out what works for him.”
For the season, Edman has 544 2/3 innings at seconShohei Ohtani d base, 452 innings at shortstop, 25 innings at third base, five in center fieMLB Autographed Memorabiliald and three in right field. Edman has 14 DRS at second, six at shortstop and one at third base.
I asked Simon what Edman does so well that results in such exceptional DRS numbers.
“He plays a terrific second base,” Simon wrote. “He’s great at making plays when he has to go to his right and he’s solid on balls hit to his left as well. We track forehand/backhand success. He’s best in MLB on his forehand at 2B. And he limits mistakes. One of the additional things we track are Defensive Misplays. There are plenty of balls that aren’t scored errors on which mistakes are made but errors aren't charged — such as on balls where a fielder makes a bad throw ‘but you can't assume a double play.’ Other examples: costing a team a chance at an out with a bobble, slipping and falling, bad relay throws to the plate, etc.
“Edman has 5 Misplays & Errors in 545 innings at second base. On a per-inning basis, that’s the lowest rate at the position in MLB (less than 1 misplay & error per 100 innings at 2B.”
And Simon on Edman, the SS: “Beyond that, he’s shown himself to be a credible shortstop, playing at a similarly fundamentally sound level in a slightly smaller number of games. In fact, he has 6 Misplays & Errors in 445 innings at shortstop … his rate per 100 innings is ALSO lowest in MLB at that position.”
One of Edman’s underrated skills is his ability to stick with a play. Anecdotally, there have been multiple plays the past couple of weeks where he’s knocked down the baseball, picked it up and still made the throw to get the runner out at first.
There are two keys to making plays like that, Edman said. First: Pick up the target as soon as possible, so he’s not throwing blind. Second, taking a moment to put his feet in the best position possible so he’s not throwing across his body.
“I knocked it down quite a bit and didn’t finish it. He knocks it down and actually makes the play,” said Marmol, formerly a minor league middle infielder. “The diving one was a big one atlanta braves replica jersey . There have been a couple others where it just kicked up on him, but stays close enough where he doesn’t panic and makes the play. He’s done a really nice job.”
Here’s the diving play in Chicago that Marmol referenced. It was a huge moment in the game, with runners on second and third and the Cardinals holding a 3-1 lead in the second inning on Aug. 25.
“That wasn’t a great throw, honestly,” Edman said. "Fortunately I had Goldy over there. On that one, if you look at it I tried to set up my feet. I knocked it down and as I went to go pick it up with my bare hand, as I picked it up I was trying to put my feet in the right position.”
Fortunately for the Cardinals, anywhere they play Edman seems to be the right position.