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Ultimate Zone Rating: Defense is a pitcher’s best friend

There’s nothing more frustrating for pitchers than an expected out that goes awry. Squandered grounders, dropped fly balls, and wild throwing errors have been the bane of pitchers since Cy Young threw 400-plus innings a season. Instead of a one-two-three inning, the battery must now deal with a baserunner, increasing danger and distraction. Perhaps more than anything else, errors signal a change in momentum, sparking rallies where none existed.

One of the more useful statistics for quantifying defensive contributions also happens to be one of the most complex, and the least friendly for fans to score on their own.

Ultimate zone rating (UZR) divides the baseball field into multiple zones, assigning responsibility to fielders other than the pitcher and catcher. Ratings are calculated according to how well each fielder defends according to established standards, requiring advanced physics measurements.

 

Using official stats which are adjacent to UZR, such as DWAR, also gives you a solid idea of the type of defensive support a pitcher receives. Depending on the pitching style of the hurler in question, you’ll want to focus on the ratings of different portions of the diamond. Knowing a team’s defensive strengths and how they mesh with pitching styles may provide useful insight when prognosticating the ball game.

You’ll be able to gain an advantage on the top US sportsbooks by familiarizing yourself with these advanced baseball analytics.

Blending The Art Of Pitching With Efficient Fielding

The art of pitching at the highest level of baseball requires a masterful level of craft. Most batters in the bigs know how to take advantage of weaknesses and trends in pitching. Even fireballers throwing at 99 MPH no longer get away with throwing fast, requiring an offspeed pitch and adequate control to make fastballs explode across the plate.

For the purposes of UZR, the two different styles to keep an eye on are ground ball pitchers and flyball pitchers. While most flyball pitchers tend to bring the heat, explosive pitch speed doesn’t automatically lead to more flyouts. Some pitchers who throw in the mid-90s excel at sinking ball movement which forces hitters to pound offerings into the ground. Junkballer’s with plenty of off-speed pitches and pinpoint location also tend to strategize around getting batters to hit the ball into the dirt by missing the sweet spot of the bat.

Power pitchers who have yet to fully master control or sinking offspeed stuff form the majority of flyball pitchers in the MLB. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a flyball pitcher, as long as your outfield’s able to chase drives and possess arms strong enough to defend against brazen baserunners.

Teams without great infielders do a great disservice to their ground ball pitchers, making fewer putouts and turning less double plays than their pitcher deserves.

Checking the UZR of the infield or outfield according to the type of pitcher on the mound can reveal insight when playing fantasy baseball. Expect more runs if the strength of a team’s fielding doesn’t match the type of pitcher slated to start.

Quick UZR Caveats

Since this type of statistic features wide numerical swings from year to year, UZR’s most useful in large datasets of a few years. Similar to most stats, UZR adds context to statistical portraits, and shouldn’t be considered in a vacuum. Instead, consider ultimate zone rating as another filter which helps understand the complex numerical architecture of Major League Baseball.

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