In a series of these “What does it take to be a good fielder” sessions, I will deeply examine the qualities we look for in a fielder.
As a very wise college baseball coach I knew once said, “The easiest thing to do in baseball is to catch a baseball.”
That statement is the basis of the derailing of the FPCT stat, used for fielders. FPCT, as you may know, stands for Fielding Percentage or the number of putouts divided by the number of opportunities for putouts. Well, if we go by that statement, that catching a baseball is the easiest aspect of baseball, then FPCT is a fairly useless stat in finding a good outfielder.
That is why, when looking at an outfielder’s fielding, you cannot look solely at FPCT.
In fact, you cannot look solely at stats.
Stats will not show you the great range an outfielder has, although those in favor of UZR or even DRS may beg to differ. Please, although these stats may be helpful, they are not always right, and quite often, are not.
The things you should look for in an outfielder are the following:
- Range – An outfielder needs to be fast, needs to get to as many balls as possible. If he can cut off a line-drive to the gap, that could turn a double into a single, or even turn two runs into one. You don’t need much range to have a good FPCT. Look at Jason Bay in 2009. He had a 1.000 FPCT – perfect. He was also looked at as one of the worst outfielders in baseball. Why? Range.
- Arm – A good arm is not something that many outfielders have. It is something that is quite undervalued. Let’s simulate a game situation here: It’s the 9th inning. Man on 2nd base. 2 Outs. Tied game. The batter hits a single up the middle. The centerfielder charges it and makes a solid crow-hop throw to the catcher. It is an absolute bullet and hits the catcher at the chest. 3 Outs, no runs scored. That is what a good arm can do for your team.
- The Ability to Read– What does this mean? It is how an outfielder sees the ball off the bat. If the outfielder can get a good read on the ball, he will get a good jump, and with a good jump, he will get to more balls. There have been good outfielders who haven’t had the greatest range, but would always get fantastic reads and jumps off the bat. An example of one of these outfielders would be Andruw Jones. Not the fastest guy in the world, but one the best. Those who have both range and good reads are the really extraordinary outfielders. An example of one of these extraordinary outfielders would be Torii Hunter.
If you are a MLB outfielder, FPCT should be a given good aspect of your game.
The ability, if you want to call it an “ability”, of catching a baseball, should not be as overvalued as it is today.
After all, it’s an outfielder’s range, arm, and ability to read a ball of the bat that really determines a good outfielder.