Hell Hath Froze Over - Carlos Lee is Good at Defense

Ok, in the course of researching some comment or other on a message board, I came across a fact so shocking that the world momentarily stopped spinning, giving me quite a head rush and sending me back to check my facts.

Hold on to your butts, because I'm shutting off the power to Jurassic Park and we're about to get eaten by the cold hard reality of truth:

Carlos Lee was a good defensive player in 2011.

Honestly, I don't really know how to continue after that.


UZR/150, which prorates the Ultimate Zone Rating over 150 defensive games, has Carlos measured at 5.5 at 1B (incomparable to the only 18 plays he made there in 2010), and 18.1 (!!) in the outfield, up almost 40 points from his -20.7 in 2010.  And that's no small sample thing either, as he made 84 plays in the outfield this season compared to 89 at 1B.

Baseball Reference lists Carlos at being worth 2.1 wins above replacement just from his defense alone.  Note that since Carlos was harming the Astros in 2010 to the tune of -2.0 Wins in 2010, that means that if Carlos had stayed at his level of 2010 defense, the Astros would have won only 52 games instead of the 56 they won.  52 would have placed them in the bottom 10 in wins for the last 50 years instead of just the last 30.  As backhanded as that compliment is, a 4-win improvement in defense is impressive no matter how you squint.

Setting the arbitrary cutoff at Carlos Lee's 113 games at 1B, Carlos is 16th in the majors in 1B Fielding Percentage, which again is impressive given he took his first stab at the position at the end of 2010 as an emergency measure.  His Range Factor was 11th (!), well ahead of noted 1B defenders Mark Teixeira, Carlos Pena, and Adrian Gonzalez.  The big man can move around the number one sack, and who saw that coming?

Baseball Prospectus has Lee listed only as a LF (get with the times!), but his 24.4 VORP_D is 11th among Left Fielders.  His Fielding Runs Above Average is 9th.

Obviously years of watching his defensive...uh, not-goodness...makes me skeptical.  But even though this doesn't pass the "smell test", it's hard to look past the fact that ALL of the defensive metrics seem to agree...Carlos Lee was a good defender in 2011.

I'll say it again, just for fun.  Carlos Lee was a good defender in 2011.

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