By Doug Upstone

Like many baseball statistics, in the last couple decades we have seen an upsurge in new ways to view the numbers. Baseball analytics has helped alter and in many cases shape the way we think about how the game should be played. While not everyone will agree on how important these actual figures are, they do further our understanding of the sport.

Case in point is fielding. We as baseball bettors can clearly see what an error is and often times those have a direct impact on the outcome of contest, positively or negatively.

In the last several years we have seen DRS - Defensive Runs Saved - and the Plus/Minus System, now being referred to as - Range and Positioning, change are previous thinking about defense.

This was largely developed by The Fielding Bible, with John Dewan as the lead person. For those not familiar, Runs Saved is a combined measurement of a players range and positioning, his ability to field bunts, to turn double plays, to prevent base-runners from advancing either on balls in play or on stolen base attempts, to frame pitches for more strikes, limit runs, and to make stellar defensive plays while avoiding errors.

While the parameters have improved since this was first introduced in 2006, the observer still has to make judgment calls, just like an official scorer.

How should all this information be viewed for those placing baseball bets, when looking at scores and odds?

Fielding Is Important To Know, Yet is Not as Important as Many Other Stats

The Chicago Cubs of course won the World Series a season ago and though they were 21st in the majors in errors and fielding percentage, they completely outdistanced the field in Runs Saved with 82.

To add perspective, Chicago's figure of 82 was almost 38 percent better than the next closest team, which was Houston at 51. The Cubs number in the last 11 years is second only to the 2013 Kansas City Royals, who were almost otherworldly at 93.

Chicago does not figure to be able to reach that level again, yet is still second in baseball. Does this explain the Cubs being a .500 team? To a degree, but certainly not the whole reason.

Why I say this is because Cincinnati is first in the majors in DRS, but has the 12th-poorest record in the National League and is in the bottom third in baseball for units lost for backers wagering on them.

It should be noted that profitable teams like Colorado, the L.A. Dodgers and Minnesota are in the Top 10 of DRS.

If you would like to understand San Francisco's decline, DRS does provide a partial answer. In 2016, the Giants were third-best at 50. This season they have fallen all the way to last. What has happened for such a precipitous tumble? Most catchers start to lose their pitch-framing skills around 30, which is how old Buster Posey is. After years of being one of the best fielding shortstops, Brandon Crawford has not been the same player or has outfielder Hunter Pence. Those early season injuries have robbed them of their typical defense and both are also now in their 30's and their replacements were not even up to their new lower standards.

Fielding and all the DRS numbers come more into play when a money line has tight odds and a fielding disparity is clearly established, which could swing a contest. Otherwise, keep these numbers handy and use them when necessary. 

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