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Catches like this home run robbery have become the norm for Juan Lagares.If the Mets aren’t going to score any runs, at least they rate well at preventing them. And no one on the team rates better than Juan Lagares.
It’s challenging to attempt to rate defensive performance over short periods of time, but we can try. Since the start of August, Lagares has accounted for a major league-best 11 Defensive Runs Saved, a stat that measures his ability to both catch fly balls and line drives, and to deter baserunners from taking an extra base on his throwing arm.
Mets Defensive Runs Saved Leaders
Lagares has now sliced Heyward’s lead to 31-28 and leads all center fielders in the stat.
What might be most impressive about Lagares’ defensive performance is that he’s racked up the Runs Saved despite missing considerable time to injuries. He’s only a hair behind Heyward despite having played 28 fewer games.
Lagares is shooting for a second straight season with at least 30 Defensive Runs Saved. He finished with exactly 30 in 2013. This is noteworthy because in the 12-year history of this statistic, no player has tallied 30 Runs Saved in back-to-back seasons.
Lagares is actually the only outfielder to post consecutive years of at least 25 Defensive Runs Saved since it became a stat in 2003.
Lagares has excelled both at tracking balls down and making good throws. Of his 11 Runs Saved this month, seven have come from his range rating and four have come from his arm rating.
Lagares actually rates higher than Heyward in Baseball-Reference.com’s Defensive WAR stat, with a 3.3 rating, to Heyward’s 2.9, an indication that it’s harder to replace a great center fielder’s defense than it is a great right fielder’s defense.
In terms of total value, Lagares currently has produced 4.5 Wins Above Replacement, which currently ranks seventh best among all National League position players.
And for those who may scoff, and say that that’s too high for someone with a .311 on-base percentage and .683 OPS, it’s not like Lagares is as bad as someone like B.J. Upton or Peter Bourjos. Lagares' 1.4 offensive WAR ranks 22nd among the 39 players who have played at least 50 games this season and whose primary position is center field.
The Mets may be in desperate need of offense, an issue that will likely be resolved this offseason. But replacing Lagares doesn’t appear to be a solution that would produce a net positive result. His defense is simply too good.