McGehee’s Defense Costs Brewers Again

July 28, 2010- Milwaukee, WI. Miller Park..Milwaukee Brewers Casey McGehee  just misses this ball by inches down the third base line..Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Cincinnati Reds 2-10, the Reds took 2 out of 3 games in the series at Miller Park..Mike McGinnis / CSM.

If there was anyone out there who still believed Casey McGehee is a good defensive third baseman or that his poor defense wasn’t that big of a deal considering his offensive production, I would think yesterday would change his/her mind.

The Brewers lost to the Cardinals, 8-6, and it was an error by McGehee that prolonged the 8th inning and ultimately allowed the Cardinals to hang 6 runs on Zach Braddock, Jeremy Jeffress, and Todd Coffey.

I think most people understand that McGehee isn’t very good, but how many know he’s one of the worst defensive third basemen in the National League?

Defensive metrics are still a bit sketchy, but by nearly every measure, McGehee is near the bottom of the league.  His -5.7 UZR is the third lowest in the NL, ahead of only David Wright (-5.9) and Aramis Ramirez (-6.0).  His UZR/150 of -6.8 is second worst in the league, ahead of only Ramirez’s -9.7.  I don’t really like the stat, but he’s also tied for second-worst fielding percentage (.949) with Mark Reynolds.

As Jack Moore at Disciples of Uecker noted back in July, the unreliability of defensive metrics means you also have to factor in the “eye test,” too — which McGehee is still ultimately failing.  His range was never good, as he struggles to field the ball unless it’s hit directly at him.  He doesn’t have the reaction ability needed to make up for that lack of range, either.

McGehee may not have directly caused the Brewers to lose their Labor Day game against the Cardinals — you can’t assume the inning-ending double play — but things may have turned out quite a bit differently: even if the Brewers can’t turn the double play, you figure they would at least get the runner out at second.  That would mean Matt Holliday‘s single that followed the error wouldn’t drive in a run, and Jeffress likely wouldn’t intentionally walk Colby Rasmus and would be allowed to stay in the game…and Coffey wouldn’t be summoned to surrender a game-breaking grand slam by Yadier Molina.

McGehee is still making peanuts, so I’m fine with the team moving forward with him as their third baseman if they can’t find another option for next season.  But if this season is any indication, the Brewers need to get better defenders almost as much as (if not more than) they need to get better pitchers.  I don’t want to see Doug Melvin completely gut the offense in order to improve the defense like Jack Z did in Seattle, but it’d be nice if they would stop completely disregarding defense while developing their prospects.

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