Going in, I thought this would be interesting. It turns out that it is not. I'm posting it anyway. I wouldn't blame you if you just stopped reading here. To make your act of visiting this page worthwhile, did you know that Sicily's Mount Etna may be entering a period of increased seismicity? Stay tuned!
Anyway, the thought process behind this post concerned how Doug Fister has seemed really good at fielding his position this year. It's rare that a pitcher's defensive activity stands out, but Fister's has stood out, and in a good way. He's moved around quickly, he's shown instantaneous reactions, and it seems like every time he takes the hill, he makes a play or two another pitcher might not make.
I was curious, then, about how Fister's defensive numbers stack up. There's not a whole lot I can do here, but Fister has 11 putouts and 20 assists in 125.1 innings. If we combine putouts and assists and measure them per nine innings, where does Fister come out?
He comes out with a play/9 of 2.23, which is above-average but good for just 29th in baseball. Jake Westbrook leads the way, at 3.69. Guillermo Moscoso brings up the rear at 0.72.
If I cared about this more, I could put in a little more work. Our denominator shouldn't be innings, but rather balls in play, since this way strikeout pitchers will be made to look worse. And to take it even further, our denominator should be groundballs and line drives, or even balls hit to and around the mound. Only then could we get a true measure of how many fielding opportunities each pitcher has turned into outs.
But I'm just not motivated to take things that far, because I don't think the results would justify the effort. Certainly not if we're focusing on Doug Fister. I don't think any amount of mathematical gymnastics are going to place Fister at or near the league lead.
What this doesn't mean is that Doug Fister isn't a good defender. I think it's plain to see that Doug Fister is a good defender. He's active, he's quick, and he doesn't screw up. The evidence suggests that he just isn't an exceptionally good and busy defender. Which, fine. Hey, I warned you in the headline.