Robles and Soto's outfield defense played part in Nats' title run

Outs Above Average (OAA) is a range-based metric that shows how many outs a player has saved.

It is impressive to look back at the OAA for Nationals center fielder Victor Robles in 2019.

His mark of 23 was the best in baseball, and six points better than the next closest in Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays (17). Lorenzo Cain of Milwaukee was third with 14.

Soto-Catch-Gray-Philly-Sidebar.jpgNats left fielder Juan Soto had a 6 OAA and right fielder Adam Eaton a 1 OAA. Compare that to the Phillies outfield: Scott Kingery and Adam Haseley each with a 2 OAA, Bryce Harper 1, Odúbel Herrera 0 and Andrew McCutchen minus-1.

Michael A. Taylor reached a 2 OAA and Gerardo Parra was a minus-2 OAA. Robles had a success rate of 93 percent, Soto 88 percent, Taylor 88 percent and Eaton 86 percent.

Add in OAA stats for infielders and the Nationals numbers played out like this: Trea Turner (4), Anthony Rendon (2), Wilmer Difo (1), Matt Adams (1), Howie Kendrick (minus-3), Brian Dozier (minus-6), Ryan Zimmerman (0) and Carter Kieboom (minus-1).

Kieboom, Kendrick and Dozier lost some percentage points because of their estimated success rate was higher than their actual success rate.

As a team defense, the Astros (41) and the Nationals (32) were the two best teams. The Braves were the next closest National League East team at No. 10 with an 11 OAA. This is a unique point. The two teams that met in the World Series were the two top teams in OAA in all of baseball for 2019. And with the Cardinals at No. 3 with a 32 OAA, three of the four teams in the Championship Series were good defensively. Somewhat surprisingly, the Yankees were No. 26 overall in OAA at minus-15.

The bottom three teams in this metric were: Twins (minus-20), Pirates (minus-25) and Orioles (minus-35).

Rewind to 2018 and the NL East OAA numbers played out like this: No. 2 Braves (45), No. 13 Marlins (3), No. 20 Nationals (minus-9), No. 22 Mets (minus-14) and No. 29 Phillies (minus-30).

The Nats outfield in 2018 had Taylor (9) at the top but then a major dropoff: Soto (minus-6), Eaton (minus-6) and Harper (minus-13). Not accruing a minimum number of attempts: Robles (2), Moíses Sierra (2), Brian Goodwin (0), Kendrick (minus-1), Matt Adams (minus-1) and Andrew Stevenson (minus-1).

A simplification of these numbers shows the Nats' improvement on outfield defense, especially Soto and Robles combining for a 29 OAA in 2019 versus a minus-4 total in 2018. Add Eaton to that mix in right field, and his 1 OAA is much better than Harper's minus-13.

This aggressive defensive improvement played a part of the Nats keeping the scores down on their way to the title. Can Soto improve on a 6 OAA? With Robles making a 10 OAA on plays to his right, was he helping out Soto? Maybe. But seeing Soto make plays in left field and his ability to improve from one season to the next is a good sign that his overall game can reach MVP levels in 2020.

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