Let's Talk About Defense: Yoenis Cespedes

Lisa Blumenfeld

Yoenis Cespedes' brilliant throw from left field on Tuesday night was simply a short chapter in a brilliant defensive season.

On Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels, Yoenis Cespedes made a poor play in left field before immediately following it up with one of the best plays you will see this year. Cespedes flashed his arm strength in gunning down Howie Kendrick from the outfield corner, no cutoff man necessary.

It was an absolutely absurd play that allowed the A's to force extra innings, though they eventually dropped the game in 14 frames. It's also interesting that a play like that doesn't happen unless Cespedes makes the initial misplay on the ball. Given the result, though, it's doubtful that anyone will be focusing too much on anything other than that cannon.

The play by Cespedes, completely ignoring the initial error, was a microcosm for what he's managed to do in the field in his brief time in the major leagues. While most of the attention that he garners is for his monster power and what he can do at the plate, he's actually been a quietly brilliant player in left field for Oakland in these last couple of years. That holds true for this year in particular.

It says something that the A's have trusted him to man centerfield from time to time, as it really speaks to his underrated range out there. Oakland is one of the best defensive clubs in all of baseball, and Cespedes is a tremendous reason why. The following represents some of his defensive metrics in the last three seasons:

PO A DRS OOZ RZR UZR UZR/150 Fielding%
2012 221 9 -7 49 .856 -10.1 -13.3 .987
2013 224 10 0 71 .911 6.7 9.9 .983
2014 90 8 7 20 .875 6.0 29.5 .990

Obviously that first season wasn't the greatest of showings with the glove for Cespedes, but he bounced back very nicely last season after a year to adjust to the bigs. This year, though, we've seen Cespedes take his game to another level, as far as the glove is concerned. Must be the highlighter green mitt.

He's shown great range, as evident by his Out of Zone (OOZ) plays made. Revised Zone Rating (RZR) is a simpler statistic than Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), but his number in that category in the last two seasons has looked very nice. His UZR per 150 innings, listed here given the smaller sample size presented by 2014 to this point, is extremely impressive, to the point where his defense this season could easily be considered elite. In fact, his UZR/150 is currently sitting fourth in the league among outfielders.

Yoenis Cespedes may not be quite the player that is reflected in his fielding numbers from this year. His cannon out there in left certainly helps, as his ARM (a primary factor within the UZR formula representing the amount of runs he saves with throws that prevent runners to advance) is a 5.5 on the year thus far, ranked second among outfielders behind only Leonys Martin.

At the end of the day, what Cespedes did in gunning down Kendrick at the plate on Tuesday night really should come as no surprise to anyone. He's a sneaky good defensive player, although the notoriety he's likely to get for what he can do in the field is more likely to come thanks to his incredible arm strength more so than anything else. If anything, it's good to see him getting the attention he doesn't typically get for what he does in the field, in addition to what he does at the plate.

UPDATE: The dude did it again on Wednesday night, misplaying a ball in left field and allowing Albert Pujols to think he had an opportunity at a triple. Let this be a lesson to Major League baserunners: if Yoenis Cespedes misplays a ball out there in left field, stay where you are.

***All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.

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