June’s Top Defender: Mookie Betts Making the Tough Plays
This is the way Mookie Betts made his mark taking away hits in June
But if you watched Betts over the whole month of June, you would have seen him at his best defensively throughout.
Betts is the defensive player of the month for June after tallying seven defensive runs saved, second to only Tommy Pham of the St. Louis Cardinals (10). Betts leads the majors with 17 defensive runs saved this season and 49 runs saved over the past two seasons. In 2017, Betts has nearly twice as many defensive runs saved as the right fielder with the next most; Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs ranks second with nine.
Betts has made the tough plays. Per Statcast, Betts has caught 13 out of 15 balls on which the catch probability was 26 to 50 percent. Only Byron Buxton has more such catches (15). Betts can get to balls because his Statcast-measured sprint speed is 27.9 feet per second, second on the Red Sox to Andrew Benintendi‘s 28.3 and in the upper third among right fielders.
What’s intriguing about Betts is the difference in the balls he gets to versus the balls he misses. Last season, Betts was 15 plays made above average on balls hit to the deepest parts of ballparks and five plays above average on balls hit to the shallowest parts of the park. This season, the numbers have flipped. He’s 11 plays made above average on shallow balls and four plays above average on deep balls.
This version of Betts is more diver than go-and-get it guy. Betts had four divingcatches in all during June, the most of any player. He has six this season, one more than he had in 2016. This might be due to nothing more than coincidence. Per Statcast, Betts is playing an almost identically deep right field to what he played in 2016.
Betts can still make the catch on the long fly ball. One of his highlights for the month was an odd home run robbery at Yankee Stadium.
The one hitch in Betts’ game this season is more mistakes. Baseball Info Solutions charts defensive misplays and errors. Betts totaled 16 last season. He already has 18 in 2017. But given all the plays he’s able to make because of his catching versatility, those miscues don’t damage his overall reputation significantly at all.