One of the debates created by Paul DePodesta’s offseason moves was how much defense the Los Angeles Dodgers would be sacrificing at second base by replacing Alex Cora with Jeff Kent.
Not “whether” they would be sacrificing defense but “how much.”
Kent (above) takes exception to that analysis.
“I do,” he said. “But that’s such an easy gripe, such an easy argument for people to make because there’s no stat to back it up. If that’s all they’ve got, golly. I guess that just means they’re turning the leaf on the car wash incident.”
Kent broke a bone in his left wrist during spring training before the 2002 season and said it happened when he fell while washing his truck. The San Francisco Giants were more inclined to believe it happened while Kent was riding a motorcycle, an activity prohibited in his contract.
Most of the criticism of Kent focuses on his age (he turns 37 on Monday) and the implication that his range is limited.
“I don’t worry too much about that (criticism). I work hard. I’m a really good defensive player,” he said. “I’m bigger than Cora. Maybe I’m a little slower than him, but I position myself better.
“Are we going to be in the same position on every batter? How can you say one guy has more range than another? That’s unfair to me. That’s unfair to Cora. That’s unfair to every infielder.
“Go ask the players I played with, go ask the managers I played for if I made the plays.”
Kent has a career fielding percentage of .981 as a second baseman, the same as Cora, though in far more games, and he made fewer errors than Cora in each of the past two seasons.
But Kent does not believe in defensive statistics, even if creative attempts to quantify that element of the game such as UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) favor him over Cora.
“I still think it’s all (expletive),” Kent said. “How can you (measure defense)? It’s one stat in the game that people have really tried to corner and they can’t, because the decisions each defensive player makes prior to each pitch is different. You can’t do it.
“You can easily say one player is slower than another. But one guy may get a better jump than another. How can you measure that? Or maybe one guy sets up differently to get an advantage. You can’t factor that.”