Believe it or not, a month into the 2023 MLB season, the Braves have one of the worst defensive players in the league, according to Outs Above Average (OAA). But it isn't Austin Riley, or Vaughn Grissom. It's Ozzie Albies.
At -5 OAA, there are only three players below Albies on Baseball Savant's leaderboard. But is Ozzie Albies' defense actually that bad? Let's find out.
Should you be worried about Ozzie Albies' defense?
Interestingly, OAA has been at odds with both UZR/150 and DRS over the 2B's defense since 2021. That year, while UZR/150 and DRS saw him as slightly positive (2.5 UZR/150 and 1 DRS), OAA saw him as completely neutral at 0.
In 2022, opinions flipped. While he had a -5.6 UZR/150 and -1 DRS, he had +4 OAA. This year, things are once again flipped. While he has +1 DRS and +5.3 UZR/150, he has -5 OAA.
So what's going on?
If you were to look at his OAA chart, you'll find that he essentially even when playing straight up or when playing closer to the 1B bag. in 38 chances, he's been worth -1 OAA.
However, when he's played closer to the 2B bag, he's been worth -4 OAA. In 54 chances, he's only turned 42 of those plays into outs when he's been expected to convert 46 of those opportunities.
That sounds bad, but how bad were the opportunities that he missed? It's time to look.
Albies' defense in action
March 30 @ WAS
On Opening Day, Lane Thomas hit this popup in no-man's land.
Both Michael Harris II and Albies had a chance to catch it, but it fell for a single. It doesn't appear that OAA is penalizing him for this play, and several fielders had trouble with the sun on this particular game, including Orlando Arcia.
April 7 Vs. SD
This went down as a single, but it should've been an out. However, this isn't on Albies, who makes a clean flip to Orlando Arcia. Unfortunately, Arcia misses the bag and isn't able to get Machado at 1B
Nelson Cruz hits it right at Albies, who's playing up the middle. Unfortunately, he's not able to get it out of his glove to flip it to Arcia and isn't able to get throw to Olson in time to beat Cruz at 1B.
April 8 Vs. SD
With a runner on 3B, the Braves infield was playing in. Rougned Odor hit a grounder right to Ozzie, who tried to get Jake Cronenworth at home. Cronenworth was safe and the Braves did not record an out on the play.
This was a bang-bang play at the plate, and while Albies has one of the weaker arms in baseball, this certainly wasn't a bad play.
April 11 Vs. CIN
This is a weird play. Albies starts up the middle but is able to field this grounder closer to the 1B side and make a clean throw to Olson. Unfortunately, it's late and Jake Fraley is able to score from 2B.
April 15 @ KC
Albies was playing closer up the middle when Salvador Perez hit this liner in-between 1B and 2B. Albies tried to snag it on the bounce but ended up deflecting it, allowing Perez to reach on a single.
April 15 @ KC
Another grounder from Bryce Elder's start in Kansas City that Albies wasn't able to make a play on. Even though he was shaded up the middle, Hunter Dozier's ground ball was much further to the SS side of 2B that Albies really had no play once he fielded it, especially considering Dozier's 85th percentil sprint speed.
April 17 @ SD
With Albies playing as close to up the middle as the new rules legally allow, Brandon Dixon hit a squibbler that came off the bat at 51.3 MPH. Albies wasn't even able to get a throw off.
April 18 @ SD
Juan Soto hits this laser right at Albies and it goes under his glove. At 102.6 MPH off the bat, this single had a .510 XBA. Could Albies have snagged this? Possibly, but this is certainly not an easy play.
April 19 @ SD
Xander Bogaerts hits this 90.8 MPH, but he drills it straight into the ground. By the time Albies fields it well into the SS side of 2B, he has no play at Bogaerts.
April 22 Vs. HOU
This is the one play that has hurt Albies toward the 1B/2B hole. Yordan Alvarez doesn't hit it too hard, and even though Albies is playing him perfectly, he's just unable to field the ball. It is Albies only error to-date.
April 27 Vs. MIA
Another ball that's smoked right at Albies that he deflects. This is a play that is makeable, but certainly not an easy play.
Ozzie Albies defense observations
Of the 12 plays here that Albies theoretically had a play on, only his error and the Nelson Cruz infield single are plays Albies should have been able to make. The Machado single is tough to pin on the All-Star 2B because Arcia missed the base.
There are certainly balls that the longest-tenured Brave could've made, but they're not egregious misplays. In all likelihood, Albies' OAA normalizes closer to 0 or even a slight positive as the season progresses. Albies is still getting to the balls he needs to get to, but he'll just need to glove the ball.