Can The Brewers be a Top 10 Defensive Runs Saved Team in 2021?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 24: Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Milwaukee Brewers in the outfield in the game against the Chicago Cubs on opening day at Wrigley Field on July 24, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 24: Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Milwaukee Brewers in the outfield in the game against the Chicago Cubs on opening day at Wrigley Field on July 24, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 season had been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /
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The Brewers biggest off-season addition to date has been Kolten Wong, a back-to-back gold glover at the second base position. While Wong himself is a great defender and will improve the Brewers team defense, the question is how good can this team be defensively?

The Brewers will potentially have three great defenders on the field at once throughout the majority of the season. Wong and Orlando Arcia will make up the middle infield while Lorenzo Cain will roam the outfield.

In the outfield, Cain is a year removed from winning his first ever career gold glove as a center fielder, but the pairing of Wong and Arcia has the potential to be must watch each and every night. In fact, after the Brewers officially announced the signing of Wong he indicated that his goal is to get Arcia a gold glove of his own.

Yes this is all very exciting, but can three great defenders make the Brewers a top 10 defense in 2021?

In theory, yes.

When using defensive runs saved (DRS) for team defense, the Brewers were not good in 2020. They ranked 23rd overall in this metric with a-14 DRS. The worst ranked defense was the Nationals at -43 DRS and the Cardinals were first with +33.

In 2019, with a team that was comprised of players such as: Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Eric Thames, Ben Gamel, Trent Grisham, and others whom are no longer Brewers, they ranked 11th overall in team DRS with +40. The trailed the Braves by one defensive run saved, trailed the Giants by six, and the Phillies by 11.  The Dodgers were the top defense in 2019 with a 126 DRS.

2019 was Cain’s gold glove season in which he lead the Brewers with a DRS of 22. Manny Pina was second on the Brewers with 7 and Hernan Perez was third with 4 defensive runs saved.

The fact that over half of the Brewers team DRS in 2019 came from one individual is just crazy.  When we look ahead to the 2021 season we can say with a good amount of confidence in that will not happen again.

If you eliminate the 2020 season, Orlando Arcia’s average DRS since the 2016 season is 4 with a peak of 7 and a low of 2.  In Wong’s gold glove years (2019 and 2020) he posted 16 and 19 defensive runs saved and Lorenzo Cain’s average DRS since becoming a Brewer is 20.

All together those three averages combine for a total DRS of 41.5, which is already higher than their 2019 team total when they finished 11th and missed the top 10 by a single defense run saved.

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Of course there are other players on the roster as well whom will either contribute in meaningful ways to team DRS or hinder that number.  Certainly with Keston Hiura transitioning to first base there will be some learning curves, but overall I think this defense is set up well to crack the top 10 in team DRS during the 2021 season.

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