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Demilio: Shelton’s Justification for Playing Polanco Not Good Enough

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Wednesday night, outfielder Gregory Polanco made a costly error in right field that cost the Pirates a run, the lead and potentially a shot at a win.

With two outs in the sixth and a runner on first, Diamondbacks’ outfielder David Peralta hit a base hit to right. Christian Walker, the runner on first, advanced to second on the single and did not appear to attempt to advance to third base.

That is, until he saw that ball got by Polanco as it headed towards the warning track. Walker ended up scoring on the play, making the game 2-2.

Today, Pirates manager Derek Shelton penciled Polanco into the starting lineup. Here is what he had to say as to why.

I get Polanco had two hits yesterday and I get they want the left-handed bat against Thursday night’s Cardinals’ starter Miles Mikolas. I do not understand the argument that he has played well defensively from any perspective.

Let’s look at a couple metrics using right fielders with at least 500 innings. Regarding defensive runs saved, Polanco has posted a -8 mark, meaning his defense has cost the Pirates eight runs, which ranks third worst among right fielders.

His arm rating, measuring how much of an asset an fielder’s arm is is -5.5, worst among all right fielders. Finally, among right fielders, his UZR (-6.8) ranks dead last as a right fielder.

In total, his defense metric gets a -10.8 mark, worst among all right fielders and the only one with a double-digit negative number.

Polanco ranks dead last among all 307 players league-wide in fWAR in 2021 (-1.2), and the defense is a big contributor to that.

I see some of the arguments for playing Polanco. He had a couple hits in his previous game and the righty vs. lefty matchup makes sense, but I would love to see what Shelton sees in his defense to say he has “played well.”

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