Recently, bluejaysstatsgeek posted a FanShot describing how Brett Lawrie is on an historic defensive pace in 2012. BBref's metrics (TZ and dWAR) absolutely love Lawrie so far this year (and Escobar, too, who is tied for 5th in the AL in dWAR right now). Unfortunately, FanGraphs and UZR don't seem to agree, but UZR tends to take a long time to stabilize (not sure how DRS/TZ compare to that) and may not account well for players on teams that shift a lot, like the 2012 Jays.
I wanted to comment on his FanShot about some interesting tidbits I discovered on the BBref defensive leaderboards, but it go too long for the comments, so I decided to turn it into a FanPost. Check out my random, possibly completely-uninteresting findings after the jump.
Through 32 games, per BBref, Lawrie has 9 Total Zone runs and 14(!!!) DRS. This translates to 1.6 dWAR so far per BBref. For simplicity of calculation, lets say he maintains this pace and plays 160 games (since we just multiply everything by 5 to get from 32 to 160). He is thus on pace for 45 TZ, 70 DRS, and +8 dWAR this season.
BBref only lists best defensive seasons by TZ and dWAR (I think DRS data only goes back a few years or so, so it can't be used as well historically). The best all time TZ season is Darin Erstad's 2002 season, worth 78 runs defensively - which "only" translates to 4.2 dWAR, since I guess a typical CF is expected to contribute a certain baseline number of TZ in order to qualify as replacement level/average.
The best defensive season by TZ for a non-CF is Barry Bonds' 1989 season in LF for Pittsburgh with 74 TZ. The best defensive season for a non-OF, however, is Adam Everett's 2002 season at SS, with 40 TZ runs. The best defensive season by a 3B is Brooks Robinson's 1968 with 33.
By dWAR, though, the best defensive season of all time is Terry Turner's 1906 season at SS for the Cleveland Naps, with +5.4. Of players you might have heard of, Mark Belanger and Ozzie Smith rank 3rd and 4th all time with +4.9 dWAR in 1975 and +4.7dWAR in 1989, respectively. Belanger, a longtime SS for the Orioles in the 60's and 70's, also has the 6th, t-13th, and t-20th best defensive seasons of all time. Maybe he should be getting some HoF votes, that's pretty ridiculous.
Thus, by dWAR (and SSS caveats abound), Lawrie is not just on pace for a historic beginning of career defensively, but he is on pace to put up the greatest single defensive season in baseball history. Sean Rodriguez, currently #2 in the AL in dWAR with 1.5, is also on historic pace, and clearly they aren't both going to break the all time record (right?). By TZ, Lawrie is "only" on pace to break the record for best season by a non-OF.
Other interesting tidbits and Jays connections from the BBref defensive leaderboards:
-Andruw Jones has both the 4th and 5th best TZ seasons ever, when he earned +71 in both 1998 and 1999. Pretty sick stuff.
-The second best TZ season ever belongs to former Jay Jose Cruz, Jr, with +76 in 2003. Trouble is, he was with the Giants at the time.
-Bonds has both the 3rd and t-19th best TZ seasons ever. He could really defend in his younger days.
-The best Jays season ever by TZ is Devon White's 1992 season, when he put up +65. It's also the best Jays season by dWAR, +3.8.
-Dwayne Murphy, current Jays hitting coach, is tied for the 71st best TZ season ever, with 45 (2.4 dWAR) in 1980 playing OF for the A's.