Just over a month ago, I wrote about Brenton Doyle’s Gold Glove résumé, which, I thought, probably covered everything.
Reader, I was wrong.
Since then, though, Doyle’s defense has only gotten better as has that of fellow rookie outfielder Nolan Jones. So I wanted to return to the stunning defensive season Doyle is having as he models for Jones — an apt student — the finer points of playing the outfield at Coors Field.
One note is in order. I’ve kept Michael Toglia out of this analysis because despite spending a few innings in right field, he’s truly a first baseman. (Doyle has 715.0 outfield innings, Jones is at 454.1, and Toglia has logged 93.0.)
What does the data show?
Let’s consider a number of measures.
In term of DRS by center fielders, Doyle has 11, making him second to only Kevin Kiermaier’s 13. (Third is Michael A. Taylor with five.)
Among all outfielders, Doyle is sixth. The only NL outfielder with more is Fernando Tatís, Jr with 19. In short, Doyle is a DRS master.
Meanwhile, Jones has 6 DRS, which makes him 21st among all outfielders — not bad for a rookie learning a new position in MLB’s most-challenging ballpark.
Among center fielders, Doyle also has the highest UZR (15.0). The closest to him? Daulton Varsho with 6.7 — that’s less than half of Doyle’s score. Compare him to all outfielders, not just center fielders, and Doyle remains the best in baseball (followed by Alex Verdugo at 9.8). Jones’ UZR is 2.1, or 45th in baseball, so solid but not Doylesque.
Now look at arm strength. In terms of ARM, Doyle leads all MLB outfielders (7.9).
Jones is 15th (2.8). In Doyle and Jones, the Rockies have two accomplished outfield defenders.
Next, check Baseball Savant. As measured by Outs Above Average, only Julio Rodríguez has more than Doyle does (12 and 10, respectively). The closest NL center fielder? That’s Alex Call with seven. Jones does less well by this metric with a score of -3, which is 99th in MLB.
Remember Fielding Run Value, which combines all of Statcast’s individual defensive metrics into a single run-based scale? Brenton Doyle is tied with Patrick Bailey for the highest FRV in baseball with 13. (Jones also does less well here.)
Jones makes up for it, however, with arm strength, the “average of top 10% of throws — minimum 50 throws to qualify,” a category in which he leads all defenders in baseball with an average of 98.7 mph. Doyle comes in eighth at 95.7 mph.
Reader, these two rookies, they are good.
What’s their secret?
Both have logged a lot of outfield innings though Doyle came into 2023 as a seasoned center fielder whereas Jones is still learning the outfield.
“I knew coming in to the season that I was going to have the possibility of playing centerfield here at Coors,” Doyle said. “It all starts at Spring Training and asking the older guys that have played here how they played and what’s the best way to play.”
He added, “I’m a very aggressive centerfielder, so it’s been been a fun challenge.”
Jones acknowledges that working with Doyle has been an important part of his process.
“I think that having a guy like Doyle in centerfield helps me a lot,” Jones said. “I think it’s no secret there’s a lot of ground to cover out there, and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes as well. But I think it’s just constantly learning and getting as many reps as I can out there.”
For his part, Doyle is complimentary of the progress Jones is making.
“He’s becoming in pretty good outfield outfielder in the corners,” Doyle said, adding, “it’s fun playing the outfield with him, and I think we kind of feed off each other at moments. He’ll make a good play, or I’ll make a good play. We keep good energy out there.”
Go back to the third video clip in this piece, Doyle’s catch in St. Louis. As he slides to a stop, ball clutched in his mitt, Jones is there to provide backup and congratulate his teammate.
Both recognize that their arms represent a big part of their defensive game.
“You’ve also got to be smart with it,” Doyle said. “You’ve got to make sure it’s the right time to let it eat. You can’t give away any extra bases, so I always make sure just to throw it through my cut off. The worst thing that happens, he cuts it off, or best thing that happens, he lets go through, and it’s a good throw.”
Jones takes some satisfaction in finding players are less willing to risk running on him. “It feels good to feel like there’s a little little respect there,” he said. “But I guess my secret would be throw as hard as you can every time.”
It makes sense, then, that Doyle and Jones would push each other.
“We both try and throw it through each other’s glove every time we play catch,” Jones said.
Bud Black recognizes that he’s got a pair of solid outfield defenders.
“It’s a great combination — range and an arm,” Black said of Doyle. “He’s gifted. We’ve got a very good defensive center fielder.”
The manager likes what he’s seen but still looks for continued improvement from Jones. “He’s doing great, and he’s going to get better,” Black said. “He’s learning, and he’s a hard worker with good work capacity, so he can work a long time.”
Clearly, Jones and Doyle should be measured by different standards. For Jones, it’s about learning a new position; for Doyle, it’s about showing what he can do. But it’s clear, also, that the two rookies are making each other better.
“My outfield is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m Major Leaguer,” Doyle said, “and I take a lot of pride in it, and it’s nice to get credit for it.”
Rawlings Gold Glove Committee, are you listening?
Coors Field Attendance
According to ESPN, 1,971,535 have attended games at Coors Field in 2023 through the Rockies’ 61st home game. That number ranks 13th in baseball. The average game attendance was 32,320.
(Two weeks ago, the average Coors Field game attendance was 32,343.)
As a benchmark, in 2022, the average game attendance at Coors Field was 32,467.
Thomas Harding describes a recent hitters meeting the Rockies held in an attempt to get their young players to rethink their approaches. “We had an open forum with all the players, talking about hitting,” Hensley Meulens said. “I actually wanted Charlie, Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon to talk about what their struggles were in the beginning, how they go about their business. It let the younger kids know they didn’t have to swing that much, they could be more patient.” As the Rockies give their rookies more playing time, development opportunities like this will be key.
In the first installment of a four-part series on the Colorado Rockies, Nick Groke looks at the team’s history in addition to its economic impact on Denver and other related topics.
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