Fernando Tatis Jr
(Kelly Gavin/Major League Baseball/Getty Images)

Criticizing Fernando Tatis Jr. for Errors is Tired and Pointless

Fernando Tatis Jr. is an MVP-caliber player. Whether you like him or not, that’s just what he is. However, there are always naysayers that attempt to discredit a player. It happens all the time in pretty much every sport. But the main thing people want to use to take shots at Tatis is his error totals, which is a reach at best.

Errors Aren’t a Good Fielding Stat

The first problem with errors is that they represent such a small percentage of a fielder’s plays over the course of a season. It’s a similar problem that arises when making interceptions a bigger deal than they ought to be for quarterbacks. You’re taking a small sample of hundreds of plays/throws, and using that as a representative for the whole.

Another issue with errors is that they penalize players for being rangy fielders. If a fielder has more range, they have more opportunities to make errors because they can get to more balls. Fernando Tatis Jr. has 20 errors this season. Those 20 snapshots should not be taken as a representative sample for his entire season or his actual defensive ability.

So Is Fernando Tatis Jr. Actually a Good Defender?

Well, not really, but he’s much better than error totals alone would suggest. He’s about league-average, but his defense appears extremely volatile year-to-year. This is substantiated by his Outs Above Average (OAA) and Defensive WAR numbers. OAA, which works exactly how it sounds, shows that Tatis was a complete defensive liability in 2019 but among the best defenders in the league in 2020. His -1 OAA this season suggests that he’s been right around average in terms of defense. That’s probably a good representation of his real defensive value. His 0.1 career Defensive WAR tells the same story, and tells it much more accurately than error totals would.

Obviously, it’s good to not make errors. That should go without saying. However, this statistic tends to be overblown, especially when making critiques of players like Tatis. Some better fielding stats to use are OAA or range-measuring statistics like UZR.

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