This post was suggested by reader Paul E who remarked on the defensive accomplishments of Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays. Toronto acquired Lawrie from the Brewers after the 2010 season, and brought him up to the big team in mid-summer last year. Other than a week missed to injury at the end of last season, he’s been the Jays’ regular third baseman since.

As of this writing, Lawrie has a career of slightly less than half of a 162 game season. Yet, he is in a tie for 13th place since 1901 among all non-pitchers in WAR fielding runs accumulated in the first two seasons of a career.

Here’s the list.

Rk Player Rfield OPS+ WAR/pos From To Age G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG Pos Tm
1 Glenn Wright 43 99 9.5 1924 1925 23-24 306 1322 177 366 25 232 58 84 .298 .330 .453 *6/5 PIT
2 Austin Jackson 42 95 9.6 2010 2011 23-24 304 1343 193 328 14 86 103 351 .271 .331 .387 *8/D DET
3 Phil Rizzuto 41 100 9.3 1941 1942 23-24 277 1160 144 315 7 114 71 76 .295 .343 .386 *6 NYY
4 Kirby Puckett 40 86 6.0 1984 1985 24-25 289 1327 143 364 4 105 57 156 .292 .325 .363 *8 MIN
5 Barry Bonds 32 110 8.8 1986 1987 21-22 263 1095 171 236 41 107 119 190 .245 .329 .460 *87/9 PIT
6 Rey Ordonez 31 50 0.9 1996 1997 25-26 271 921 86 206 2 63 40 89 .240 .275 .283 *6 NYM
7 Jason Heyward 30 115 8.7 2010 2011 20-21 270 1079 133 234 32 114 142 221 .255 .362 .427 *9 ATL
8 Ozzie Guillen 30 64 3.4 1985 1986 21-22 309 1090 129 271 3 80 24 88 .261 .278 .333 *6/D CHW
9 Bobby Knoop 30 83 4.4 1964 1965 25-26 304 1051 89 230 14 81 77 210 .242 .301 .330 *4 LAA-CAL
10 Joe Gordon 30 116 9.2 1938 1939 23-24 278 1169 175 278 53 208 131 129 .271 .357 .504 *4 NYY
11 Chris Singleton 29 87 5.4 1999 2000 26-27 280 1096 155 279 28 134 57 130 .277 .314 .435 *8/7D9 CHW
12 Hobe Ferris 29 78 2.9 1901 1902 26-27 272 1100 125 253 10 126 44 102 .248 .283 .365 *4/6 BOS
13 Brett Lawrie 28 127 5.5 2011 2012 21-22 75 305 42 79 12 42 23 54 .288 .353 .500 /*5D TOR
14 Evan Longoria 28 130 11.2 2008 2009 22-23 279 1179 167 286 60 198 118 262 .277 .355 .528 *5/D6 TBR
15 Mark Kotsay 28 89 3.6 1997 1998 21-22 168 680 77 171 11 72 38 68 .271 .313 .390 *9/83 FLA
16 Andruw Jones 28 90 3.3 1996 1997 19-20 184 580 71 115 23 83 63 136 .228 .317 .422 *9/87 ATL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2012.

So, all of the players ahead of him have at least 3 times as many PAs and 3.5 times as many games. At his current rate and barring injury, Lawrie will be at the top of this list by the end of the year, and probably by a comfortable margin. And, in just a season and a quarter of playing time!

So, how do Lawrie’s fielding runs compare as a rate stat? I’ll use PAs as a measure of playing time and compare to WAR Fielding Runs. Here are the players to accumulate career WAR Fielding Runs of more than 3.5% of PAs (min. 300 PAs).

Rk Player Rfield OPS+ WAR/pos PA From To Age G Rfield% of PAs BA OBP SLG Pos Tm
1 Mark Belanger 240 68 37.6 6601 1965 1982 21-38 2016 3.6% .228 .300 .280 *6/45 BAL-LAD
2 Adam Everett 111 66 10.7 3070 2001 2011 24-34 880 3.6% .242 .294 .346 *6/54D HOU-MIN-DET-CLE
3 Brett Gardner 78 92 14.3 1616 2008 2012 24-28 468 4.8% .265 .355 .368 *78/D NYY
4 Mike Benjamin 78 61 6.1 2124 1989 2002 23-36 817 3.7% .229 .277 .339 654/3D19 SFG-PHI-BOS-PIT
5 Brendan Ryan 68 77 11.4 1928 2007 2012 25-30 566 3.5% .251 .312 .334 *6/4597 STL-SEA
6 Tsuyoshi Shinjo 34 77 3.4 960 2001 2003 29-31 303 3.5% .245 .299 .370 *8/79 NYM-SFG
7 Peter Bourjos 29 99 6.5 806 2010 2012 23-25 219 3.6% .249 .300 .414 *8/D LAA
8 Brett Lawrie 28 127 5.5 305 2011 2012 21-22 75 9.2% .288 .353 .500 /*5D TOR
9 Don Kelly 26 74 2.1 663 2007 2012 27-32 307 3.9% .241 .287 .357 7/5938D6421 PIT-DET
10 Brett Carroll 20 58 1.0 324 2007 2012 24-29 180 6.2% .201 .280 .319 /*978 FLA-MIL-WSN
11 Roy Staiger 19 65 2.1 496 1975 1979 25-29 152 3.8% .228 .274 .300 *5/6 NYM-NYY
12 Kimera Bartee 18 49 0.4 473 1996 2001 23-28 243 3.8% .216 .282 .298 *8/7D9 DET-CIN-COL
13 Brian Bogusevic 13 105 2.2 321 2010 2012 26-28 134 4.0% .257 .335 .405 /978 HOU
14 Casper Wells 13 116 3.2 371 2010 2012 25-27 146 3.5% .259 .327 .461 /*978D DET-TOT-SEA
15 Charles Gipson 13 69 0.6 366 1998 2005 25-32 373 3.6% .237 .311 .327 7/985D64 SEA-NYY-TBD-HOU
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/11/2012.

That 9.2% Rfield per PA kind of stands out, doesn’t it? Nobody else over 6.2% and only one other above 4.8%. Also, it seems you should be named Brett if you want to be a top fielder – the three Bretts on this list have the top 3 scores.

I know what you’re going to say – sample size, sample size, sample size. Most of the players here are active or had only very short careers. And, only the top 2 players on this list had careers of a significant length, so maintaining Fielding Runs at this rate for an extended period isn’t likely. True enough. But, for Lawrie, we’re not talking about having a good week or a good month – it is half a season of everyday work. Is it likely that, playing everyday over that long a period, defensive stats could be so massively skewed from representing true ability? Skewed somewhat, sure – but as much as this appears to be? I guess I’ll let you statisticians out there answer those last two questions.

So, is it a mirage or could we be looking at one of the best defensive third basemen ever? What do you think?

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