As June lurks around the corner and the push towards the All-Star Break begins, it’s time to rank Major League Baseball's top five defensive teams so far this season.
Whether they are currently holding first place in their division or fighting to survive, these teams have proved they have an arsenal of defensive players in their pockets.
The Washington Nationals have had a great start to the season. In first place in the National League East with a 29-19 record, the Nationals have shown that they have not only a great collection of offensive players but they are equally stacked in their defensive lineup.
Gio Gonzalez, in his first season with the Nationals, is ranked third among pitchers in the league with a 2.04 ERA. In just 10 games, the 26-year-old left-handed pitcher has surrendered only 33 hits, 14 runs and 25 walks in 61.2 innings.
Along with stellar pitching, the Nationals’ third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has helped his team achieve its first place standing with a .989 fielding percentage and 2.63 range factor on top of his .254 batting average, according to MLB.com.
And in his second season with the Nationals, center fielder Rick Ankiel has had a steady season in the outfield with zero errors in 38 games.
Although the Mariners’ track record has not been kind—they are currently in last place in the American League West Division—it’s easy to overlook the the fact that they are leaders in fielding according to MLB.com's 2012 fielding rankings so far this season with a combined fielding percentage of .989 in 51 games.
Ichiro Suzuki, in his 12th season with the Mariners, has proved to be an extremely valuable player in the outfield. The 38-year-old right fielder has an impressive 1.00 fielding percentage in his first 50 appearances this season. Combine that with zero fielding errors and a range factor of 2.32, and it’s no wonder he is ranked first among the league in his position.
Justin Smoak, the Mariners' 25-year-old first baseman, has also proved to be a valuable part of the team’s overall defense. In just his second season with the Mariners, Smoak has a 1.00 fielding percentage in 43 games and is ranked third among Major League Baseball’s first basemen.
And let’s not forget Fielding Bible’s top-ranked shortstop in the league, Brendan Ryan. According to the Bill James Handbook 2012, Ryan was ranked at the top based on his defensive runs saved stats for the 2011 season. The right-handed batter plays a mean shortstop with a .995 fielding percentage and only one fielding error in 41 games.
Don’t let their last place ranking in the National League East fool you.
The Phillies may have not had the start to the season they and their fans had hoped for, but at only four games out from first and a defense that has a combined fielding percentage of .987, the Phillies have proved to be a team that won’t go down without a fight.
Their outfield consists of some of the league’s best players, including shortstop Jimmy Rollins and center fielder Shane Victorino. Not only are the two successful at the plate, but Rollins and Victorino have shown their prowess in the field as well.
Rollins, 33, is ranked sixth amongst shortstops in major league baseball with a fielding percentage of .984 and only three errors in 46 games.
Victorino has been a master at center field. The Hawaiian-born athlete ranks first among center fielders with a 1.00 fielding percentage with a 2.45 range factor according to ESPN.com's MLB defensive tracker.
Third baseman Placido Polanco has also earned top rankings in the league with his impressive 1.00 fielding percentage in 41 games.
Second baseman Howard Kendrick is one of them. The 28-year-old has started his seventh season with the Angels on a defensive high note. Ranked eighth among second basemen in the MLB, Kendrick has a .991 fielding percentage in 45 games.
Alberto Callaspo has also shown a great defensive start. Ranked second in the MLB, the third baseman has a 1.00 fielding percentage and one error in 34 games.
Then there’s left fielder Vernon Wells. Despite the fact that he underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his thumb and was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week, the 33-year-old right hander is sure to pick up where he left off. In only 34 games, Wells has a fielding percentage of 1.00 and zero errors.
The Chicago White Sox have an impressive defensive lineup. With the team’s combined fielding percentage of .988 and only half a game out from first place in the American League Central Division, the White Sox have shown that even with the lack of offensive plays, their defense is still holding strong.
A prime example of this is Gordon Beckham. The 25-year-old second baseman has had some troubles at the plate as of late but has continued to perform in the infield. With a .986 fielding percentage and three errors in 45 games, Beckham is just one of Chicago’s defensive leaders.
The White Sox also have their young left-handed pitcher, Chris Sale, to aid them in their defense. The 23-year-old pitcher has had an amazing season to start. In just 10 games, Sale is 6-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 61 strike outs in 57.2 innings. Sale is ranked second in the AL in wins and eighth in strikeouts.
First baseman Paul Konerko, 36, has been able to keep his plate appearance hot as well as his defensive game. Batting .395 and having hit his 11th home run of the season, Konerko has provided the White Sox with much-needed offensive plays as well as defense. The right-hander has had zero errors in 32 games has a fielding percentage of 1.00. Perfection both infield and at the plate.