Kevin Kiermaier

Kevin Kiermaier is a very good defensive player. That is not a surprising statement to make to Rays fans who watch him play every day. But it might surprise you when the New York Times declares Kiermaier the No. 1 defensive player in the Majors.

“Kiermaier, a center fielder, is probably the best defensive player in the major leagues. At, he is the leader in defensive wins above replacement. At Fangraphs, he has the best Ultimate Zone Rating. At ballparks everywhere, he easily passes the so-called eye test.”

Wow. High praise indeed. But let’s pump the brakes just a little bit.

This is very similar to what we all knew about Carl Crawford. That is, Kiermaier is a very good defensive player. But like Crawford, he is a flawed defender who just happens to be really fast and advanced defensive stats love a guy who can cover a lot of ground.

Crawford’s biggest flaw was his arm. He just couldn’t throw the ball worth a lick. Kiermaier is certainly better that and Kevin Cash describes it as “the best arm in baseball from a center-field aspect.” But even Kiermaier has trouble throwing the ball.

Much of Kiermaier’s arm “strength” comes from the incredible amount of momentum he gets behind the ball with his body. That has come at the cost of control. Many of Kiermaier’s throws look like a golfer with a terrible slice to the point that Kiermaier is now aiming the ball up the fist-base line on throws home.

And there is Kiermaier’s insistence on jumping or diving for every ball hit in his direction. Jim Edmonds had a reputation of slow-playing flyballs just so he could show off with a spectacular diving catch. Kiermaier hasn’t done that, but it is clear he loves the difficult catch more than the everyday fly balls.

But hey, it works and he may be the best defensive center fielder in baseball. I am just not sure I am ready to proclaim Kiermaier the best defensive player in all of baseball.

And let’s face it, Kiermaier has never done this.

Carl Crawford



  1. Michael says:

    Pretty strange commentary. So KK can't be the best defnsive OF in baseball because he's not perfect? Who is? And he's a flawed defender who happens to be speedy? If he gets to more balls than just about any other OF in the game, who cares if it's because of speed, positioning, or some combo? Same thing about his arm -- I'd say KK using positioning and momentum to make up for the lack of having a true cannon as a good thing, not a knock on him. As long as he catches balls, throws out runners, or prevents runners from advancing by reputation, if the numbers say he's the best in the business then I don't see a need to start nitpicking about his game.

    Also, I recall Todd Kalas asking him after a game this year about diving for a ball when it looked like he didn't necessarily need to. KK said that leaving his feet helps him keep his glove steady versus trying to bend over and catch it on his shoe tops.

    Even if he's not the most naturally gifted defender, he does an aweome job of using the talents he does possess. And he's an extremely handsome man.

    • Chris says:

      Michael - you are mixing things. He said the best defensive player, not just outfielder. He's giving KK props just saying it's going to far saying he's the best defensive player in baseball and I agree with him, especially with a small sample size.

  2. Brent says:

    A couple Sundays ago, Richard Justice of was on Sunday Night Baseball pre-game radio show, and was asked who he thought was the most "underrated player in all of baseball", he said Kevin Kiermaier, and went on to say "because he single handedly wins games with his defense"...

  3. Greg says:

    Can't believe your using a post to tell us KK is not as good as everyone says! Defensive stats like UZR and DRS are tough to calculate and different websites get different values so it's an inexact science. You'll always get a good debate on best outfielder, much less overall best defender. But lets toss that aside and enjoy recognition for a guy that I think every Rays fan loves to watch and is truly an inspiration to any kid aspiring to be an outfielder. I don't think CC (as a left fielder) is a great comparison. He did win a gold glove but his arm is extremely weak. That's why he didn't play CF. He certainly had the speed. KK is at another level though. As far as leaving his feet, that's a concentration thing: receivers in football do it too where your total focus is on your hand/eye coordination for a tough catch and you sort of let your feet go.

  4. Alex says:

    What exactly was the point of this post?

    • Rob says:

      That despite the best empirical evidence we have, Cork thinks calling him the best defensive player is an overstatement.

  5. Political_Man says:

    All the numbers say he's the best. And most of the eyeballs say the same thing. KK is as close to a weapon on defense as you can have the way he keeps runners honest trying to take the extra base.

    Besides his dreamy blue eyes are worth at least a half a WAR.

  6. Gus says:

    Back off of Dreamy McHustle, Cork. His arm is still gunning guys out and his other defense is crazy good.

    I loved Carl, but Carl never had defense like KK.

  7. Zach says:

    This post is idiotic. His throwing is flawed because he has to aim up the first base line and he has momentum behind? Bruh, he had the hardest thrown ball from the outfield in all of Major League Baseball this season at over 100 MPH AND threw out more runners on the base paths than any other outfielder on baseball!!!!!! Are you crazy, drunk, or just stupid???? Also Bill James, the ultimate Sabrmetrician said the only player that might be better defensively is Andrelton Simmons, and he didn't have as good of a year defensively as Kevin Kiermaier. Your stupid.


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