In the third and final installment of our Ménage à Trois series, we look at fielding. Defense is much more difficult to evaluate than hitting and pitching. It is for this reason that we will be employing three methods of fielding analysis:

1. Fangraph’s UZR per 150 games (UZR/150)
2. Baseball-Reference/Sean Smith’s Total Zone (TZ)
3. Tom Tango’s Fans Scouting Report (FSR).

UZR and TZ use a system of above or below-average fielding runs, while FSR is a grading system on a scale of 0-100 (50 is average) based on surveyed fan opinions.

To arrive at our conclusions, we used career UZR/150 and the 2010 results for Total Zone & Fans Scouting Report. The numbers reflect only the position at which the player is expected to see the majority of time in 2011. Also, it’s worth noting that for catchers we used career fielding runs in place of UZR/150.

With that, let’s take a look at the leather.

Catcher:
Russell Martin (11.9 FR, 4 TZ, 56 FSR)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (-13 FR, 0 TZ, no FSR)
John Jaso (-2 FR, TZ, -3 TZ, 42 FSR)

Martin’s injury issues are well-documented. It is reasonable to expect that these injuries affected his defense, especially given his position. Nevertheless, he still appears to be an average to slightly above-average catcher based on the three evaluation methods.

Saltalamacchia’s stint in 2010 was very brief and he did not receive a fan scout evaluation. His last in 2009 was a below-average score of 40, which matches up with his other subpar ratings.

Jaso has only season under his belt, but the consensus is that he’s an offense-first catcher. His platoon partner Kelly Shoppach rates below-average defensively as well.

Advantage: Yankees

First base:
Mark Teixeira (5 UZR, 7 TZ, 71 FSR)
Adrian Gonzalez (1.1 UZR, 6 TZ, 69 FSR)
Dan Johnson (0.9 UZR, 1 TZ, 45 FSR)

Mark Teixeira has the reputation of being God’s gift to defense, and the metrics give him a glowing review (but we thought UZR hated Teixeira?!?!). The fans also rate him very well with a 71/100.

Adrian Gonzalez also rates well as a defender, although a tick below Marky Mark. Naturally, since he plays in Boston, he will develop the reputation as being the greatest defensive player of all-time.

Dan Johnson obviously trails Teixeira and Gonzalez in all three evaluation methods. However, he’s certainly not killing the Rays out there. He’s adequate.

Advantage: Yankees

Second base:
Robinson Cano (-6.2 UZR, 0 TZ, 73 FSR)
Dustin Pedroia (7 UZR, 11 TZ, 77 FSR)
Sean Rodriguez (4.8 UZR, 0 TZ, 71 FSR)

Cano is easily the most interesting case. He plays second base like he’s on the And-1 Tour and the fans rated him highly for that (73/100). TotalZone has always liked his defense, however last season it pegged him as exactly average. UZR has never been the biggest fan of the Postgame Interview Master, although his scores have improved in the last 2 years.

By all measures, Brett’s brother rates very highly. The close agreement between all three methods reaffirms Pedroia’s excellent miniature-sized glove. However, we are curious to see if his Yao Ming-like foot injury affects his fielding in 2011.

Since Rodriguez hasn’t played a full season yet, the numbers are likely not fully accurate. The impressive rating by the FSR and above-average UZR score are worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming season.

Advantage: Sox

Third base:
Alex Rodriguez (-2.9 UZR, -7 TZ, 63 FSR)
Kevin Youkilis (6.9 UZR, 0 TZ, 67 FSR)
Evan Longoria (16.9 UZR, 15 TZ, 86 FSR)

A-Rod has obviously lost a step (or two) since his days as an elite shortstop. Banging American Gladiators will do that to a man. The infamous hip also hasn’t helped his cause. While the FSR rated him above-average, UZR and TZ see him as below-average.

Youkilis’s evaluation is not entirely reliable. His TZ rating is based on just 15 innings at third base last season. His career UZR at third base rates very well, but it remains to be seen how he will transition back to a job he has not had in a while.

Evan Longoria is one of the best fielders in all of baseball, at any position. There isn’t much to say about him other than he’s an elite defender.

Advantage: Rays

Shortstop:
Derek Jeter (-5.1 UZR, -10 TZ, 53 FSR)
Marco Scutaro (-3.5 UZR, -1 TZ, 49 FSR)
Reid Brignac (0.6 UZR, 0 TZ, 69 FSR)

Long regarded by the nerds as one of the worst defensive shortstops in MLB, Jeter experienced a defensive renaissance from 2008-2009, according to UZR. However, in 2010, it shows that he had cement blocks tied to his feet. TotalZone agrees with UZR in this instance. The fans however, perhaps mesmerized by the trademark fistpump, gave him a slightly above-average grade of 53/100.

Scutaro spent most of his career as a utility player, but has been used as an everyday shortstop for the past two seasons. By all three methods, he ranks a touch below-average. If Scutaro loses his job, Jed “The Future” Lowrie will likely step in. He has impressed TZ and UZR, but the fans see him as only slightly above-average.

Brignac has yet to play a full season, so the numbers probably don’t mean a whole lot. Yet, when compared to Jeter and Scutaro, the 25-year old looks like Ozzie Smith. The fans graded him nicely in 2010 and their score of 62 from 2009 complements that. We haven’t seen much from Brignac yet, but the fans clearly like what they’ve witnessed so far.

Advantage: Rays

Left Field:
Brett Gardner (39.2 UZR, 18 TZ, 72 FSR)
Carl Crawford (15 UZR, 1 TZ, 75 FSR)
Johnny Damon (3.5 UZR, -1 TZ, 33 FSR)

Gardner is rated among the best defenders in the league and is easily the best defensive player on the Yankees. All the evaluation methods agree that the he is a top-notch fielder.

While many look to Crawford’s steals as the best use of his speed, it is his defense that has made him such a valuable player throughout his career. Crawford and Gardner are difficult to compare in that Gardner’s numbers are better, but over a smaller sample. Crawford’s move to Fenway’s LF does make us wonder if his defensive contributions will be limited this year, unless he can climb walls.

According to the measures, Damon is either very bad or just average. Either way, he is certainly not on the level of Gardner or Crawford.

Advantage: Yankees

Center Field:
Curtis Granderson (4.4 UZR, -4 TZ, 62 FSR)
Jacoby Ellsbury (0.2 UZR, 2 TZ, 49 FSR)
B.J. Upton (5.7 UZR, 9 TZ, 74 FSR)

The UZR and FSR evaluations on Granderson are above-average with TZ as the outlier. Granderson dealt with injury last year, which certainly could have hurt his TZ rating. It’s fair to say Granderson is an above-average defender.

Ellsbury is an interesting case. He posted exceptional numbers in 2008 followed by very poor numbers in 2009. Last year, his season was cut short by injury. With the Crawford signing, he is now returning to center full-time. His defensive prowess is questionable at this point.

For all his struggles at the plate, Bossman Junior’s defense hasn’t taken a hit. He maintains a deserved reputation as a very solid center fielder. Nevertheless, his range will certainly be tested this season as Carl Crawford turns into Johnny Damon.

Advantage: Rays

Right field:
Nick Swisher (2.2 UZR, 5 TZ, 48 FSR)
J.D. Drew (7.3 UZR, 7 TZ, 71 FSR)
Ben Zobrist (22.2 UZR, 4 TZ, 69 FSR)

Swisher certainly isn’t a liability in the outfield, despite the occasional goofy play. At worst, the fans see him just slightly below-average.

Despite having osteoporosis, Drew continues to rate as an excellent outfielder across the board. As long as he’s playing, he will convert outs very well.

Zobrist’s ability to play multiple positions well (he also possesses a 20.5 UZR/150 at 2B) has earned him a reputation as an everyday super-utility player. For his versatility and reliability, Zobrist is one of the most valuable defensive players in baseball.

Advantage: Rays

The Yankee defense is certainly not terrible and when compared to a few seasons ago, it comes up smelling like roses. A healthy Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin will certainly be a nice boost.

The Red Sox are solid defensively, but it will be interesting to see how Ellsbury and Youkilis man their “new” positions.

The Rays have three elite defenders in Longoria, Upton, and Zobrist. They also have a young duo up the middle in Brignac and Rodriguez who could prove to be a defensive asset.

For all of the comparisons, the Rays have many strengths and few weaknesses defensively. They are very young (outside of Damon) in the field, and even with the departure of Crawford, we still give the Rays the overall advantage.

Overall advantage: Rays

If you missed our previous editions of Ménage à trois, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.