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Indians third basemen are making a ton of errors

Earlier this season, we documented Yan Gomes’ struggles behind the dish. Our third baseman, Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall, have also been awful.

Your throw was offline; no, your throw was further offline
Your throw was offline; no, your throw was further offline
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

We noted earlier this season, what a historic pace Yan Gomes was on with nine errors in just 28 games. Hopefully that post did the trick as Gomes has yet to error since. Maybe this post will have similar results regarding Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall's defense at third base.

Through Monday, Santana had committed 6 errors on 66 chances, good enough for a fielding percentage of 0.909. Chisenhall has been even worse, with 8 errors in just 43 chances, a 0.814 fielding percentage. Combined, that is 14 errors in 109 chances, or an 0.872 fielding percentage. Ouch.

Since 1946, the worst fielding percentages recorded for players with a minimum of 125 games at third base were Butch Hobson for the 1978 Red Sox and Gary Sheffield for the Padres/Marlins in 1993, both with an 0.899, so the Santana/Chisenhall tandem is significantly worse than the worst regulars of the last 60+ years.

The most errors in a season since 1946 was Hobson with 43 and Dick Allen for the 1974 Phillies with 41. If you go back prior to 1920 when gloves were little help in fielding the ball, the worst totals per league were 64 by Sammy Strang of the White Sox in 1902, and 91 by Charlie Hickman of the Giants in 1900.  Right now, with 43 starts between them, Chisenhall and Santana are on pace to start 133 games, and to make 44 errors, so that would be the worst in 60+ years as well.

Focusing specifically on the Indians, the team record is 43 by Bill Bradley back in 1902 (when they were the Bronchos). The last Indian to break 20 errors in a single season was Casey Blake with 26 in 2004. Before him you have to go back to 1986 and 1987 with Brook Jacoby's 22 and 25 respectively. The most in a season since 1930 was 31 by Odell Hale in 1935.

We haven't had a player finish with a fielding percentage under 0.900 who played in more than 50 games. The worst full-time fielding percentage belongs to Al Smith in 1957, who finished with 24 errors in 84 games and a 0.913 percentage. Both Santana and Chisenhall are on pace to surpass that.

For a look at something more modern than fielding percentage, Baseball-Reference has a stat called Rtot: It tracks the number of runs above or below average the player is worth based on the number of plays made. (It is also known as Total Zone or TZ.) Baseball-Reference has this data going back to 1954. Santana already has a -5 and Chisenhall has a -4. Prorating that as above, they would finish with a combined total of -28. Using the team total of -10 (including Aviles et al), it prorates to -31 runs.

That would be easily the worst since 1954, with the current team record being held by Toby Harrah in 1979, with a -21. There have only been seven other seasons with a -10 or worse*.

*For some positive notes in this post, there have been seven seasons with a +10 or better. Graig Nettles had the top two seasons, +21 in 1970 and an incredible +30 in 1971, when he set the AL record for most double plays turned by a third basemen (54).

Hopefully Santana and Chisenhall can correct some of the flaws in their defense, because we need to keep their bats in the lineup (speaking of which, hopefully Carlos is back from his concussion soon). They can't both play DH at the same time, and the Indians can't afford to keep giving away so many outs, and the runs that go with them.