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Finding a defensive comp for Norichika Aoki

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This is an article about the Giants, and about discussions about the Giants. It's pretty good! You should read it.

He's not gonna be so excited when he sees who I compare him to
He's not gonna be so excited when he sees who I compare him to
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It's been almost forgotten since they pulled off the blockbuster John Bowker deal, but last week the Giants signed Nori Aoki too. And while Aoki is sure to put up excellent value in terms of Face Over Replacement Level, his defense is good too. Admittedly, metrics didn't agree last year – UZR liked him! DRS hated him! UPDOG was indifferent to him since it was just a cheap setup for a joke! – but over his major league career, Aoki's been a plus defender. He's above average. Reliably solid, like a Toyota, or if you think I'm only comparing him to a Toyota because they're both Japanese, like an equally good American car, which I'll name as soon as one exists.

But perhaps you've heard that the game's not played on paper. We have something called "the eye test", and it says that Aoki plays the outfield like Velma groping around in the dark for her glasses while on ecstasy. I know that's out of character for her, but trust me, my fanfic explicitly addresses that. So what do people say about Aoki's defense? Well, there's this:

Aoki has his flaws, chief among them sometimes looking like a mess defensively with poor routes

And then this:

Aoki often appears awkward, either with quirky swings, serpentining outfield routes or wacky misadventures, such as having a ball thump him in the groin as he attempted a sliding catch.

Read more here:

And of course this play from the World Series:


But we know he's actually pretty good! Is there some outfielder with a similar defensive profile? Is there someone whose lapses in the field ensure that the above paragraphs apply to him too, aside from the stupid diversions about pointless crap? Is there, somewhere out there, a hero?


Hey, buddy.

Yes, Fred Lewis, living embodiment of "You're benched a hero, or you play long enough to become the villain." Oh, the arguments we had over him nearly tore this site asunder. Friend turned against friend, brother against Brother2, though Brother2 already had a grudge because of the whole username thing, so maybe Fred was just an excuse. Still. It was a vicious time. And now we can bring it back.

I don't want anyone thinking that I'm saying Nori Aoki and late 2000s Fred Lewis are equally good; Aoki has been a better player with better defense who rarely strikes out, while Lewis had more power and looked really cool in sunglasses. But what they have in common is a tendency to screw up on defense in very noticeable ways – Aoki in the playoffs, and Lewis pretty much constantly, to the extent that I barely even remember all the called strike threes he'd take. Totally gone from my memory. Not in my head at all. No recollections of that, even a little. No, sir.

So can we look to Fred Lewis as a historical guide to what we can expect from Aoki? On the field, probably not, but on KNBR and MCC and Twitter? I say yes. I say that we can expect all kinds of silly arguments along the lines of SHOULD WE DFA AOKI TO GIVE DANIEL CARBONELL HIS SHOT or HEY IF WE WANT A FUNNY LOOKING AWKWARD OUTFIELDER WHY NOT BRING BACK EUGENIO VELEZ.

Actually, that second one makes a good point. That's 100% what I want.

But as the year goes on and you berate others for not sharing your opinion that Aoki's defense is very good despite the occasional flub – or your opinion that Aoki's defense is trash because, come on, look at those flubs – take a moment to reflect that these discussions have happened before. Time is a flat . . . something. It's been a while since True Detective was on, okay, and I don't really remember it. We'll go with flat screen TV, because sometimes you'll watch a rerun, and that's totally fine.

Anyway, I'm pretty jazzed to talk about the fifth outfielder spot coming out of spring training. Can Juan Perez win it outright? There's a discussion that we've never had before!