Photos: Frank Jansky and Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire

The Cleveland Guardians are 37-18 and leading the AL Central. It’s fair to say that we didn’t see this coming, particularly after Shane Bieber suffered a season-ending injury earlier this season.

You can certainly point to the Guardians leading the AL in runs scored as the most important reason for their success this season. They also have a bullpen that has pitched very well and the starting rotation has survived Bieber’s absence.

But I want to point out a couple of defensive improvements that have resulted in the Guardians having more Runs Saved in 2024 (23, which ranks 6th) than they had in 2023 (21, which ranked 13th)


Without looking, you’re probably thinking this is an Austin Hedges thing. Hedges is arguably the best pitch framer in MLB (Jose Trevino, Patrick Bailey, and a few others have good cases too). He returned to the Guardians this past offseason after winning a World Series ring with the Rangers in 2023.

It’s not a Hedges thing though. It’s a Bo Naylor thing.

Naylor wasn’t a good or bad pitch framer last season. He was an average one. But in 2024, he’s been pretty good. He’s among the MLB leaders in our pitch-framing stat, Strike Zone Runs Saved. As a result he’s flipped his overall Runs Saved total from -3 to 3.

With help from Baseball Savant, we can tell you that where Naylor is earning his value is in two spots:

– On pitches at or a smidge below the bottom of the strike zone right in the middle of the plate.


– On pitches to his arm side (rather than glove side) running the height of the strike zone vertically

Bo Naylor Called Strike Percentage – MLB’s Shadow Zone

2023 2024
Low, mid-height 44% 55%
Arm side, within height of zone 66% 75%

The practical impact of Naylor of this can be seen in games like Tuesday’s win over the Rockies when Naylor and his pitchers got 13 strikeouts, including 5 looking.


For about two-thirds of last season the Guardians had to deal with the well below-average defense of shortstop Amed Rosario (-16 Runs Saved).

Rosario was eventually traded to the Dodgers and is now primarily playing right field for the Rays. And the Guardians have replaced him with rookie Bryan Rocchio.

Rocchio, who has 4 Runs Saved this season, is a considerable upgrade over Rosario. He’s far better than Rosario at getting to balls and turning them into outs and far better at turning double plays with fellow Venezuelan Andrés Giménez.

Statistically speaking, Rosario couldn’t crack 60% of double play opportunities converted in any of his 3 seasons in Cleveland. Rocchio is currently at 77% and is nearly perfect at getting them when he’s the one fielding the initial batted ball.

The Guardians turned the 5th-fewest double plays last season. In 2024, they’ve turned the 9th-most.


Extra outs keep ERAs low and help teams win games. The Guardians have a starting catcher and starting shortstop who are getting them through pitch framing and through double play turning. Combined, Naylor and Rocchio aren’t even hitting .200 and they’re not even slugging .300. But they’re still on the field and contributing in a big way.