I just had to pass this on after listening to the MLB.com Daily podcast earlier today. In an interview with Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden the topic turned to what the Twins might do regarding locking up some of their players like Johann Santana and Justin Morneau with long term contracts. When the discussion turned to Torii Hunter Gladden had this to say.
"If you don't replace your gold glover in centerfield what you're going to have is Johann Santana, now that twenty-game winner he's gonna be a 15-16 game winner. All your other guys that are going to win 12, 13 ballgames now are going to win 9 and maybe 10 games because you're losing something in your centerfield. Torii Hunter wins at least wins five games a year per pitcher - three to five games per pitcher just with his defense in centerfield."Five games a year with his defense per pitcher? So Hunter's defense is worth 25 wins? I'm sorry but even a non-stathead who has no understanding of sabermetric defensive metrics must realize how absurd this statement, when taken literally, is from a simple common sense persepctive. If he is worth 25 wins on defense then he's saving something like 250 runs all by himself.
But most likely what Gladden was thinking was not that Hunter "wins" 25 games all by himself but rather impacts 25 games with good defensive plays and so Gladden mentally attributes the win to Hunter since without the play the team might have lost. Even so, what that formulation leaves out is the fact that any centerfielder will make some percentage of those difficult plays and so it's not as if another player would simply have failed to make all of those plays and therefore cost the team all of those games. And of course he probably selectively remembers all of the good plays and never the cost of over-aggressiveness that sometimes results in errors that let in runs.
More realistically, in 2006 Hunter was slightly below average according to David Pinto's PMR and slightly above according to the Davenport Translations.