November 4, 2006


2006 American League Gold Glove Winners - As I see it (Chris Dial, 10/22/06, baseball Think Factory)

Defensive data has been and is being refined pretty well these days. With more and more play-by-play data making it to the mainstream, all of us are stretching the boundaries of what we require from black-box analysts. With the exception of some park factors, we are discovering that Zone Rating provides a pretty good picture of defense. Taking the zone rating and accounting for league averages, based on tens of thousands of defensive innings played, we can closely assess the number of runs saved by a defensive players as compared to his peers.

To be sure, even this data could be refined to account for parks better - Fenway's Green Monster is a tremendous issue - and handedness of batters - NOT handedness of pitchers - to tune the picture a bit better, but the data you will read will be very close to any refined data. Very close. The basic methodology for this work is here.

I have tweaked this for chances per inning from the original data, so the chances assumed here may be slightly higher/lower, but if you did the same work from the referenced article, you'd find your results would be within a run or two of what I post. And really, the most important thing I do here is provide you with the tools to evaluate defense on your own, without me doing the math. Please note, after this article, I will post some others' work that even refines what I have done, with a comparison to what I have done.

A few thoughts occur:

(C) Tony Pena even managed to turn Jorge Posada into an excellent defensive catcher. Meanwhile, regardless of which catcher (of three) the Sox get from the Angels for Manny, he should start over Varitek.

(1B) Jim Leyland's decision to not play Chris Shelton at all in the post season (or even have him on the team) is inexplicable.

(3B) If anything, we've understated how good Brandon Inge.

(SS) Playing Derek Jeter at ss is like starting Kevin Mitchell, except you sacrifice power.

(LF) Manny should never don leather again--unless he has a chance to be a congressional page.

(CF) Are Vernon Wells and Grady Sizemore the most underrated players in baseball?

(RF) Be nice to see Alex Rios stay healthy for the whole year in '07.

Overall, you can't help noticing how awful the Yankee defense is at almost every position, which makes a wretched pitching staff even worse. Note, in particular, the contrast with the Tigers.

2006 National League Gold Gloves - As I see it (Chris Dial, 10/29/06, baseball Think Factory)

(C) Notice that the World Series matched the two best catchers in either league?

(1B) It's a good thing Prince is going to hit 50 a couple of years.

(2B) Kind of silly to hear folks argue that Biggio isn't a Hall of Famer.

(3B) Why play Cabrera at 3b?

(ss) Hanley is much worse than even we said.

(LF) Bobby Cox, nevermind the Royals, couldn't find room for Matt Diaz to play? And Alfonso Soriano's found a home.

(CF) The bottom two make one feel awfully old.

(RF) Jeff Francoeur isn't a ballplayer you win with

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2006 4:38 PM

Yes, there's no problem with using Casey, but why not have Shelton on the roster when he's a right-handed bat, great 1B and can back up 3b & C in a pinch?

Posted by: oj at November 4, 2006 5:30 PM

Funny -- you turn Jeter into Kevin Mitchell, but the author of the piece says he's slightly below avg.

I'd say he was avg this year. Very good last yr, avg the year before and godawful every season before that.

The Tigers had the best defense in the AL, but the Yanks were not far behind.

The fact that the Yankees look so poor in all these individual defensive stats -- zone rating etc -- demonstrates the worthlessness of those metrics.

The only truly valuable stat is team defensive efficiency -- which tells you the precentage of balls put in play turned into outs. Pretty simple huh?

Tigers led the AL, and were 2nd in MLB behind the Padres. But lookey who's sitting at #4 in the majors:

SD -- .718
Det -- .712
NYM -- .708
NYY -- .706

How'd a team that finished so poorly across the board in zone ratings for individual players manage to turn balls into outs at that %?

(Sawx btw finished 27 out of 30, ouch.)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 4, 2006 8:10 PM

Mitchell was a below average ss too. With Sid on the mound he was as good as Belanger.

Posted by: oj at November 4, 2006 9:30 PM

The last half of the season Shelton was a head case at the plate. It appeared he had no concept of the extent of the strike zone. On a team that rarely took walks, Shelton was exhibit A.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at November 4, 2006 11:58 PM

He had a .387 OBP at Toledo after they sent him down and would have provided power and defense off the bench. He's better than who they kept on the roster and they'd have been much better off with him at 1b & Guillen at ss in the games wheres Guillen was at 1b instead.

Posted by: oj at November 5, 2006 9:22 AM