The Defense Rests

Fangraphs has added a helpful weighted defensive aggregate number that takes into account the four popular defensive metrics out there right now.

As a refresher, two of the three major defensive metrics, Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved, share a similar methodology — people from Baseball Info Solutions watch every play of every game, divide the field into zones and determine whether a play would have been made or not by an average fielder in that zone, and then credit the fielder with +1, -1 or 0 plays above average, depending on whether he made the play and how easy it was. The total figure is then converted into the now-familiar Runs Above Average linear-weights scale that is used as the basis for Wins Above Replacement.

There's still a lot of dispute about defensive stats and their reliability, and rightly so.


For one, even their advocates acknowledge we need about three years of data to have the same reliability as one season's worth of offensive stats. Otherwise, by looking at a single-season of UZR, for example, to determine the defensive prowess of a particular player, you're doing the same thing as looking at the April-May stats of a hitter and determining whether he's any good. For another, although it's an advanced metric, the number is based fundamentally on human observation — at least until Hit f/x data become widely available — and is therefore susceptible to the same bias that is often cited when those who argue for using advanced metrics criticize the traditional ways of analyzing the game. And, finally, before 2002 the only defensive numbers we have are traditional stats like total putouts, assists, chances and errors and sometimes more advanced data like batted ball type and fielder for each putout. Depending on what data are available, Total Zone uses a mathematical formula to estimate each fielder's defensive ability relative to average all the way back to the beginning of the sport. It's generally considered not as reliable, but it's also not absurdly off on any key players either.

So there are a lot of caveats with defensive metrics. I try to avoid making sweeping characterizations about a player's defense unless: 1. All the metrics agree on a general range of goodness or badness. 2. These agree with the general observational consensus. 

This is why I don't have any problem saying Derek Jeter is a bad fielder.In his 16-year career, Total Zone has ranked him better than average three times, none better than +5 runs, and significantly below average (-10 runs or worse) seven times. In the nine seasons since 2002, UZR has listed him better than average twice and significantly worse than average twice. In the eight seasons of DRS since 2003, that metric had him above average once and significantly below six times. DRS is something of an outlier — it says Jeter has been nearly as many runs below average since 2003 (114) as Total Zone says he's been his whole career (129). Since 2002, UZR says Jeter's been 42 runs below average, while TZ says he's been 58 below. What most people do, given the discrepancies, is average the three metrics together. All three metrics have been around since 2003, and since then, their average is about 66 runs below average, a little more than seven runs per season below average. That sounds reasonable, as very few people outside the (widely discredited) Gold Glove voting body dispute the consensus that Jeter is a below-average fielder. In this case, observation lines up with the statistical consensus.

We could do that for any number of players who have reputations like this. Manny Ramirez has a -106 TZ for his career, a -114 since 2002 from UZR and a -71 since 2003 from DRS. Andruw Jones has a +242 career TZ, a +125 from UZR since 2002 and a +80 from DRS since 2003. 

Even Total Zone, which is the least accurate (but the only one we've got for the years before 2002), shakes out the way we'd expect. The leaders in the fielding component of WAR, which is what Total Zone is, have the top 10 and bottom 10 fielders in baseball history worked out this way:

  1. Brooks Robinson 
  2. Andruw Jones
  3. Mark Belanger
  4. Ozzie Smith
  5. Roberto Clemente
  6. Barry Bonds
  7. Willie Mays
  8. Carl Ystrzemski
  9. Cal Ripken
  10. Joe Tinker

I have no reason to dispute those very much.

  1. Gary Sheffield
  2. Manny Ramirez
  3. Bernie Williams
  4. Ricky Gutierrez
  5. Bobby Bonilla
  6. Danny Tartabull
  7. Adam Dunn
  8. Juan Samuel
  9. Derek Jeter
  10. Eddie Yost

I suspect some would take issue with a couple of these, but again there's no obvious mistake here. So there's a degree of confidence with the defensive measures, though again they need to be used with some caution.

So, back to the reason, I started this post. Fangraphs has taken the mathwork out of averaging the defensive systems, providing for the first time an Aggregate Defensive Rating that weights these three metrics equally for all seasons from 2003 to the present and adding for 2009 and 2010 a lightly weighted Fans Scouting Report defensive metric. The Fans Scouting Report is a Tom Tango project that invites baseball fans to rate baseball players on the familiar 20-80 scouting scale in a number of areas under the "wisdom of crowds" theory. It provides a counterbalance for players the metrics may be misreading for whatever reason (and that does happen, as we'll see shortly) and allows for observation to play a greater role than it already does in this particular branch of sabermetrics, but the weighting keeps it from being a game-changer. When it's included, the ADR weights the four numbers on a 3/3/3/1 scale.

With that said, here's what the ADR looks like for the Sox and Yankee starters for 2010 and, where possible, an annual average of the past three seasons:

  1. Carl Crawford, LF, +14, +16
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, +6, +9
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: +4, +5
  4. J.D. Drew, RF, +3, +4
  5. Mike Cameron, OF, +2, +3*
  6. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, +1, +1* 
  7. Jed Lowrie, SS, -2, +2
  8. Marco Scutaro, SS, -4, +4
  9. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, -7, -0*

TOTAL: +17, +44

* Because Youkilis, Cameron and Ellsbury all had limited time in the field/at their 2011 position last season, I added their 2010 and 2009 ADRs together, then averaged that figure in with the previous two seasons (Cameron) or the entirety of their careers at that position (Youkilis and Ellsbury). Catchers don't get an ADR because their position doesn't work with the way UZR and DRS get their core data.

On to the Bronx:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF, +18, N/A
  2. Mark Teixeira, 1B, +4, +9
  3. Ramiro Pena, IF, +3, +1.5*
  4. Nick Swisher, RF, +2, +1
  5. Andruw Jones, OF, +2, +0*
  6. Robinson Cano, 2B, +2, -0
  7. Curtis Granderson, CF, +1, +0
  8. Derek Jeter, SS, -10, -3
  9. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, -3, -3

TOTAL: +19, +5.5 (+20.5 if we give Gardner another +15 season)

* Jones and Pena have sample size/multiple position issues, so I added their ADR across all their 2010 positions, then averaged that against their combined ADR for the previous one (Pena) or two (Jones) seasons.

The Yankees didn't make many changes outside of bringing in Jones, so what you see is what you get. Gardner is an unknown; his fielding was very good and looks to stay that way, but we won't know where that number will stabilize for another year or two. There's some hope in Yankee quarters that A-Rod's fielding will improve as his hip heals; I'm not sure how realistic that is. For him and Jeter both, there is the age factor. At some point, you stop regressing to the mean as much as you decline. On the other side, you could expect Teixeira to provide better value than he did in 2010 on offense and defense, and none of the other five were really all that different from their three-year averages last year.

The Red Sox are replacing a +11, +14 fielder in Adrian Beltre with a probable league average defender in Youkilis. Beltre also provided +33 runs of offense, and replacing him with Youkilis actually provides a better chance for that to happen again; Youkilis exceeded that in 2008-09 and nearly matched it despite missing two months in 2010 (prorate his 2010 batting runs to a full season and you get +43 runs, essentially erasing their defensive difference). Across the diamond, Youkilis was a +3, +4 defender at first base, while Gonzalez is slightly better. On offense, Gonzalez provided +39 runs in 2010 and has averaged +40 runs since 2008. Add all that up, and you get Beltre/prorated-Youkilis in 2010: +90 runs on offense and defense. If the Sox had prorated-Youkilis at third and Gonzalez at first in 2010, they would have posted +87 runs. Three runs difference. Essentially even. And that assumes park factors adequately account for Gonzalez shifting from a severe pitchers' park to a severe hitters' park; it's safe to say they did not for Beltre, small sample sizes notwithstanding. Everyone else for the Sox is a combination of injured players now healthier or young players (hopefully) improving. The gap between their 2010 defense and three-year total is astounding; like most other things about this team, the upside is tremendous.

Only two more weeks, and we can start finding out for real.

41 comments… add one

  • “…This is why I don’t have any problem saying Derek Jeter is a bad fielder.In his 16-year career, … That sounds reasonable, as very few people outside the (widely discredited) Gold Glove voting body dispute the consensus that Jeter is a below-average fielder. In this case, observation lines up with the statistical consensus….”
    would it be too much to ask to have a moratorium on discussion of jeter’s defensive suckiness for a little while?…i thought this post was going to have a totally different focus until i got to that paragraph…again and again we’ve said we realize you and tom tango don’t like his game…and all i had to do was look at the player rankings to see where he stands…he apparently is the 9th worst fielder in baseball history…i never would have guessed that, even with using the “least accurate” measurement available…after we play a few games, if he starts hurting the yankees defensively, or even offensively, then you can pummel him mercilessly…and i won’t say a word ;)
    “….Only two more weeks, and we can start finding out for real….”
    exactly, that’s why they play the games rather than letting statistic-based projections determine the outcome…who knows, maybe the juggernaut sox will implode, then fizzle harmlessly to the finish line, while the lowly, aging, overrated yankees will exceed the statistical expectations, which shouldn’t be too hard given how low they are…heck, they might even win the whole thing ;)
    i’d like to get the season started too paul…by the way, thanks for all the work you put into this and all the other posts…

    dc March 18, 2011, 8:55 am
  • “would it be too much to ask to have a moratorium on discussion of jeter’s defensive suckiness for a little while?”
    Who cares dc? He obviously doesn’t suck. And no amount of stat-nerd posturing changes that. Just let it go dude.
    We all know that Jeter is overrated and sucks…right into the HOF on the first ballot. :)

    krueg March 18, 2011, 10:17 am
  • “We all know that Jeter is overrated and sucks…right into the HOF on the first ballot”
    Nobody argues that.

    Brad March 18, 2011, 10:27 am
  • In the list including Jeter and Samuel, is there a reason why they are the only infielders on that list? I know you didn’t make the list, just seems weird that only 2 IF’s on the list.
    With all due respect if I am reading that correctly you are saying there has never been worse fielders according to this equation than the ten guys on that list? So Jeter is a top 10 worst defender of all time? This has reached new heights.
    Maybe that’s not what is being said…I don’t know.

    John - YF March 18, 2011, 11:08 am
  • John, it’s not so unbelievable. Most defenders have moved to easier positions by the time they’re in their mid-30s. Jeter is still playing pretty much every day at shortstop, which is incredible for a 37 year old. I can’t really think of too many other SS in baseball history who could do that. But his poor defense still counts against him. It doesn’t mean he’s one of the worst defensive players in baseball history, just that he’s been a below-average defender for a really really really long time.
    There have certainly been much worse defenders to play in the major leagues, they just didn’t play nearly as long as Jeter did, because they either sucked so much at defense they were physically incapable of playing the position, or (more often) they didn’t have the bat to get the playing time Jeter has.
    Jeter’s going into the Hall based solely on his bat and career longetivity. I don’t think any of us have any illusions on that front.

    AndrewYF March 18, 2011, 12:08 pm
  • My last extended engagement on this site was a discussion with Paul about jeter’s defense, but was literally pulled away by revolution in Egypt – where we have our biggest office. That a player who has ranked 2nd, 1st, and 1st among all shortstops in fielding percentage the last three years; had the second fewest, fewest, and again fewest errors of all SS’s over the past three years; and ranked 1st and 1st in ZR among all SSs in 2009 and 2010 (no stat for 2008 where these stats come from – espn.com) is among the 10 worst feilders of all time is – well – tiresome to debate if nothing else. Paul is the most statisticlly-gifted among the commenters here so I don’t doubt he can and would poke holes in these stats vs. those stats or in this source vs. that source, but regardless, I simply ain’t buying worst 10 of all time. I do find it amusing to consider that Nick Swisher is as valuable defensively relative to other RFs as Robinson Cano is relative to other 2B, or am I reading that wrong?

    IronHorse (YF) March 18, 2011, 12:34 pm
  • I find it funny that we are supposed to take all these stat-nerds numbers as some kind of gospel…but then disregard the people who actually play/coach at the highest level i.e the Gold Glove voters.
    I’ll side with the actual baseball people than some dude in his basement crunching numbers he made up.
    As has been said, this is such a tired argument. I’m glad we have #2′s horrible defense in our infield.
    Did Jeter steal a girlfriend from you or something Paul??? ;)

    krueg March 18, 2011, 12:56 pm
  • kreug doing his best Murray Chass impression I see…

    AndrewYF March 18, 2011, 1:02 pm
  • IronHorse, just a few points.
    Fielding percentage is not a good statistic to use for total defensive value. Jeter could stand still and make only the plays that come right at him and have a fielding percentage of 1.000. But all those other balls that he didn’t even try for would get past him and he would (rightfully) be considered to be a huge negative in the field. Same goes for errors, which I think is just the other side of the coin. I think we can agree on this, yes?
    It should be said that most metrics agree that Jeter did actually have an above-average defensive year in 2009. That in itself is an achievement. Along with his bat, Jeter may have put up the second-best age-35 season for a shortstop in the modern era of baseball. So there’s that.
    But Zone Rating has been shown to be a horribly inaccurate defensive statistic, completely outclassed by every other mentioned statistic there. You can’t just pick one obsolete statistic and use it to prove everything else is wrong. It’s like using RBIs to show a .800 OPS player is a better hitter than a 1.000 OPS player.
    Paul isn’t saying that Jeter is the worst defensive shortstop to ever take the field. Not even close. He simply compiled a list of the total defensive runs given away, and Jeter is 8th-worst. A lot of this has to do with simply how many innings Jeter has played at the position. It’s astounding. If you believe that, over his career, Jeter is a below-average shortstop, then nearly 20,000 innings of (overall) below-average defensive play at shortstop simply adds up. I would bet dollars to donuts that there are hundreds of shortstops who, if you made them play the position for as long as Jeter has, would put up far worse defensive statistics. Carlos Guillen comes to mind. Imagine Nomar at shortstop past age 30. But Jeter remains viable (below average, but still viable) in the field, so he keeps accumulating below-average defensive statistics.

    AndrewYF March 18, 2011, 1:20 pm
  • I had to look up who Murray Chass was…and I still don’t get the reference.
    It’s cool though andrew. I hope I am someday as bad at something as Jeter is at playing defense. :)

    krueg March 18, 2011, 1:38 pm
  • I did a little more digging…I see. I think the difference is I just really don’t CARE about all these stats because I really don’t care that deeply about baseball…
    I just think it’s silly to try and find someway to denegrate Jeter over, and over, and over, and over again. Is the guy Ozzie Smith? No. Is he one of the 10 worst of all-time? Come on. Seriously?

    krueg March 18, 2011, 1:42 pm
  • Understood Andrew, both on value of the specific stats I cherry-picked and on the cumulative impact of a very long career of below average defense, though in Jeter’s case, I’m not sure that further explanation comes into play yet since – if I understand correctly – the most recent years, when one would expect deterioration and therefore a dragging down of career stats, are in fact among Jeter’s best years – defensive-stat-wise that is.
    Of course, Jeter is not just standing still and reliably fielding the balls that are hit right at him. And for whatever the attacks on his lateral range, particularly to his left, the guy’s reliability in effectively reaching balls vertically – both charging and going into the outfield – has always seemed strong, at least as judged by watching the games — not sure if range stats get disagregated for different vectors.
    Regardless, while it’s sort of a shame that Paul’s insightful post has turned into yet another Jeter-debate (there’s a lot more interesting suff in here to discuss, pull apart, and argue about), it’s also what you can fully predict would happen when the urge to gratuitously bash Jeter is once again not resisted.

    IronHorse (YF) March 18, 2011, 2:25 pm
  • “…Regardless, while it’s sort of a shame that Paul’s insightful post has turned into yet another Jeter-debate (there’s a lot more interesting suff in here to discuss, pull apart, and argue about), it’s also what you can fully predict would happen when the urge to gratuitously bash Jeter is once again not resisted….”
    well perhaps i’m partly to blame for that IH…as i pointed out, i thought the post would have a different focus until i saw an entire paragraph devoted to jeter’s defensive inadequacies…something we’ve discussed ad nauseam on too many previous occasions…i said the last time we debated that i would resist defending jeter…it’s pointless…but alas, like paul, i couldn’t resist…it may be discounted by others that he only fields cleanly those balls he gets to, while many other balls, that presumably other ss’s would have fielded, skip by him, but i say so what?…if statistics show that jeter has limited range laterally compared to others that play the same position, who cares?…the way i continue to look at this is that it’s a team game…every player has some sort of weakness…once we can accept that, we have to decide does that players weakness materially hurt the team, or does his overall contribution offset that to the extent that the total package is a net asset and help produce the desired results…the fact that jeter has generally been considered, even by the same folks that think his defense sucks, a key contributor to the yankees success over the past 16 years, and the same consensus thinks he is a first ballot hall of famer, is all i need to know…since i guess it’s open-season again on taking jabs at each other’s teams, i’m wondering how many for sure hall of famers are on this current version of the red sox…how about 0, unless you throw in the manager who will be a sentimental favorite for ending the 86 year drought in ’04, followed up by the encore in ’07, as if to prove the first one wasn’t a fluke…

    dc March 19, 2011, 9:23 am
  • Andrew hits the nail on the head with regards to this metric. It’s like saying Tim Wakefield is the best Red Sox pitcher of all time because he has the most wins. He’s just had plenty of time to accumulate them all.
    Jeter may be a poor defender, but nobody is saying that he sucks overall. He’s always had a fantastic bat and most Sox fans would have loved to have him on their team for the last 16 seasons (with the exception of 2010).

    Atheose - SF March 21, 2011, 1:00 pm
  • i’m wondering how many for sure hall of famers are on this current version of the red sox…how about 0
    Come on, DC.
    If the Red Sox went out and paid Jr and a few other 40yr old HOFers out of retirement, would that make them a better team? :)

    Brad March 21, 2011, 2:30 pm
  • I also don’t think anyone is “taking jabs” at anyone here.
    Paul listed a bunch of stats that portrayed Jeter in bad light. Should he have ignored the fact that Jeter appeared on the list just to avoid the pissing match from his fans?
    If Paul had said “Jeter isn’t on this list, but I still think he sucks”, I’d get behind the “jabs” comment, but I don’t think he was doing that. He’s only listing more stats to back up an argument that we are all aware of his stance on.

    Brad March 21, 2011, 2:36 pm
  • “…I also don’t think anyone is “taking jabs” at anyone here. …”
    sure it is brad…it’s a whole paragraph devoted to jeter…we keep hearing it over and over, again, and again, and again…if that’s not jabbing, i don’t know what is…we get it…
    “…If the Red Sox went out and paid Jr and a few other 40yr old HOFers out of retirement, would that make them a better team? :) …”
    nah, you’re right, you guys just keep hanging on to guys like wakefield, varitek, beckett, and papi ;)

    dc March 21, 2011, 3:26 pm
  • nah, you’re right, you guys just keep hanging on to guys like wakefield, varitek, beckett, and papi ;)
    We will. I mean, everyone needs a backup catcher, a guy capable of throwing 160 inning a year for less than 3M bucks, a guy who still hits 30HR a year, and a pitcher capable of winning any game he starts. I hardly think keeping Beckett and Ortiz could classify as “hanging onto”. That’s just stupid. It’s like me saying that the Yankees are “hanging on” to AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain, right?
    If you wanna like Jeter’s defensive skill set, then fine. Most don’t, and that’s their choice too. Where is the issue here? The baseball world isn’t out to get Jeter, just poke holes in the logic most use to assess him. Just like they do with every single other player.
    “sure it is brad…it’s a whole paragraph devoted to jeter”
    It is YFvSF. How boring would it be to discuss the defensive liability of the Brewers players? Jeter making this list not only further solidifies the argument against Jeter, but it’s also something that gets the folks on this site talking.
    I don’t care one way or the other. I love that Jeter is still the SS in New York, and have made no secret of that.

    Brad March 21, 2011, 4:03 pm
  • “…If you wanna like Jeter’s defensive skill set, then fine. …”
    i didn’t say that brad, but if putting those words in my mouth makes you feel better about your argument, fine…all i said was that paul and others continue to harp about jeter’s defensive flaw, his range…i’m just saying that some of us, well me anyway, are tired of hearing about it…what could have been a thought provoking post about defensive metrics in general with the opening line: “…Fangraphs has added a helpful weighted defensive aggregate number that takes into account the four popular defensive metrics out there right now….”
    suddenly turned into yet another obsessive indictment of jeter’s flaw, with a whole paragraph devoted to that one player…if you read my earlier comments, i said “so what” that he is lacking in one area…the overall package is sufficient to have led to a hall of fame career…it’s the same tired argument repackaged over and over every week or so…and yes, it might be boring to discuss brewers players, so we could discuss how the red sox bullpen blew 21 saves last season [8 of them by your closer] and ranked 23rd in bullpen era…i mean, there are other topics right?…

    dc March 21, 2011, 4:36 pm
  • it’s the same tired argument repackaged over and over every week or so…and yes, it might be boring to discuss brewers players, so we could discuss how the red sox bullpen blew 21 saves last season [8 of them by your closer] and ranked 23rd in bullpen era…i mean, there are other topics right?…
    Yeah, I suppose you win. Can’t argue that at all.

    Brad March 22, 2011, 8:48 am
  • so we could discuss how the red sox bullpen blew 21 saves last season [8 of them by your closer] and ranked 23rd in bullpen era…i mean, there are other topics right?…
    dc, are you saying that the Sox-fan moderators on this site don’t criticize the Red Sox? Because they do that plenty.

    Atheose - SF March 22, 2011, 3:02 pm
  • No, he’s not. He’s diverting the attention away from Jeter by screaming “well look, the Red Sox suck too” mantra.
    Paul presented statistical evidence that upheld his, and most folks, belief that the only thing worse than Jeter’s range and ability to field the ball is his contract, so in retort, dc sank to the ‘ol “i know you are but what am I” game.
    He even goes as far as to call the Red Sox “hanging on” to players like Papi and Beckett who are both clearly past their primes, regardless of the Red Sox notorious reputaion for not showing loyalty to anyone and cutting ties nearly every instance when a player moves past what he once was.
    But, whatever: I’ve said it dozens of times: I absolutely love the fact that Derek Jeter is still playing SS (and now batting 2nd no less) in NY.

    Brad March 22, 2011, 3:12 pm
  • when in reality, this post wasn’t meant to harp on Derek Jeter (at least, that’s not how I took it), but any evidence ever presented in the history of presenting evidence that suggests Derek Jeter in negative light is immediately met with resistance and temper tantrums.
    Red Sox suck!!

    Brad March 22, 2011, 3:14 pm
  • go back and read what i said before you comment guys…id never said jeter’s game wasn’t flawed…really, it’s there…
    “…dc, are you saying that the Sox-fan moderators on this site don’t criticize the Red Sox? Because they do that plenty….”
    no ath, i’m just saying that a disproportionate amount of space is devoted to jeter criticism, and it’s getting old…i mean, what’s the point?…jeter envy?…he wins an award so you discredit it…i understand that…but there are other topics to discuss, including those that don’t paint the sox in such a flattering light…i only threw the bullpen topic out as an example…show me the post where that was discussed…
    “…No, he’s not. He’s diverting the attention away from Jeter by screaming “well look, the Red Sox suck too” mantra. Paul presented statistical evidence that upheld his, and most folks, belief that the only thing worse than Jeter’s range and ability to field the ball is his contract, so in retort, dc sank to the ‘ol “i know you are but what am I” game….”
    boo, brad…not fair to pull that diversion, speaking of diversions…the fact that you suggest that i was “diverting the attention away from Jeter” indicates that you agree with my complaint…a generic, potentially interesting discussion of defensive metrics digressed into yet another tired commentary on jeter’s shortcomings…yawn…come on man, you and i have come a long way, let’s not regress…like you indicated, this site is about arguing the merits of our respective teams, hopefully objectively…let’s talk about how joba’s been messed up some more, or your potential disaster at catcher, whatever…and i didn’t say that the post was “intended” to harp on jeter at its inception, but a whole paragraph, really?…just like a whole post to discuss arod’s popcorn eating habits all seems a bit obsessive…you had to bring up the contract…sheesh…sometimes we have contracts that don’t seem so good…if you want to talk about who’s contract is a potential albatross, you still have beckett as exhibit A, since i guess you guys are finally done paying julio lugo…we had that discussion too…jeter is overpaid, but it’s as much for the legacy and sensitivity to what the fans want…you guys have cut ties rather easily with former players, but it’s been a long time since you’ve had a player of his stature, and no one during the henry regime comes to mind…but it’s your right to disagree…that’s fair…frankly all of the jeter bashing suggests, to me anyway, that he is still very relevant, and very much on the minds of sox fans…you’re enjoying his decline…can’t say as i blame you…i’ve enjoyed watching papi struggle, beckett have a lost year, varitek become irrelevant, and papelbon implode…good stuff if you’re a fan of the other team…

    dc March 22, 2011, 5:03 pm
  • You summed up the way I’ve felt about all this stuff in that one post.
    Well done dc.
    (beginning the slow clap to build to a standing ovation…)

    krueg March 22, 2011, 11:39 pm
  • aww, dc. You should know me well enough to know when I’m just busting your balls, bro.
    And yes, the Jeter argument is tiresome and like the payroll one, never goes anywhere, but that doesn’t diminish the effort Paul put forth in this post. In fact, I think the stat is very interesting, no matter who it points out.

    Brad March 23, 2011, 1:26 pm
  • Jeter >>> new age defensive statistics
    ;)

    krueg March 23, 2011, 2:26 pm
  • My goodness. Sorry I missed all the fun. I was out of town for a few days, and sick/injured family members have kept me off the grid for a couple more.
    I don’t think I really have all that much to add, except that Andrew hits the nail on the head regarding defensive stats in general and Jeter in particular. Regarding one point Krueg made about the Gold Glove voters, I’ll reiterate a point I made toward the end of another of these debates: The Gold Glove voters once gave an award to Rafael Palmeiro, who had played all but 18 games at designated hitter. Pointing to their judgment to defend Jeter is like pointing to Sarah Palin to defend John McCain’s decision-making prowess.
    I didn’t intend to make this a big Jeter debate, though I guess I figured some would object to the things I said about him. I intended that as kind of a final word, so I’ll let it stand.
    I was hoping people would discuss more the prospects for the Sox and Yanks defensively in the coming year. Will there be improvements, regression, stagnation? Who is going to surprise us, either for good or bad?
    The numbers make me pretty excited. I think it was either Cameron or Keri in a Fangraphs chat who said that the Red Sox could have the best defense in baseball; these numbers don’t make me reject that possibility. I think the key would be how good Ellsbury truly is — he’s had two full seasons, one with great numbers and one with poor ones — and how well Youkilis takes to playing third base full-time.

    Paul SF March 23, 2011, 2:58 pm
  • “The Gold Glove voters once gave an award to Rafael Palmeiro, who had played all but 18 games at designated hitter. Pointing to their judgment to defend Jeter is like pointing to Sarah Palin to defend John McCain’s decision-making prowess.”
    Right. So you and your stat-folks know more about players than the men who actually play/coach the game at the highest level? Interesting.

    krueg March 23, 2011, 3:57 pm
  • So you and your stat-folks know more about players than the men who actually play/coach the game at the highest level? Interesting.
    Well, I think I know enough to avoid giving the Gold Glove to a designated hitter. Your appeal to authority essentially means that we should trust “the men who actually play/coach the game at the highest level” that Rafael Palmeiro was so good in his 18 games as a first basemen that he deserved his award.
    Or, perhaps we could recognize that those who coach/manage have more important jobs than considering the best defenders at every position on the diamond, especially since the majority of them play for teams they will see only a handful of times over a six-month period.
    Perhaps they don’t have much time left over after dealing with clubhouse issues, injury concerns, lineup decisions and in-game strategy for their own teams to consider whether Alexei Ramirez is a better shortstop than Derek Jeter. Perhaps, given the maximum number of times they see any one opposing player in the field is 18, they don’t have that great a view of who has consistently been good over the course of 162 games and who has not.
    Terry Francona will see Derek Jeter in the field no more than 18 times in 2011. He then will be asked to decide based on those 18 games — in which Jeter may be injured, slumping, making adjustments or simply not have all that many balls hit to him — whether he is better or worse than 12 other starting shortstops, none of whom he has seen for any longer, and nine of whom he has seen significantly less, some as few as six times.
    Is your argument that because Terry Francona is a very good manager, he can accurately rank the AL’s 15 starting first basemen, 15 starting second basemen, 15 starting shortstops, 15 starting third basemen, 15 starting catchers, 45 starting outfielders and 75 starting pitchers in order of defense based on seeing them in no more than 10 percent of their games while he manages his own team?

    Paul SF March 23, 2011, 4:37 pm
  • Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. And I think you are really selling Francona short if.
    And when it comes to Raffy…well mistakes are made. Maybe it was a mistake to give Jeter the Gold Glove, but I find it hard to believe these men have so little integrity, that they just choose sentimental favorites?

    krueg March 23, 2011, 6:49 pm
  • couple of final thoughts:
    i did think the post overall was good work as usual paul…in fact i said so in the closing line of my first comment…
    no brad, i didn’t realize you were kidding…sorry man…losing my touch…
    gold glove?…yeah, i’ve said it has minimal value…ignoring the palmiero fiasco for a second [who obviously won that one on reputation], i guess it still can be an indicator that a guy plays good defense…before all this zone stuff came along, all voters understood was number of errors, fielding percentage, top 10 highlights, stuff like that…jeter ranks fairly well with that criteria…kind of like the mvp used to be given to the player with the most hrs and rbi’s, even on a losing team…
    jeter in general? all i really asked for was a short moratorium on jeter’s defensive inadequacies, because we get the point…he’s still a key contributor to the yankees success over the past 16 seasons, and apparently still very popular:
    http://aol.sportingnews.com/mlb/story/2011-03-23/derek-jeter-tops-list-of-mlbs-best-selling-jerseys
    i’m fairly certain that this entered into the yankees thinking when they resigned him to an above market value contract…he’s popular, has played well, his hustle has never been questioned, and as far as we know his reputation is spotless…

    dc March 24, 2011, 7:51 am
  • paul, i do have a technical question about “zone”…is it 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional?…i ask that, partly tongue in cheek, because taking 2nd base for a moment as an example, cano is listed as 6 ft, while ped is listed as 5-9 [maybe in high heels ;) kidding]…anyway, if the 2nd base “zone” is simply a flat 2 dimensional square or triangle laid on the field, it does not take into account those balls that a taller infielder might reach, in essence expanding his zone, much like the guys with better lateral range expand the width of their zone…i guess i’m saying that a more accurate metric would take into account the 3rd dimension…no?

    dc March 24, 2011, 8:05 am
  • DC, good question. I looked it up. Fangraphs has an excellent UZR primer, which says that line drives and popups on the infield are ignored because who fields or doesn’t field them pretty much depends on luck.
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-fangraphs-uzr-primer/#8

    Paul SF March 24, 2011, 9:29 am
  • I find it hard to believe these men have so little integrity
    It’s not about integrity. It’s about reputation when there isn’t enough time or inclination to look at anything else. As we all know, some reputations are deserved, and some are not.

    Paul SF March 24, 2011, 10:23 am
  • Weren’t the Sox supposed to have the best defense in history last year? How’d that work out? Weren’t they supposed to be a pitching and defense masterpiece? Where did they rank inn both at the end of the year?
    The left side is very weak IMO. When’s the last time Youk was a full time 3B? Scutaro is trending in the wrong direction. And Crawford’s range is completely wasted in Fenway.
    Meanwhile what the heck are they thinking at C? How long before Saltys yips resurface?
    Playing in Fenestration the Sox live and die on offense.

    Michel Richy March 24, 2011, 10:57 am
  • How’d that work out?
    You must have missed the part where their starting first baseman, second baseman, left fielder and center fielder all had season-ending injuries while their starting shortstop and right fielder played through injuries for which they otherwise would have missed time.
    I’m curious about this “completely wasted” thing with Crawford, given 1. range includes side-to-side movement, not just ability to go back on balls and 2. the Red Sox will play half their games outside of Fenway. Whatever the case, the fact that he’s too good for Fenway, which is essentially the argument, does not equate to a “very weak” left side. Neither does Scutaro’s “trend” of -1, 9, 7, -4 ADR since 2007 indicate anything other than the aforementioned injuries he played through.
    Youkilis, as I said, is the only big question on the left side, and he’s played third base on a full-time basis as recently as 2009, when he spent half the season there in place of Mike Lowell and provided positive defensive numbers. I think there’s a non-outrageous expectation that he can be league average defensively at third, which is all the Sox need.

    Paul SF March 24, 2011, 11:15 am
  • Right you can’t predict baseball. And exactly why the guys you’re counting on for 100 wins can’t be counted on. Scutaro isn’t going to get healthier. Ellsbury is suddenly going to turn it around when they signed Cameron to replace him in CF? Yuouk is going to be no where close to his previous self. Catcher is a huge blind spot and has been.
    Plus you need consistent pitching. I don’t see it. Lester is great but Buchholz was hit lucky. How can you predict what you’ll get from the rest?

    Michel Richy March 24, 2011, 12:00 pm
  • exactly why the guys you’re counting on for 100 wins can’t be counted on
    Yayyyy, strawman!

    Paul SF March 24, 2011, 1:00 pm
  • oy ;)
    thanks paul for the link re. “vertical zone”, i guess i’ll call it…

    dc March 24, 2011, 1:57 pm
  • I find it hard to believe these men have so little integrity
    It’s not about integrity. It’s about reputation when there isn’t enough time or inclination to look at anything else. As we all know, some reputations are deserved, and some are not.
    i.e. Jeter sucks defensively, right???
    I’m not saying he’s the best, but he certainly isn’t the worst. These same stats say Tex isn’t a great firstbaseman…which is why I put no credence in them. They just seem like a haven for haters.

    krueg March 24, 2011, 2:26 pm

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