November 18, 2008
BASEBALL: Jeter and Everett
I just located online Bill James' article from the Fielding Bible following the 2005 season using Derek Jeter and Adam Everett to illustrate different approaches to evaluating shortstop defense. It's an excellent read, as always. From the conclusions:
All three systems agree that Jeter has extremely limited range in terms of getting to groundballs - and all three systems provide essentially the same statement of the cost of that limitation. It is very, very difficult for me to understand how all three systems can be reaching the same conclusion, unless that conclusion is true. It's sort of like if you have a videotape of the suspect holding up a bank and shooting the clerk, and you have his fingerprints on the murder weapon, and you recover items taken in the robbery from his garage. Maybe the videotape is not clear; it could be somebody who looks a lot like him. Maybe there is some other explanation for his fingerprints on the murder weapon. Maybe there is some other explanation for the bags of money in his garage. It is REALLY difficult to accept that there is some other explanation for all three.
[W]e have not exhausted the issue of defense. There are other elements of defense which could still be considered - turning the double play, and helping out other fielders, and defending against base advancement, I suppose. The defensive ratings that we have produced, while they are derived from meticulous research, might still be subject to park illusions, to influences of playing on different types of teams, and from influences by teammates. There is still a vast amount of research that needs to be done about fielding.
(Note: I assume James, a Kansas University basketball fan, was just drawing a momentary blank when he professed not to know who the worst free throw shooter in NBA history was).
"John’s henchmen at Baseball Info Solutions had watched video from every major league game, and had recorded every ball off the bat by the direction in which it was hit (the vector) the type of hit (groundball, flyball, line-drive, popup, mob hit, etc.) and by how hard the ball was hit (softly hit, medium, hard hit). Given every vector and every type of hit, they assigned a percentage probability that the ball would result in an out, and then they had analyzed the outcomes to determine who was best at turning hit balls into outs. One of their conclusions was that Derek Jeter was probably the least effective defensive player in the major leagues, at any position."
I've gone on record here before about not being a big fan of defensive statistics apart from errors. The above method comes -close- to acceptable (the percentage probability seems very arbitrary, for example).
Here's my question: when they assigned a percentage probability on whether it would be an out, did they take into consideration where the short-stop happened to be positioned on that play? I would think that would be an important factor.
And yes, I was joking when I said that Jeter got shafted for MVP. :)
Still, he is a Yankee, and that should ALWAYS give a player higher consideration.
No, their system looks at the % of balls hit to each spot that become outs, league-wide. As James notes in his example, that means Jeter has an advantage over Everett on balls hit shallow where Jeter usually plays, and Everett has the advantage on balls back on the grass where Everett usually plays (Ripken, who was never the most graceful SS, was a master of playing deep and relying on his arm to make those plays). But it should work out to the advantage of the guy who puts himself in the best position.
interestingly, PMR suggest that Jeter made substaintial improvement this year. where he was mearly below average, instead of a abosalute attrocity.
it's also interesting that Jeter gave a intereview early in 08 that for the first time seem to reply to the online accusation that he sucks at fielding. ... coincidence? maybe he played deeper this year.
My Pirates were considered to be once of the worst fielding teams in MLB last year primarly based on BABIP (BA for Balls in Play). Of course their pitchers also gave up league highs (or close to it) in HRs and Walks plus were near the bottom in KOs. So besides the fielding, the pitchers stunk it up as well.
However I think of each player by position, I am hardpressed to see why the Bucs were so bad. The number of errors was not too bad (they started out with alot of errors). They turned alot of DPs (might have led the league). So why were they bad? Was it a range issue or a positioning issue?
I might just have to buy the Fielding Guide when it comes out next year to do some analysis. Based on how the TB Rays made such a turnaround in the number of runs allowed due to better fielding, maybe my Bucs could make a substantial improvement this way as well.
I swear to god that if Derek Jeter played 162 games/year against the Red Sox people would think he was Ozzie Freaking Smith.