FanDuel - WFBC

February 05, 2006

A glove affair: New methods shed light on evaluating defense:

The multitude of new systems and their unfamiliar numbers can frighten even the statistics-friendly baseball fan. It's sort of like voting for eighth-grade president -- the class might be full of young Lincolns, but it takes time to get to know them. We're talking 'bout the next generation, coming of age and waiting for acceptance. The new fielding systems take some time to get to know, it's true. But baseball is a game without a clock, after all. We've got nothing but time.

posted by justgary to baseball at 11:42 PM - 24 comments

This news is 2 1/2 years old. Interesting that these part time stats men steal each others quotes and theories. Argument validity test : 0 Jeter Gold Gloves before the stat men's claim 2 Jeter Gold Gloves (both years) since the argument was proposed.

posted by sandman at 03:36 AM on February 06

I love baseball. Not enough to need a calculator though. Why aren't we provided with a formula?

posted by GoBirds at 04:57 AM on February 06

That is getting a bit too complicated for me. I'm glad, as a baseball fan, that fielding is getting a bit more attention than in the past. So many casual fans of the game (in this fantasy baseball world we live in) are only concerned with hitting that they're often willing to overlook guys who are butchers with the leather. I really respect the guys who do both extremely well, such as Jeter. His range isn't his best attribute, but he's generally rock-solid. He's played shortstop on tremendous, championship teams, all while having to develop instant chemistry with all the different second basemen, and to some extent, third basemen he's been on the field with. Having him as the anchor has been the key to any success the Yankees have had since he came into the league. Fielding, overall, is still taken for granted many times until you're stuck with someone who makes too many errors.

posted by dyams at 07:20 AM on February 06

Both interesting articles, justgary and sandman. While I mostly dislike Jeter for other inexplicable reasons, I've always had the impression that his on-field acrobatics were more fluff than actual necessity. Granted, sometimes a baserunner sliding into second with cleats-up necessitates a triple-axle back-handspring with a twist of lemon but, for me, the over-all range and consistency of a fielder is much more important. That's why I liked Ryne Sandberg over that splits-loving Mark Grace.

posted by redsnare at 10:14 AM on February 06

"Why aren't we provided with a formula?" Here's the formula: X > Jeter, where X is anything you can think of -- the speed of light, your grandmother's recipe for marmalade cookies, or Rob Neyer's blindly irresponsible journalism. The avenues of progress these "scientists" of baseball make all seem to end at Jeter, which can't help but lead one to the conclusion that they are starting (as was freely admitted in sandman's article) with at-best a tilt to a premise and at worst a pre-drawn conclusion. Who would you rather have, a player who has good range but makes some errors, or a player who has poor range but does not make many errors? Clearly the former. Clearly? Really? Great job by the writer of delivering a seriously-flawed premise into the article. This purportedly black-and-white question ignores so many dynamics of baseball fielding that go beyond a number of errors. These are the kinds of bad theories that, combined with the consistent use of Jeter as a target, make these statistical analyses look like nothing more than a witch hunt. Emeigh found that it is not always that Jeter is not getting to balls, but that sometimes balls are not getting to him. He is not sure why this is the case, but suggests that perhaps the Yankees realize Jeter is not a very good fielder and set their defense to minimize his number of attempts. I don't even know how to respond to something that stupid, and I probably shouldn't for fear of dignifying it. I would like to build a scientific equation around this quote: Mike Emeigh knows a lot more about baseball than anyone you're likely to meet. Dubious. I am a Jeter fan, but not a blind devotee. Because the subject is Jeter, who is the shortstop of the Yankees, any study like this is likely to be emotionally polarizing... and that makes great news in the sleepy days of baseball's off-season. But, while I enjoy playing with baseball statistics now and then as much as anybody, my view is that the people who are trying to turn every element of baseball into a black-and-white mathematical equation are to be eyed with the same scepticism as the guy who loves Star Trek so much he won't stop dressing and speaking like Dr. Spock.

posted by BullpenPro at 11:07 AM on February 06

Right, but that means your argument boils down to: no evidence can contradict what I see when I watch games.

posted by yerfatma at 11:55 AM on February 06

Uh... yeah. And the flaw in that is...? Are you suggesting that the Yankees and YES Network are using green-screen technology to make Jeter appear better than he is? If they can do that, I wish they would use the same gimmick to make Randy Johnson easier to look at. Yeesh.

posted by BullpenPro at 12:10 PM on February 06

Basically, the shorter period of time that a player has been in the majors, the more weight we should give scouting over stats. That is probably the most important sentence in the entire article. Despite my reputation on SpoFi as a "stats" guy, I think this best represents my point of view. As well, I think the corollary also applies: The longer period of time that a player has been in the majors, the more weight we should give stats over scouting. All that aside, I think we can pretty much agree to this statement: Jeter:defence::Bonds:Hall-of-Fame

posted by grum@work at 12:26 PM on February 06

That is probably the most important sentence in the entire article. I couldn't agree more. I had intended to make that same point, but never got there. Very well said, grum. I also agree with your corollary TO A POINT. This is almost certainly obvious to you, but I feel it is important to point out that a critical eye must be used to determine what stats are being presented and what is purported to be measured in it (e.g. "Player X is a bad hitter because his BA is .250," when in fact Player X might be considered, by some, a great hitter because he bats in the 2-hole, has a .400 OBP, and unfailingly hits ground balls to the right side with a runner on second and no outs -- thus BA, in and of itself, might not be the best measurement of that player's abilities). As for your "reputation...as a "stats" guy," I just want to say that, in my brief Spo-Fi experience, you seem to bring a fair and measured balance of stats and analysis, and I hope that you don't view my concerns with "stats abuse" as a pointed attack.

posted by BullpenPro at 12:59 PM on February 06

Uh... yeah. And the flaw in that is...? You've yet to demonstrate why your opinion is any more valid than the next person's.

posted by yerfatma at 01:01 PM on February 06

He's played shortstop on tremendous, championship teams, all while having to develop instant chemistry with all the different second basemen, and to some extent, third basemen he's been on the field with. My memory of the late 90s is cloudy altogether, but I seem to remember a pretty stable infield during the Yankees' championship run. Once they started changing the lineup around Jeter, they stopped winning championships. So I'm not sure that this statement makes a whole lot of sense. And though this may not be *clearly* the case, I agree that we can't judge the talent of defenders purely by error percentage. Should I take to a major league infield someday soon, I could field the balls hit right at me but I'm sure there would be all kinds of ground balls I wouldn't even be able to attempt a play on - I'd be out of position or not athletic enough to reach them. A somewhat more talented fielder would get to those balls, maybe making the play on 60% and bungling the rest. Although he'd have more errors than I, there's little doubt that a team would be better off with him afield!

posted by Venicemenace at 01:25 PM on February 06

Yerfatma, I've written three responses to your last comment, and each time I came to the conclusion that I am misinterpreting your argument. So, before I make a jerk out of myself (too late?) can I ask you to elaborate on your response to my comments? All I've done is state my opinion -- I've presented nothing as empirical truth. I disagree with the mathematical analysis of Jeter's defense -- in watching him I have found him to be better-than-average on defense, a position that is supported not only by fans with "Yankee blinders" but also the likes HOF infielder Joe Morgan (who is certainly not a decidedly pro-Yankee announcer) and many other neutral, informed observers. I also have called into question the motives of the individuals who created these formulas, and suggested that their biases (blatantly stated, in some cases) are crafting their conclusions. I may have misinterpreted your first response, which I read as: "no evidence can contradict what one see(s) when one watch(es) games." Help me out here.

posted by BullpenPro at 02:07 PM on February 06

Your intial response was a little stronger than just staing your opinion: Rob Neyer's blindly irresponsible journalism. The avenues of progress these "scientists" of baseball . . . This purportedly black-and-white question ignores so many dynamics of baseball fielding that go beyond a number of errors. These are the kinds of bad theories Etc. The "scientists" you speak of happily agree there is more to fielding analysis than errors (and often errors are a poor indicator of ability). My problem with the "I'll trust my eyes over any metric that doesn't hew to my conclusions" argument (beyond the fact it's the exact same attitude you are currently dismissing) is that no one person watches all games. Nobody following a team can accurately say who the best defender at a position is. There are too many other factors (surrounding fielders, pitchers, etc.) that create noise, there's no good way to say how one player would perform on another team and we're all poisoned a bit by loyalty. That's why I keep an eye out for defensive metrics. Even flawed ones can tell us more than empirical observation. IMHO.

posted by yerfatma at 02:23 PM on February 06

Your intial response was a little stronger than just staing your opinion Seeing as this is an editorial forum, I don't understand how anything that is posted here could be viewed as "stronger" than an opinion. The fact that I don't post the IMHO disclaimer with every comment shouldn't imply that I think it is more than my opinion. My problem with the "I'll trust my eyes over any metric that doesn't hew to my conclusions" argument (beyond the fact it's the exact same attitude you are currently dismissing) is that no one person watches all games. Totally valid point. That no one person watches all games is totally right, and I agree with you that in some cases a statistical analysis can help to fill the gap of games not seen. And I can see why you would see a hypocrisy in my attitude regarding the stats guys. The difference, as I perceive it, is this: the stats guys saw Jeter, concluded that he was not a good fielder, then came up with a formula that supported their position. I saw Jeter, concluded that he was indeed a good fielder, and instead of creating a bogus formula to support my theory I just said that their numbers are screwy. Even if I was smart enough to create such a formula (which, admittedly, I'm not) I wouldn't feel good about doing it because math, by its empirical nature, implies an absolute truth to its conclusions. It's as though you said, "1 + 1 is 2, so A-Rod is good in the clutch." I might be very inclined to say, "Hey, 1 + 1 IS 2, I know this to be fact, so A-Rod MUST be good in the clutch," instead of relying on the very simple observation that A-Rod is kind of not being so good in the clutch. My premise may seem simplistically false, but the way these guys are manipulating defensive statistics is just as ridiculous. If you said that in your observation Jeter sucks defensively, I would dispute that, and we could agree to disagree -- I have no problem with that. When someone tries to introduce bogus numbers designed to promise an empirical truth about something as fluid and antithetical to numbers as defense in baseball, yes, that puts a bee in my shorts. I'm 38, I've seen a pretty good number of baseball games, and a pretty good number of shortstops, and Jeter looks to me to be a lot better than most of them. Just my opinion.

posted by BullpenPro at 03:28 PM on February 06

math, by its empirical nature This confuses me. I'd say the point of statistical analysis is the ability to remove empirical bias. As to your point about stat geeks coming up with the Jeter Sucks theory and then building a case, there may be some truth to that, but in my experience the stat community came after Jeter because the numbers they saw did not support the mass media's fawning over Jeter's play in the field. He's become a much better fielder in the last two years for some reason. Maybe it's the presence of A-Rod at third, maybe it's coaching, maybe it was a personal epiphany. My feeling is Jeter's fielding actually improved recently, not that the numbers improved him.

posted by yerfatma at 04:26 PM on February 06

My feeling is Jeter's fielding actually improved recently, not that the numbers improved him. That's my feeling exactly. Jeter has gone and thrown the stats world into a tizz by actually improving his fielding at the exact same time that the measurements for his fielding have also improved. As someone who has previously thrown stats around to "prove" that he (is/was) a below-average fielder, he's definitely putting up better numbers (depending on the metric) and making my "arguments" weaker by the year. It's like some sort of revenge scenario for him. Bad mouth his fielding and he'll do his darndest to make you look a like a fool. The nice thing about all of the brouhaha about Jeter's fielding is that NONE of it is going to stop him from getting into the HOF. Even those that feel he might be the worst fielder in MLB would still support his election to the HOF.

posted by grum@work at 04:39 PM on February 06

The nice thing about all of the brouhaha about Jeter's fielding is that NONE of it is going to stop him from getting into the HOF. "If I tell him Jeter's still going to the Hall, do you think he'll shut up?" I will, even without the concession. Sorry for commandeering the thread -- these thoughtful debates bring the verbosity right out of me.

posted by BullpenPro at 05:02 PM on February 06

I know you guys are takling about defensive stats but Jeter brings things to the game that don't show up in the stats.

posted by ayankeefan at 09:25 PM on February 06

I know you guys are takling about defensive stats but Jeter brings things to the game that don't show up in the stats. Oh god, it was just a matter of time.

posted by justgary at 09:53 PM on February 06

I know you guys are takling about defensive stats but Jeter brings things to the game that don't show up in the stats. Response #1: Damn it! I had 26-27 hours in the "Jeter's Intangibles Pool". Who had 23-24 hours? Response #2: Wallet? Keys? A change of clothes? A nice looking lady? Please enlighten us.

posted by grum@work at 10:14 PM on February 06

The nice thing about all of the brouhaha about Jeter's fielding is that NONE of it is going to stop him from getting into the HOF. "If I tell him Jeter's still going to the Hall, do you think he'll shut up?" I will, even without the concession. That was not my intention at all. I was simply stating that even though people might thrash back and forth about his fielding, he's still such a good player OVERALL that his HOF induction (unless he goes down the Pete Rose, Steve Howe or Donnie Moore route) should be a sure thing.

posted by grum@work at 10:17 PM on February 06

I know you guys are takling about defensive stats but Jeter brings things to the game that don't show up in the stats. See, the team with the higher number of runs wins the game, and the team with the best ratio of wins to losses wins the division. Those are stats, and I'm sorry to hear that Jeter doesn't contribute to them.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:41 AM on February 07

I know you guys are takling about defensive stats but Jeter ONLY brings things to the game that don't show up in the stats. DrJohn, if you're going to twist someone's words around and misinterpret them, you should at least misquote them for your purposes.

posted by BullpenPro at 01:39 PM on February 07

/The above stated with a wry smile.

posted by BullpenPro at 01:43 PM on February 07

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