Friday, October 31, 2014

Ian Kinsler Finishes Second in Fielding Bible Voting

Ian Kinsler handled second base deftly in his first year as a Tiger.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Fielding statistics have made progress over the past decade, but there is still a good deal of work to be done.  Advanced statistics such as Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Total Zone tell us more than errors and fielding percentage, but they don’t work as well as hitting stats such as On Base Percentage and Slugging Average. Questions arise because different fielding systems, which are supposed to measure the same thing (how efficiently players turn balls in play into outs), sometimes disagree substantially on individual players.

It’s clear that a fair amount of subjective input and interpretation of available data is needed to accurately evaluate fielding performance. With this in mind, John Dewan, owner of Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) and long time leader in the sabermetric community, developed an interesting approach to the evaluation of fielding performance a few years ago.  Rather than relying solely on statistics, he put together a “panel of experts” to select the best fielders at each position. He calls it the Fielding Bible Awards as he considers them a complement to the statistics in his book: The Fielding Bible.

The way the Fielding Bible Awards work is each of 12 voters ranks 10 players at each position. A player gets 10 points for a first place vote, 9 points for a second place vote, etc. Among the voters were several prominent sabermetricians including Dewan, Bill James and Rob Neyer, BIS video scouts who studied every single game of the 2014 season in great detail, former major league outfielder Doug Glanville and knowledgeable fans who participated in Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report.   

You can see the final results including how each panelist voted at The Fielding Bible site.  Table 1 below shows that the only Tiger finishing in the top ten in the major leagues was second baseman Ian Kinsler.  The first-year Bengal garnered 98 out of a possible 120 points in the voting to place second only to Red Sox second sacker Dustin Pedroia.  Kinsler received first place votes from writer NBC Sports writer Joe Posnanski and ESPN analyst Brian Kenny. 

It was a little surprising that catcher Alex Avila - just 4 points in an 18th place ranking - did not do better in the voting.  Avila ranked second in an aggregation of statistics for stopping the running game, pitch blocking and avoiding errors.  However, he dropped to 15th when pitch framing was added.  So, maybe the voters put a lot of emphasis on that.  

Do the Fielding Bible Awards work better than statistics? I don't know, but they are a nice complement to the available quantitative data and an interesting alternative to the Gold Glove Awards.  I believe they are a significant contribution to the ongoing quest to more accurately assess fielding performance.

Table 1: How the Detroit Tigers Ranked on Fielding Bible Awards
Position
Player
Points (120 Max)
MLB Rank
Catcher
Alex Avila
4
18
First base
Miguel Cabrera
1
21
Second base
Ian Kinsler
98
2
Third base
Nick Castellanos
0
--
Shortstop
Andrew Romine
0
--
Shortstop
Eugenio Suarez
0
--
Left field
Rajai Davis
7
12
Left field
JD Martinez
0
--
Center field
Austin Jackson
1
19
Right field
Torii Hunter
0
--
Data Source: The Fielding Bible


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Catcher Defense Without Framing

Yesterday, I presented statistics on catcher defense and ranked MLB catchers on total run saved.  I used five components to arrive at the total:

  • Stopping the running game
  • Pitch blocking
  • Avoiding fielding errors
  • Avoiding throwing errors
  • Pitch framing or receiving

One commenter wanted to see how catchers ranked without the pitch framing.  It makes sense to look at it both ways since pitch framing is a new area and still a work in progress.  So, for those who aren't ready to fully embrace pitch framing metrics or are a little concerned about how they differ from site to site, the ranks based on the first four components are shown in Table 1 below.

Keeping in mind that this table leaves out a lot of a catcher's responsibilities such as receiving pitches and pitches and pitcher management, Alex Avila was the American League leader with 10.9 runs saved.  The MLB leader was Yadier Molina of the Cardinals (12.3).

Table 1: Catcher Runs Saved Leaders (Pitch framing excluded), 2014  
Player
Team
Inn
Running Game
Pitch Blocking
Throwing Errors
Fielding Errors
Total
Yadier Molina
STL
931
5.7
5.2
0.8
0.6
12.3
Alex Avila
DET
1,017
4.3
6.0
0.4
0.1
10.9
Robinson Chirinos
TEX
784
5.7
2.7
0.0
0.5
9.0
Brian McCann
NYY
889
4.9
0.7
0.8
0.6
6.9
Russell Martin
PIT
940
6.8
-0.6
0.0
0.6
6.8
Wilson Ramos
WSN
775
3.1
3.4
0.3
-0.0
6.8
Caleb Joseph
BAL
672
4.7
1.0
0.4
-0.1
6.0
Buster Posey
SFG
929
1.3
4.3
0.3
0.1
6.0
Jonathan Lucroy
MIL
1,182
-1.0
4.8
0.9
0.2
5.0
Rene Rivera
SDP
734
5.2
-0.2
-0.6
-0.0
4.3
Carlos Ruiz
PHI
960
0.1
3.6
0.6
-0.4
3.9
Kurt Suzuki
MIN
1,017
-1.4
3.5
0.4
0.6
3.2
Devin Mesoraco
CIN
936
-0.5
2.5
0.8
0.1
2.9
Salvador Perez
KCR
1,248
1.7
1.2
-0.4
0.3
2.8
Yan Gomes
CLE
1,082
2.9
1.6
-2.0
0.2
2.6
Welington Castillo
CHC
916
3.1
-0.3
0.2
-0.4
2.5
Miguel Montero
ARI
1,152
0.9
2.2
-0.8
-0.8
1.5
Ryan Hanigan
TBR
603
-1.5
1.7
0.6
0.4
1.2
Dioner Navarro
TOR
907
-3.1
2.1
0.5
0.6
0.1
Chris Iannetta
LAA
835
1.2
-2.5
0.7
0.5
-0.1
A.J. Ellis
LAD
773
-0.9
0.6
0.6
-0.5
-0.2
Jose Molina
TBR
628
-0.1
-1.0
0.4
0.4
-0.4
Tyler Flowers
CHW
1,052
1.3
-3.0
-0.1
0.2
-1.7
Jason Castro
HOU
971
-3.4
0.4
0.9
-0.4
-2.5
Hank Conger
LAA
637
-1.5
-0.3
-0.7
-0.1
-2.7
Mike Zunino
SEA
1,121
0.6
-4.9
0.6
0.2
-3.5
Derek Norris
OAK
870
-4.8
0.2
-0.1
0.0
-4.7
Travis d'Arnaud
NYM
909
-3.5
-2.4
-0.9
0.1
-6.7
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
MIA
922
-4.6
-0.2
-2.5
0.1
-7.3
Evan Gattis
ATL
799
-3.1
-4.9
0.1
-0.0
-8.0
Yasmani Grandal
SDP
607
-5.2
-3.3
0.1
-0.1
-8.5
A.J. Pierzynski
BOS/STL
721
-9.2
0.2
-0.0
0.4
-8.6
Wilin Rosario
COL
824
-3.1
-5.2
-0.2
-0.5
-9.0

Data source: Baseball-Reference

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