Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tigers Rank Well in Fielding Bible Awards

Fielding statistics have come a long way over the past couple of decades and have now reached the point where they are fairly useful evaluation tools. Certainly the Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR) is better than range factor which in turn tells us more than fielding percentage. However, there are still many gaps. Fielding stats like PMR and Zone Rating don’t work as well as hitting stats such as On Base Percentage and slugging Percentage. Questions arise because systems such as Zone Rating, Ultimate Zone rating and PMR 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 still 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, has developed an interesting new approach to the evaluation of fielding performance. 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 the Fielding Bible.


The way the Fielding Bible Awards work is each of 10 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 2006 season in great detail, advisors employed by Major League baseball teams and knowledgable fans who participated in the Tom Tango Fan Poll.


You can see the final results including how each panelist voted (something you don’t see in the Gold Glove award voting) in The Bill James Handbook 2007. Table 1 below, shows how the Tiger players ranked. Four Tigers finished in the top ten in the Major Leagues including Pudge Rodriguez who finished first receiving 96 out of 100 possible points for catchers. Other Tigers in the top ten were Placido Polanco (ranked 8th among second baemen) , Brandon Inge (6th among third basemen) and Curtis Granderson (5th among center fielders).


Do the Fielding Bible Awards work better than stats? That’s hard to say as this is the first year of the awards and much work needs to be done to see how well these awards correlate with fielding stats and whether they close any gaps. At the very least, the awards are a nice complement to the available quantitative data. I think 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 (100 Max)

MLB Rank

Catcher

Rodriguez

96

1

First base

Casey

7

14

First base

Shelton

2

19

Second base

Polanco

31

8

Third base

Inge

56

6

Shortstop

Guillen

0

Unranked

Left field

Monroe

3

19

Center field

Granderson

35

5

Right field

Ordonez

2

22

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