Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tigers Outfielders Among Zone Rating Leaders

In my previous post where I showed how the Tigers and four other top American League contenders ranked on several statistical categories, we saw that the Tigers finished 4th in the league in Revised Zone Rating (RZR). We also learned rhat the Tigers outfield ranked number one in the league and that their infield ranked in the middle (7th). In this article, I'll break out zone rating for each of the Tigers regulars.

Zone Rating and Revised Zone Rating were invented by John Dewan, who is now the President of Baseball Info Solutions. The Zone for a whole team is the area on the field in which at least half of the batted balls are converted into outs. Each position has its own zone and RZR is the proportion of balls in a fielder's zone that he successfully turns into outs. Contrary to popular myth, Zone Rating does indeed penalize players for making errors as errors are not outs.

The data in the the table below were extracted from The Hardball Times database. They illustrate that there have been 193 balls hit into Brandon Inge's zone (BIZ). He has turned 136 of them into outs (plays). This comes out to a .705 RZR. Those are not all the plays he made though. He also turned 32 balls outside of his zone into outs (OOZ) but they are not included in the RZR calculation. Also notice that there are 22 qualifying MLB third basemen reaching a minmum number of innings (Qual) and that he ranks 7th. So he is in the top third at his position on this statistic.

Placido Polanco also ranks well among second basemen - 8th out of 23 qualifiers. Carlos Guillen does not rank as well - 15th out of 27 - but he is not doing quite as poorly as his errors make him look. Sean Casey ranks 17 out of 25 but, to be fair, I'll mention that this statistic does not take into account throws taken from infielders, something which seems to be a strength for him.

Magglio Ordonez has noticeably improved his defense this year and this stat shows it. He has sucessfully handled nearly 95% of the plays in his zone which is the best in baseball. Curtis Granderson has handled 94% of plays in the center field zone which is good for second best in the majors to Andruw Jones. Granderson has also caught 45 balls outside his zone which is among the most in baseball. Craig Monroe ranks 10th among 18 left fielders but has caught more balls outside his zone than any other left fielder. So the Tigers outfielders are doing quite well and this is likely helping the pitching staff quite a bit.

While I think Revised Zone Rating is the best statistic available during the season for evaluating defense, it is not a perfect statistic. It does not take into account where balls are hit in the zone as it treats all balls in the zone the same regardless of difficulty. It also does not consider how hard balls were hit. There are statistics such as David Pinto's Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR) which do take these issues into consideration but they are not published until after the season.

Table: Tigers Zone Rating Ranks as of July 8, 2007

Pos

Player

Qual

Rank

BIZ

Plays

RZR

OOZ

1B

Casey

25

17

94

67

.713

16

2B

Polanco

23

8

171

146

.854

23

3B

Inge

22

7

193

136

.705

32

SS

Guillen

27

15

195

157

.805

27

LF

Monroe

18

10

121

103

.851

30

CF

Granderson

21

2

213

200

.939

45

RF

Ordonez

25

1

137

130

.949

19

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