Friday, October 31, 2008

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 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
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 Scouting Report.

You can see the final results including how each panelist voted (something you don’t see in the Gold Glove award voting) at The Fielding Bible site. The top vote getters at each position were:


C. Yadier Molina
1B. Albert Pujols
2B. Brandon Phillips
SS. Jimmy Rollins
3B. Adrian Beltre
LF. Carlos Crawford
CF. Carlos Beltran
RF. Franklin Gutierrez
P. Kenny Rogers


Other Tigers on the list included:


2B. Placido Polanco - 6th
CF. Curtis Granderson - 11th


Unfortunately, there were a lot of Tigers who received no votes (not even a 10th place vote) from anybody. This includes, Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Edgar Renteria and Marcus Thames. This highlights the Tigers need to improve their fielding this off-season.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hitting for Average - Part 2

In my previous post, I examined the hitting for average skill of Tigers batters using the following statistics - batting average, contact percentage, strikeouts per at bat and line drive percentage. The purpose of that post was not so much to project into the future but more to see which batters displayed this skill in 2008. Later, I'll look at other skills: power and plate discipline. In this post, I'll present the hitting for average leaders in Major League Baseball in 2008. As before, the data were abstracted from Fan Graphs. Here are the highlights:

  • As most know, Chipper Jones and Albert Pujols were far ahead of the pack in batting average (Table 1).
  • The contact percentage leaders were mostly singles type hitters without a lot of power - Juan Pierre and Jeff Keppinger in the National League and Placido Polanco in the American League. The most powerful hitter in the top ten was Dustin Pedroia (Table 2).
  • The K/AB leaders included many of the same players with Keppinger and Cesar Izturis leading the majors. Polanco was the American League leader (Table 3).
  • Old friend Omar Infante topped the majors in line drive percentage. Jamey Carroll and Ramon Vazquez were the AL leaders (Table 4).
  • Combining all the stats together, the hitting for average leaders were Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones and Joe Mauer. (Table 5).

Table 1: MLB batting average leaders in 2008

player

avg

Chipper Jones

.364

Albert Pujols

.357

Manny Ramirez

.332

Joe Mauer

.328

Dustin Pedroia

.326

Mike Aviles

.325

Matt Holliday

.321

Milton Bradley

.321

Ian Kinsler

.319

Ryan Doumit

.318




Table 2: MLB batting contact percentage leaders in 2008

player

contact %

Juan Pierre

.936

Jeff Keppinger

.935

Brian Giles

.928

Placido Polanco

.927

Cesar Izturis

.926

Dustin Pedroia

.923

David Eckstein

.923

Ryan Theriot

.919

Marco Scutaro

.915

Ichiro Suzuki

.910




Table 3: MLB strikeouts per at bat leaders in 2008

player

K/AB

Jeff Keppinger

.052

Cesar Izturis

.063

Juan Pierre

.064

Yadier Molina

.065

Bengie Molina

.072

Placido Polanco

.074

Casey Kotchman

.074

Yuniesky Betancourt

.075

Dustin Pedroia

.080

Jason Kendall

.087




Table 4: MLB line drive percentage leaders in 2008


player

line drive %

Omar Infante

.301

Jamey Carroll

.273

Ramon Vazquez

.273

Andre Ethier

.266

Ryan Ludwick

.263

Brian Schneider

.257

Denard Span

.257

David Wright

.256

Darin Erstad

.255

John Bowker

.253



Table 5: MLB hitting for average leaders in 2008


player

avg

contact %

K/AB

line drive %

adjusted avg

Albert Pujols

.357

.901

.103

.224

.325

Chipper Jones

.364

.827

.139

.241

.321

Joe Mauer

.328

.908

.093

.226

.316

Dustin Pedroia

.326

.923

.080

.212

.315

Ryan Theriot

.307

.919

.100

.232

.309

Aaron Miles

.317

.909

.098

.210

.308

Cristian Guzman

.316

.883

.098

.225

.308

Ian Kinsler

.319

.867

.129

.242

.308

David DeJesus

.307

.903

.137

.247

.307

Brian Giles

.306

.928

.093

.213

.307

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hitting for Average

I was over at TigsTown recently and they were discussing which Tigers minor leaguers were best at "hitting for average". They judged the players based on scouting and on statistics. From the scouting perspective, they considered qualities such as consistently making solid contact, hitting all different kinds of pitchers and using the whole field. Statistically, they used use items such as batting average, percent of plate appearances that resulted in the batter making contact, batting average on balls in play and strikeouts per at bat. It's premium content so I can not reveal many of the results but I'll mention that second baseman Justin Henry fared well on the hitting for average skill on both scouting tools and statistics.

What I wanted to do here is rate the major league Tigers on hitting for average in 2008. I'm not a scout so I just considered statistics and not tools. Since there are more statistics available for major league players, I used a different algorithm than the one used at TigsTown. I started by looking at batting average. The Tigers 2008 batting averages can be found in Table 1.

Table 1: Tigers Batting Averages in 2008

player

avg

Magglio Ordonez

.317

Placido Polanco

.307

Miguel Cabrera

.292

Carlos Guillen

.286

Curtis Granderson

.280

Edgar Renteria

.270

Marcus Thames

.241

Gary Sheffield

.225

Brandon Inge

.205


The problem with batting average is that what happens after the batter hits the ball is largely out of his control. He can hit line drives that are caught or soft bloopers that escape the grasp of infielders. Often times, these fortunes and misfortunes even out throughout the course of a season but sometimes they don't. Thus, a player's batting average is not repeatable. That is, it varies a lot from season to season (correlation =.43).

A statistic which is much more repeatable than batting average is contact percentage (correlation = .90). Contact% is the percent of balls that a batter swings at which result in the batter making contact. This stat was abstracted from Fan Graphs which has fast developed into one of my favorite sites on the internet. Another contact hitting statistic is strikeouts per at bat which has a year to year correlation of .80. I could have used K/PA instead but the Fan Graphs database doesn't have all the items needed to calculate plate appearances and merging with my other database would have been more trouble than it worth right now. The Tigers leaders on contact% and K/AB are presented in Tables 2 and 3 below.

Tables 2: Contact percentage for Tigers in 2008

player

contact %

Placido Polanco

.927

Carlos Guillen

.862

Edgar Renteria

.856

Magglio Ordonez

.851

Gary Sheffield

.830

Curtis Granderson

.796

Miguel Cabrera

.775

Brandon Inge

.758

Marcus Thames

.743



Table 3: Strikeouts per at bat for Tigers in 2008

player

K/AB

Placido Polanco

.074

Edgar Renteria

.127

Magglio Ordonez

.135

Carlos Guillen

.160

Gary Sheffield

.199

Curtis Granderson

.201

Miguel Cabrera

.205

Brandon Inge

.271

Marcus Thames

.301


It probably comes to no surprise that Placido Polanco led the Tigers in both categories. In fact, he led the American League in both. Contact% and K/AB give us information about ability to make contact but they tell us nothing about how solid the contact was. Line drive percentage helps us there. You can often tell about a batter's fortunes by looking at line drive percentage. A player with a high line drive percentage relative to his batting average is possibly hitting into a lot of hard outs. Conversely, a batter who has a low line drive rate relative to his batting average is possibly getting a lot of cheap hits. The Tigers line drive percentages are listed in Table 4.

Table 4: Line drive percentages for Tigers in 2008


player

line drive %

Edgar Renteria

.222

Magglio Ordonez

.204

Carlos Guillen

.202

Miguel Cabrera

.196

Curtis Granderson

.191

Placido Polanco

.187

Marcus Thames

.170

Brandon Inge

.164

Gary Sheffield

.143


It's a little surprising to see Edgar Renteria's high line drive rate. This suggests that he may have been unlucky and that his batting average rebound might rebound in 2009.

I combined the above four items to arrive at one statistic which describes the hitting for average skill. First, I normalized each number, so that they all had the same scale - an average of 0 and a standard deviation of 1. Then I assigned weights to each statistic denoting their importance. The most important statistic is batting average (after all the skill is called hitting for average) so I gave twice as much weight to batting average as the other numbers:

0.4 x BA + 0.2 x contact% - 0.2 x KPCT + 0.2 x LD%

Finally, I reverse normalized the result so that we get back to the original batting average scale.
The way it works is like this: Edgar Renteria had only a .270 batting average. However, his contact, strikeout and line drive rates were all very good. So, his adjusted batting average goes up to .284. The results for all Tigers are listed in Table 5.

Table 5: Tigers hitting for average summary in 2008

player

avg

contact %

K/AB

line drive %

adjusted avg

Placido Polanco

.307

.927

.074

.187

.304

Magglio Ordonez

.317

.851

.135

.204

.299

Carlos Guillen

.286

.862

.160

.202

.285

Edgar Renteria

.270

.856

.127

.222

.284

Miguel Cabrera

.292

.775

.205

.196

.275

Curtis Granderson

.280

.796

.201

.191

.271

Gary Sheffield

.225

.830

.199

.143

.245

Marcus Thames

.241

.743

.301

.170

.239

Brandon Inge

.205

.758

.271

.164

.227


Renteria and Sheffield both had significantly better adjusted batting averages than real batting averages. Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera had adjusted BA which were signficantly lower that their real averages. Finally, according to this algorithm, Polanco was the most skilled Tiger at hitting for average in 2008 and Brandon Inge was the worst.

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