Friday, March 06, 2009

The Fielding Bible

I received my copy of the 2009 Fielding Bible this week and I am quite pleased with the content this year. In the first volume of the Fielding Bible published in 2006, it was billed as a breakthrough analysis but it really wasn't much different from what Mitchel Lichtman (Ultimate Zone Rating) and David Pinto (Probabilistic Model of Range) had already created. In fact, most analysts considered Lichtman's system to be better. The value of the original Fielding Bible was in the presentation. John Dewan explained the Plus/Minus fielding system in a way that was more accessible than other systems. In fact, when asked how the UZR system works, Lichtman once responded by telling people read the Fielding Bible.

The 2009 version of the Fielding Bible does actually include some features that you can't find elsewhere. For example, Bill James introduces a system of Defensive Misplays which is based on both sabermetrics and scouting. The way it works is Baseball Info Solutions Video Scouts carefully and repeatedly watch every single play of the season and determine how many misplays each fielder makes. They go far beyond just counting errors. For example, if an fielder bobbles a grounder on a potential double play ball, and only gets one out instead of two, he gets charged with a misplay. If an outfielder fails to anticipate the wall and lets a catchable ball hit it, then it's a misplay. The system recognizes 54 separate misplays.

In addition to misplays, their system also counts good plays. James defines a Good Fielding Play as "a play that is made when it appears most likely that it can not be made". Some examples of good plays are infielders fielding ground balls which looked like they would get through for hits or outfielders reaching over the fence to catch balls that would have been homers. Their system includes 27 different kinds of good plays.

New Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira made more good fielding plays (93) in 2008 than any other fielder in the majors. Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds made the most misplays (67). Net Fielding Plays are calculated by subtracting misplays from good plays. Teixeira had the highest Net in 2008 with +71. The best Tiger was Placido Polanco at +18.

They also converted +/- (Plays Made Above Average) to Defensive Runs Saved, something they had not done in the original version. The new Tigers defense looks very strong based on Defensive Runs Saved. Even with his injuries woes the past couple of years, Adam Everett was the leading shortstop with +48 Runs Saved between 2006-2008. Other Tigers among the leaders were:

Placido Polanco (+30) - fourth among MLB second basemen.
Brandon Inge (+39) - fifth among third baseman.
Gerald Laird (+15) - fifth on the list of catchers.
Curtis Granderson (+14) - tenth best center fielder.

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