Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barton and Davis Lead First Basemen in Fielding in 2010

In part four of my series on fielding metrics for 2010, I'll take a look at first basemen.  Other parts of the series can be seen here:

Series intro and third basemen
Second basemen

The table below looks at four fielding measures and takes the average for each player.  For a more detailed explanation, you can look at the Series intro and third basemen article.

First, you should keep in mind that the advanced fielding metrics don't work as well for first basemen as they might for other infielders because they don't address the ability of a first baseman to take throws from infielders.  That being said, the overall leader was Darin Barton of the Athletics at 12 runs better than average.  He did better on the pure statistical measures (20, 12, 10) than he did on the Fan Scouting Report (5).

The National League leader was Mets rookie Ike Davis at 8 runs better than average.  Like Barton, Davis fared better on the metrics (13, 10, 4) than on the fan voting (3).

Gold Glove winners Albert Pujols (3) of the Cardinals and Mark Teixeira (2) did just a little better than the average first baseman.  They did, however, do better on the fan survey (8) than any of their peers.  So, the fans once again agreed with the managers and coaches who made the Gold Glove selections.  So far they have agreed at every position except for AL shortstop.

As for our own Miguel Cabrera, the metrics all ranked him below average (-8, -6, -5), while the fans gave him a +1. Personally, I think his range is pretty good, but he doesn't always use it wisely.  He frequently goes too far to get balls which the second baseman should be handling.  

Table 1: Aggregating Fielding Measures for First Basemen in 2010


  1. This is somewhat related but can you explain how the ESPN zone rating stats are so different from any other ratings system. http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/fielding/_/sort/zoneRating These seem almost completely backwards to me for nearly every position.

  2. Zone Rating is an old stat with some important flaws. I'm going to pull an excerpt from my book (with some parts chopped out to keep it shorter) to explain it:

    The calculation of ZR for a given player considers three factors: The number of balls hit into his
    zone while he is in the game (balls in zone), the number of balls in the zone that he converts into
    outs (plays made in zone) and the number of plays outside his zone that he converts to outs
    (plays made outside of zone). ZR is computed as follows:

    total plays made = plays made in zone + plays made outside of zone
    ZR= (total plays made)/(balls in zone + plays made outside of zone)

    Simply stated, ZR is the percentage of balls in a player's zone that he converts into outs plus
    extra credit for plays he makes outside his zone.

    While ZR is an improvement over RF, it is still flawed. Let’s say that Shortstop A has 400 balls
    hit into his zone, converts 350 into outs, and also makes 40 plays outside his zone. Next, assume
    that Shortstop B has 400 balls hit into his zone, converts 370 into outs and makes 20 plays
    outside his zone. The zone ratings for these shortstops are calculated below:

    Shortstop A: ZR = (350 + 40)/(400 + 40) = .886
    Shortstop B: ZR = (370 + 20)/(400 + 20) = .929

    Both shortstops have the same number of in zone opportunities (400) and make the same number
    of plays (390) but shortstop B has a significantly higher ZR. This example shows that if a
    relatively large proportion of a fielder’s successful plays are out of zone plays, then he may be
    undervalued by ZR. Such a scenario may sometimes be due to player positioning. The ZR
    statistic assumes that a player is positioned in the middle of his zone at the beginning of a play.
    If a player is frequently positioned outside the zone or at the edge of the zone before a play starts,
    then he will make more out of zone plays but will also make fewer in zone plays similar to
    Player A. The ZR formula unfairly penalizes such a player by adding his out of zone plays to his
    number of opportunities.


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