Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fielding Bible Versus Gold Gloves

EDIT: A commenter pointed out that I listed the NL Gold Gloves incorrectly in my original post.  I had inadvertently listed the 2012 awards previously, so I have edited the table at the bottom the post with the correct 2013 awards.  It turns out that there is now agreement on 12 of the 18 positions which is pretty good.  It's always a positive thing when the stat people are in agreement with the baseball people as they should be learning from each other.  So, the results are encouraging. 

Fielding statistics have made progress over the past decade, but there is still a good deal of work to be done.  Newer statistics such Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Fielding Runs Above Average tell us more than errors and fielding percentage, but they don’t work as well as hitting stats such as On Base Percentage and Slugging Average. Questions arise because different fielding systems, 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 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, developed an interesting approach to the evaluation of fielding performance a few years ago.  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 and he includes them in the Bill James Handbook. 

The way the Fielding Bible Awards work is each of 12 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 2012 season in great detail, former major league outfielder Doug Glanville and knowledgable fans who participated in the Tom Tango Fan Scouting Report.

The only Tigers finishing in the top ten among all players in both leagues at their positions were shortstop Jose Iglesias finishing ninth (Bill James and the fans both had him second) and left fielder Andy Dirks with the fifth highest vote total.  The only other Tigers getting any votes were second baseman Omar Infante (13th) and center fielder Austin Jackson (12th). 

In contrast to the Fielding Bible awards, the Gold Gloves have historically been selected by managers and coaches.  This year, managers and coaches still voted, but a statistical component was also added.  So, I thought it would be interesting to see how the two awards compared.

Of the 18 positions, nine in each league, the Fielding Bible matched the Gold Glove in 8 cases.  The matches are shown in blue and the mismatches in red in Table 1 below.  The biggest disagreement in the American League was in center field were Orioles fly catcher Adam Jones won a Gold Glove, but finished 10th in the AL in the Fielding Bible vote.  He finished below average on both Total Zone (-15) and Defensive Runs Saved (-2) which explains why he did not do well on the more statistically oriented Fielding Bible Award.  First place finisher in the AL on the Fielding Bible vote was Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox finished +21 and +13 on the metrics. 

In the National League, the biggest discrepancy was at shortstop where Gold Glove winner Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies failed to get any votes in the Fielding Bible vote.  Rollins rated poorly on both Total Zone (-8) and Defensive Runs Saved (-15).  Fielding Bible winner Andrelton Simmons of the Braves was an astounding +30 and +41 on the metrics.   The 34-year-old Rollins used to do very well on the fielding metrics and may have received his fourth Gold Glove based on reputation or past performance.

So, are the Fielding Bible Awards better than the Gold Glove?  I like them because I believe they are less biased by reputation.  However, I do value the input of managers and coaches in the Gold Glove voting and they are trying to work some statistics into the process.  At the very least, the Fielding Bible is a nice complement to the available quantitative data and an interesting alternative to the Gold Glove Awards. I believe they are a significant contribution to the ongoing quest to more accurately assess fielding performance.

Table 1: Fielding Bibles Versus Gold Glove Awards, 2013



Fielding Bible
Gold Glove
Position
AL
NL
AL
NL
Catcher
Salvador Perez
Yadier Molina
Salvador Perez
Yadier Molina
First base
Mike Napoli
Paul Goldschmidt
Eric Hosmer
Paul Goldschmidt
Second base
Dustin Pedroia
Darwin Barney
Dustin Pedroia
Brandon Phillips
Shortstop
Elvis Andrus
Andrelton Simmons
J.J. Hardy
Andrelton Simmons
Third base
Manny Machado
Nolan Arenado
Manny Machado
Nolan Arenado
Left field
Alex Gordon
Starling Marte
Alex Gordon
Carlos Gonzalez
Center field
Jacoby Ellsbury
Carlos Gomez
Adam Jones
Carlos Gomez
Right field
Shane Victorino
Gerardo Parra
Shane Victorino
Gerado Parra
Pitcher
R.A. Dickey
Zack Greinke
R.A. Dickey
Adam Wainwright
 

3 comments:

  1. Fascinating list, good stuff and summary.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Am I missing something? These are the Gold Glove winners in an mlb.com article dated 10/29/2013. These are also the same winners given by SB Nation.

    C Salvador Perez, KC Yadier Molina, STL
    1B Eric Hosmer, KC Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
    2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS Brandon Phillips, CIN
    SS J.J. Hardy, BAL Andrelton Simmons, ATL
    3B Manny Machado, BAL Nolan Arenado, COL
    LF Alex Gordon, KC Carlos Gonzalez, COL
    CF Adam Jones, BAL Carlos Gomez, MIL
    RF Shane Victorino, BOS Gerardo Parra, ARI
    P R.A. Dickey, TOR Adam Wainwright, STL

    As many names as you have wrong, it's no surprise you think the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible don't agree. And the Fielding Bible award is only given to one player at each position for all of Major League Baseball.(fieldingbible.com) So I have no idea how you would match the award recipients to see if the two systems agree. This just seems to be terrible research.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mr Anonymous:

    (1) I inadvertently took the 2012 Gold Gloves for the NL from the Baseball-Reference site. Thanks for pointing that out.

    (2) The Fielding Bible only gives one award, but the Bill James Handbook gives the list of votes at each position, so it's easy to figure out who the league winners were.

    (3) I'm not saying this for me, but there is no need to go around telling people they do terrible research. I see stuff like that all the time on web sites and it's annoying. Most of the people that have sites like this have full-time jobs that have nothing to do with baseball and they are doing the baseball work for free. If you see something that's not right, just calmly tell them. 99 out of 100 times they'll be grateful.

    ReplyDelete

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