Sunday, December 01, 2013

Tigers Will Not Miss Prince Fielder's Glove

In previous posts, I looked at the Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and Out-of-Zone Plays (OOZ) metrics listed at FanGraphs.  Links to these posts are provided below:
Now, for the first basemen.  Table 1 below contains the following information for 20 MLB first basemen with 800 or more innings in 2013:
  • Inn = Innings
  • RZR = Revised Zone Rating
  • OOZ = Out-of-Zone Plays
  • PIZAA =  Plays in Zone Above Average
  • OOZAA = Out-of-Zone Plays Above Average
  • PMAA = Total Plays Above Average
  • RSAA = Runs Saved Above Average
Note that these statistics do not account for plays made receiving throws from infielders which is among the most important duties of a first baseman. They only consider performance on ground balls.  The top defenders in the majors in 2013 according to these measures were Cubs first sacker Anthony Rizzo (+23 RSAA) and Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks (+13).

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder was last in MLB with -19 RSAA.  Not surprisingly, he was less horrible on in-zone plays (-7 plays below average) than out-of-zone plays (-16).  While Fielder rated below average on most advanced metrics, there is some disagreement as to how bad he was: -4 on Total Zone, -7 on FRAA and -13 on DRS. 

Based on RSAA, the combination of Fielder at first and Miguel Cabrera at third was a whopping -43 runs below average in 2013.  So, theoretically, the Tigers could have added four more wins if the two were just average defenders. Cabrera should be moving to first base next year with young Nick Castellanos perhaps taking over at third.  Neither is likely to be a good defender at his new position, but each should be significantly better than the extremes we saw last year.  It is reasonable to think that they could be a 30-run or three-win upgrade defensively over 2013 between the two of them.     

Table 1: Runs Saved by MLB First Basemen According to RZR, OOZ, 2013

Player
Team
Inn
RZR
OOZ
PIZ AA
OOZ AA
PMAA
RSAA
Anthony Rizzo
CHC
1,415
.871
43
13
16
29
23
Paul Goldschmidt
ARI
1,446
.817
40
4
12
16
13
Freddie Freeman
ATL
1,290
.808
39
1
14
15
12
Joey Votto
CIN
1,430
.805
39
1
11
12
10
Brandon Belt
SFG
1,174
.859
26
8
3
12
9
Nick Swisher
CLE
910
.833
21
5
3
9
7
Mitch Moreland
TEX
1,176
.811
28
1
5
7
5
Mike Napoli
BOS
1,097
.876
15
12
-6
6
5
Adrian Gonzalez
LAD
1,291
.846
23
7
-2
5
4
Justin Morneau
- -
1,189
.823
24
4
1
5
4
Lyle Overbay
NYY
1,031
.767
29
-5
9
4
3
Mark Trumbo
LAA
1,030
.780
25
-4
5
1
1
Brandon Moss
OAK
801
.764
17
-4
2
-2
-2
James Loney
TBR
1,277
.796
23
-1
-2
-3
-2
Todd Helton
COL
910
.767
18
-5
0
-5
-4
Chris Davis
BAL
1,377
.799
20
-1
-6
-7
-6
Adam LaRoche
WSN
1,272
.793
19
-2
-5
-7
-6
Justin Smoak
SEA
1,084
.828
8
4
-13
-9
-7
Eric Hosmer
KCR
1,372
.805
16
1
-10
-10
-8
Prince Fielder
DET
1,323
.770
9
-7
-16
-24
-19
   Data Source: FanGraphs.com

11 comments:

  1. Perhaps, but I'm betting that the Rangers have big plans for Prince. I wouldn't be surprised if they challenge him to improve his game and compete for a Gold Glove as well as to significantly improve his offensive game.

    How about a Gold Glove and leading the league in HRs? He can do that with the right coaches if he really applies himself. I think that's the dream they are chasing. Texas surely has big plans and I think they expect to shock the baseball world when everybody sees what they can do with Prince Fielder.

    This could be his big breakout year. I think he can do it.

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  2. I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about Fielder winning a Gold Glove!

    As for his offense, I think he'll hit better next year, but I don't think he'll reach the level he did in his best years in Milwaukee. He can do what he wants though. There are better ways for the Tigers to spend that money and I'm curious to see what they come up with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well you don't have to worry cause you're a Tigers fan and he's Texas' fortune or problem now. But even if he isn't the top scorer on some metrics, if he is having a huge year with the bat then he will get extra consideration in the voting process. And his defensive upside is huge, plus his downside of not improving or getting worse is very real as a possibility. If you are Texas though, you don't do this trade if you think he is going to fail, you do this trade because you have a Fielding Coach who says I KNOW I can improve his game because this is what I saw on Tiger film that convinces me I KNOW I will get a LOT more out of him. That's easy to see.

      Same with the bat and offensive problems. They either have 2 separate specialists to help him with each, or one guru mentor that can help him with both simultaneously.

      I think it's easy to see ways how to help him with his approach in both offense and defense as well as general mental focus and attitude among other intangibles that he didn't learn or get instilled properly during his time in Detroit.

      I'm expecting Prince Fielder to look like a completely different player with BOTH the glove and the bat next year.

      Delete
    2. Hi Strategy Expert: I think it's fair to put an upper bound on what kind of defensive improvement might possibly be in store for Prince. He certainly has room for improvement in glove work and positioning, and that would help his PIZAA. But I don't see anyway his range is going to improve from last year's dismal OOZAA. I mean, everything I've read about Prince says he already trains very hard in the off-season. There's just no way around the fact he is a stout, slow-footed man who is not getting any younger. Not only have the Tigers improved *every* infield position with the trade, they've also improved their base running situation considerably with Castellanos, Kinsler, and a full season from Iglesias. Cheers, Kevin

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    3. Well I'm not sure what you mean by an "upper limit". I don't know what you are quantifying that as or how. So whatever this upper limit is, the question is how much actual improvement does Prince achieve from where he is. That's the amount that is relevant here, and without having some kind of clarity and definition as to what an "upper limit" represents, then we have no way of knowing what that means in relation to where he is starting from en route to performing better. The way I see it is there is a large margin to pick-up there, and the only question is just how large of an amount can be obtained.

      I don't know people are saying about his range or how hard he works out in the off-season. Playing 1B has a lot more to do than just working out, he needs to train at 1st Base, and that's something I think has been a major deficiency for our players here, is the lack of training. He needs to spend time learning how to play 1B, and if he plays it the right way then he is fully capable of becoming a fantastic player. But he has to know how to think and how to move, and once he has that then he won't have anything else to stop him from performing well.

      I'm not asking Prince to transform his body shape, I'm asking him to not worry about that stuff and what everybody else believes are reasons why he can't play 1B, because I don't see his body shape or being "stout" as hindering him from succeeding. Those are lame excuses that can be overcome by smarter thinking and better technical playing.

      Sounds like you like the trade and see a lot of benefit, so I'm happy that you are happy with the trade, but from a baseball perspective I don't see this trade as anything other than an extremely huge loser. This was a massive loss to the franchise on an overall basis when you consider ALL factors as well as ALL options that they had available.

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    4. You can certainly make a case about Fielder turning it around and putting up some great numbers offensively.

      There is nothing about Fielder which suggests he'll ever be anything close to a gold glove fielder though. His upside is probably average defensive first baseman and he'll need to come a long way just to do that.

      Anyway, Fielder was not a good fit for the Tigers and I love that they were able to move his contract (assuming they use that money to improve the team elsewhere).

      Delete
    5. Well whatever Kinsler is worth, we could have traded Fielder to somebody else for another Kinsler equivalent. So then that shifts to a discussion of why trade for Kinsler as opposed to other logical targets? I don't like the Kinsler choice even after not liking the choice to trade Prince and right now.

      But as far as what Prince can or will accomplish, that's a moot point for us to debate. it all starts with Prince and where he is at and what he wants to accomplish at this point, and everything is predicated upon where he is coming from and aiming to go. I haven't talked to Prince ever, so I have no idea where he is at or what his plan is. I'm just speculating and going based upon what I know and what I feel confident is applicable.

      I happen to believe that Prince strikes me as the kind of guy who could find himself in a place of wanting to get better with both elements of the game. And as long as he wants it bad enough and has the right people to help him with his goals and his mind and the technicalities of his play, then this is clearly to me an opportunity to convert on a mega-value trade, and to me that is extremely smart baseball. It's up to the Rangers now to be on the same page with Prince and get it done. That's on them, but the principles of the strategy and the logic of the strategy is all I can really chime in about as an outsider.

      Delete
  3. Awesome post @thestrategyexpert!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much K-dog!

      Well I watched every game very closely and I know this team could have done a lot better with how they managed their players, and I just think there was a better option than to trade Prince, especially at this juncture in time. This was just a perfect deal for Texas. They have the IFs to make it very nice to get rid of the Kinsler contract, while picking up that nice big chunk of $30MM for the rights to Prince who fill fit in nicely at 1B. If Prince can get his mind in the right place, then he can improve both sides tremendously with the right help. Texas needs to have the right people working with him to keep him focused and motivated and wanting to improve. They should be able to do some good work there and show everybody that this was a huge value deal that gives them prime position to compete for a title run.

      I'm already not liking the fact that Brad Ausmus didn't stop this deal from happening and see the value of keeping him and working with him, while still maintaining a trade option for later plus one that very likely would only get better if we progressed with him during Spring Training.

      But this could also be a situation where it was Brad's idea to do a deal like this. I just have a fundamentally differing view of this whole situation and I'm really disappointed.

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  4. Fister traded. Just clearing out money that would have been spent on him during the rest of the decade so that they can free up room for other big contracts. I think they will still deal AJ to free up more future dollars and then target Ellsbury since I have just think that's the guy DD wants. But if the Yankees can't figure out a deal for Cano, then I wouldn't be shocked to see the Tigers sign Cano instead and then package AJ with Kinsler for OF help via trade.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And 1 player being traded for 3...well nobody can dispute our flexibility now!

      Delete

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