Friday, October 31, 2014

Ian Kinsler Finishes Second in Fielding Bible Voting

Ian Kinsler handled second base deftly in his first year as a Tiger.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Fielding statistics have made progress over the past decade, but there is still a good deal of work to be done.  Advanced statistics such as Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Total Zone 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 as he considers them a complement to the statistics in his book: The Fielding Bible.

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 2014 season in great detail, former major league outfielder Doug Glanville and knowledgeable fans who participated in Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report.   

You can see the final results including how each panelist voted at The Fielding Bible site.  Table 1 below shows that the only Tiger finishing in the top ten in the major leagues was second baseman Ian Kinsler.  The first-year Bengal garnered 98 out of a possible 120 points in the voting to place second only to Red Sox second sacker Dustin Pedroia.  Kinsler received first place votes from writer NBC Sports writer Joe Posnanski and ESPN analyst Brian Kenny. 

It was a little surprising that catcher Alex Avila - just 4 points in an 18th place ranking - did not do better in the voting.  Avila ranked second in an aggregation of statistics for stopping the running game, pitch blocking and avoiding errors.  However, he dropped to 15th when pitch framing was added.  So, maybe the voters put a lot of emphasis on that.  

Do the Fielding Bible Awards work better than statistics? I don't know, but they are 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: How the Detroit Tigers Ranked on Fielding Bible Awards
Points (120 Max)
MLB Rank
Alex Avila
First base
Miguel Cabrera
Second base
Ian Kinsler
Third base
Nick Castellanos
Andrew Romine
Eugenio Suarez
Left field
Rajai Davis
Left field
JD Martinez
Center field
Austin Jackson
Right field
Torii Hunter
Data Source: The Fielding Bible


  1. What terrible defense. Iglesias can't get here too soon. More balls are hit to short and then second. Having outstanding defense there will help temper mediocre to terrible defense everywhere else. Interesting that Rajai was ranked second on the team here. I've seen him ranked last in LF in other surveys.

  2. Davis is a fundamentally poor fielder, but he makes up for some of that with his speed. I think he's probably an average defender overall especially when you compare him to other left fielders who are usually bad.

    Yes, their defense has been awful for two years. Iglesias will help and I hope they improve their outfield defense as well.

  3. Well, at least we've got a decent defensive outfielder in Dirks coming back next, wait...



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