Defense over the last Twenty Years
After finally getting my defensive analysis work in a more simplified form and setting it up smoothly for everyone to use, we began to discuss the possibility of re-working all the players for whom Zone Rating (ZR) was available. Trying to go to a website and cut and paste twenty years of data was simply too daunting of a task.
A book came out a while back calledBaseball Hacks
. In it, there were descriptions of how to retrieve information from the series of tubes called the internets. It can pull data, in an efficient fashion. That’s not really that difficult. I know many programmers that have always done this with just a few hours of writing code. I couldn’t find the book, but someone read it and figured it wasn’t going to be too difficult.
A couple of weeks ago, Primate SG in ATL sent RallyMonkey and me all the data from 1987 through 2005. Completely out of the blue. His contribution is going to allow us to look at defensive runs by season, career, career-progression for players, improvement and decline, greatest seasons, worst seasons and more.
There were a few gaps, but after going through the data a few times, Rally and SG and I found the omissions and filled in the blanks. Using the methodology published linked above, the defensive runs saved are calculated and now I’m going to put out a few pieces looking at who the top and bottom performers have been. I’ve managed to adjust my spreadsheets so I can do this much quicker than in the past, but really, this would not have been possible without SG’s initiative and fantastic effort. A round of applause for him.
Yes, soon I will reveal just how bad, or just how good, Derek Jeter has been over his entire career.
Just a few notes: the data from 1987 seems wonky to me. The League ZRs are a bit high. I suspect that original data isn’t perfect. However, the relativity within that season looks fine. There doesn’t appear to be numbers well out of trend at all. I suspect that is some issue with the original raw data.
The data you will be presented, and yes, eventually, you will get all the data in a spreadsheet for your own good times, as “Runs Saved Above Average at Position for the Playing Time”, abbreviated RSpt. Basically, there are 1440-1460 innings for a team in a season. Each player will be compared to how many runs an average fielder would save in the same number of innings played.
Where do we want to start? The names? The positions? The leaders? The teams?
I think we’ll start with the names. Who is first? Well, it seems to me the best place to start is with the best defensive player of all-time. I am one of Ozzie Smith’s biggest detractors. I suppose the only person whose defense I consider as overrated as Ozzie’s is Andruw Jones, but when the title awarded is “Greatest of All Time”, it really isn’t difficult to be called “overrated”. That’s a very high rating.
I always have thought the Wizard of Oz was a great fielder. One of the best. My position has generally been that while he is a great fielder, he is not some defensive god that is somehow unapproachable by any other defensive player. Yes, he had lots of assists and a big range factor (RF), but he also always got a lot of ground balls hit to shortstop. Garry Templeton had some great RFs in St. Louis and San Diego also.
We don’t have ZR for Ozzie’s peak. He was a stellar defensive player from 1978-1986 and thirty years old before I get to see his first defensive ratings. As MGL and Tango have noted, defensive skills decline like offensive skills do, so it is a reasonable assertion to think that whatever numbers we see for Ozzie, we can assume that his peak was slightly higher, and the seasons we have are somewhat during his decline.
For Oz, we have 10 seasons and 10,000 innings played. From 1987 to 2005, no other shortstop in baseball saved as many runs above average as did Ozzie Smith. Over his career, and based on the gap between Ozzie and nearly every other shortstop, it is more than reasonably argued that he is the greatest fielding shortstop of all time. And again, this is almost all decline phase – or past-peak nonetheless. I think he was on a plateau for a decade. In the NL, the closest shortstop over his career was still more than fifty runs behind.
For the decade, Ozzie was 130 RSpt. Going through the data, it is quite amazing that any player stands that far above his peers.
YEAR POS NAME TEAM LG GP INN RSpt RS/150
1987 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 158 1356.3 12 12
1988 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 150 1330.0 22 23
1989 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 153 1336.3 23 23
1990 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 140 1203.3 23 26
1991 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 150 1253.3 16 17
1992 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 132 1156.3 13 15
1993 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 134 1138.3 16 19
1994 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 96 822.0 -3 -5
1995 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 41 343.3 3 10
1996 SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 52 443.7 5 17
10 yrs SS Ozzie Smith StL NL 1206 10383.0 130 156
Posted: August 16, 2006 at 01:45 AM | 19 comment(s)
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