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Friday, August 18, 2006

Defense over the last Twenty Years - Part TwoTop Career Performances by Position – NL

Top Career Performances by Position – National League Infield

There have been a lot of players over the last twenty seasons in MLB.  Twenty years covers entire careers for even the greatest players.  We’re going to take a look at who the top career performers have been.  Some players haven’t gotten to the decline phase of their careers, but many players have come and gone.

Some players have played multiple positions, and we’ll cover there entire career sooner or later, but usually if you only play a few innings at a given position, you cannot play it so poorly or so well as to affect your career value.

Years of watching baseball would probably allow you to guess at who the top fielders at a given position.  The top fielders get good press and there is usually some accuracy to it.  So who are the best fielders at first?  JT Snow?  Jeff Bagwell?  Second?  Ryno?  Third?  Caminiti?  Shortstop?  Okay, we know number one, but who was second?  Rey Ordonez? 

First Base

At first base, there have been a number of good fielders.  Most first basemen careers end up with 10 runs of average.  Even some of the guys expected to be great.  Jeff Bagwell played 15 years and approximately 18500 innings.  He’s +12 RSpt.  This is about the NL players, so some guys’ totals will be less than you might imagine.  Later we’ll look at both leagues and see if anyone special turns up.  JT Snow played 9000 innings for the San Francisco Giants, and most of them were bad.  He posted –12 RSpt in those 9 seasons.  As I said, we’ll look at Snow’s performance in the AL and overall later.

The best first baseman in the NL over the last twenty years is pretty easy to pick out.  He stands significantly, nearly twice as valuable defensively as the next best.  He played alongside other reputed good defenders, and has been recognized as a good fielder, often given credit for making his teammates look better than they were.

The best NL glove man at first base over the last twenty years is Mark Grace.  The Cub first baseman had to catch lasers from Shawon Dunston and coolly gather in Ryne Sandberg’s work. 

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1988	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	133	1133.7	-1	-2
1989	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	142	1240.3	9	10
1990	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	153	1315.3	6	6
1991	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	160	1404.3	10	10
1992	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	157	1414.0	11	11
1993	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	154	1350.3	12	12
1994	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	103	906.7	3	4
1995	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	143	1268.0	-3	-3
1996	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	141	1218.0	0	0
1997	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	148	1291.0	9	9
1998	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	156	1390.3	0	0
1999	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	160	1380.7	11	11
2000	1B	Mark Grace	ChC	NL	140	1216.3	8	9
2001	1B	Mark Grace	Ari	NL	135	1111.0	-3	-3
2002	1B	Mark Grace	Ari	NL	98	682.0	-4	-9
2003	1B	Mark Grace	Ari	NL	39	268.0	0	2
								
16 yrs	1B	Mark Grace		NL	2162	18590.0	68	5

Yes, that is a cumulative stat, but as noted above, Bagwell played about the same number of innings and saved 56 fewer runs.

Honorable mention in the National League goes to Kevin Young and Sean Casey.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1992	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	1	2.0	0	0
1993	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	135	1057.7	3	4
1994	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	37	141.3	1	11
1995	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	6	39.0	1	31
1997	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	77	576.0	7	16
1998	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	157	1359.0	-3	-3
1999	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	155	1359.7	15	15
2000	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	129	1071.3	-5	-6
2001	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	137	1079.0	8	11
2002	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	144	1131.7	7	8
2003	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	44	200.7	1	8
								
11 yrs	1B	Kevin Young	Pit	NL	1022	8017.3	36	6
YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1998	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	86	683.3	1	2
1999	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	148	1297.0	0	0
2000	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	129	1079.0	4	5
2001	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	136	1127.0	5	6
2002	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	108	935.0	8	11
2003	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	144	1252.7	11	11
2004	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	145	1246.7	6	6
2005	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	134	1139.7	3	3
								
8 yrs	1B	Sean Casey	Cin	NL	1030	8760.3	37	6

Casey has managed to avoid any slumping seasons with the glove.  He hasn’t gotten to his decline phase and has about the same value as Young did in his career.  The gap between Young (36 RSpt) and Grace is nearly the gap between Young and average.  Had Grace retired after his Cubs career, he would have been.

Grace undoubtedly deserves more accolades for his performance.

You can tell that a first baseman simply has difficulty outpacing his peers in the field.  Even after 16 years, the best was just seven wins above average.  But is it “just” seven wins?  We’ll see how much other position players contribute with their glove over a career.  Is 70 RSpt a high value?  We’ve seen Ozzie at nearly double that, but as noted, he was 50-60 RSpt above the next NL shortstop.

Second Base

We all heard about how great Ryne Sandberg was at second, but lookin at how good Grace was, did Grace raise Ryno’s status?  We’ll see.  And who else might have challenged for the best defensive second baseman in the NL over the past two decades?  Is it Robby Thompson?

Sandberg, like Ozzie, played for a few seasons before ZR was kept.  A couple of those seasons would probably add to his score.  In the seasons we have, Sandberg is very good.  He isn’t the best, but none has the innings and quality that he does.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	131	1133.3	-11	-13
1988	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	153	1357.3	-3	-3
1989	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	155	1339.3	-6	-7
1990	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	154	1315.0	3	4
1991	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	157	1375.7	12	12
1992	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	157	1379.3	19	19
1993	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	115	989.0	1	2
1994	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	57	490.7	7	20
1996	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	146	1234.0	6	6
1997	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	126	991.3	10	14
								
10 yrs	2B	Ryne Sandberg	ChC	NL	1351	11605.0	39	4

Sandberg was a very good defensive second baseman.  There was considerable stathead backlash regarding his lateral range, and usually someone would say he has good hands and not so much range, and that Mark Grace was saving his can a lot.  This data shows that Ryno was more than that – over the last twenty years, he’s one of the top five defensive second basemen.

So who is the best?  And how much better is the best second baseman than his peers?  Bear in mind that these numbers do not include the ability to turn the double play, and there are players that excel at that.

The Honorable Mentions go to Luis Castillo and Pokey Reese.  Reese is a good shortstop playing second base, and he played alongside Sean Casey, which certainly helped.  Just like with Ryno.  Castillo is seeing a nice career path and is probably on the decline.  Nonetheless, his excellent work has helped the Marlins to two World Championships.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1996	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	41	352.0	4	16
1997	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	70	575.3	2	4
1998	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	44	378.3	3	11
1999	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	126	1068.3	-1	-1
2000	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	136	1176.3	6	7
2001	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	133	1157.0	3	4
2002	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	144	1258.7	1	1
2003	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	152	1312.3	12	12
2004	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	148	1274.3	12	13
2005	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	120	1012.3	4	6
								
10 yrs	2B	Luis Castillo	Fla	NL	1114	9565.0	47	7
YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1997	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin	NL	8	49.7	1	40
1998	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin	NL	3	14.7	0	-18
1999	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin	NL	147	1223.7	23	26
2000	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin	NL	133	1129.0	13	16
2001	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin	NL	51	407.7	4	14
2002	2B	Pokey Reese	Pit	NL	117	991.3	10	14
2003	2B	Pokey Reese	Pit	NL	33	259.0	4	23
								
7 yrs	2B	Pokey Reese	Cin/Pit	NL	492	4075.0	57	19

It’s a shame Reese couldn’t hit more.  He was a great fielder. 

But enough about the runners-up.  The top fielding second baseman during the last twenty years is the Cardinals’ secret weapon and Ozzie Smith’s keytone partner, Jose Oquendo.  Oquendo seemed like a utility infielder and also played some shortstop pretty well (about 1000 inings over this period).  Oquendo played every position in a game in 1988.  Most of all, he was an excellent second baseman.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	32	195.0	5	37
1988	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	71	530.3	12	31
1989	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	156	1361.7	28	27
1990	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	150	1203.7	17	20
1991	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	118	905.7	17	25
1992	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	9	54.0	-3	-66
1993	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	16	72.3	-1	-18
1994	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	16	125.7	1	12
1995	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	62	417.0	2	7
								
9 yrs	2B	Jose Oquendo	StL	NL	630	4865.3	79	22

Interestingly, the advantage a second baseman provides above the position average is approximately equal to the first baseman’s advantage.  The runners-up also compare to the first base runners-up.  So far, the advantages at the positions isn’t large – possibly 12% or so.

Third Base

If this were data for the 1975-1993 period, I’d feel quite comfortable stating Mike Schmidt was the best.  As it isn’t, I think it is going to be Scott Rolen (I haven’t looked yet). Rolen has been a very good fielder his entire career, and has a good chance at being the top fielder.  Other strong candidates are Terry Pendleton and Matt Williams.  Then there is Ken Caminiti. 

Later we’ll look at how ZR has changed over the last two decades.  Here’s a sneak preview: only third base defense has clearly improved over the period.

To put it bluntly, Caminiti wasn’t that good.  He was pretty good, but he doesn’t compare to the great fielding third basemen of the last twenty seasons.  At all.  Caminiti is +30 RSpt.  That would be pretty good at second base, but third base is a position where teams sometimes undervalue defense in favor of a big bat.  Players like Bobby Bonilla wasted countless (okay, I’ve counted them) at third base, and that gave opponents some substantial gains at the plate.

There are outstanding third basemen who are significantly better than other third basemen.  My cursory guesses were spot on.  Getting the honorable mention slots are Terry Pendleton and Matt Williams.  Pendleton is the third player from the late 80s Cardinals’ infield.  That could mean several things – it was the park, or they were really good.  Ozzie’s reputation was top notch in San Diego and Pendleton was just as good in Atlanta. 

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	3B	Terry Pendleton	StL	NL	158	1385.7	-7	-7
1988	3B	Terry Pendleton	StL	NL	101	863.3	12	18
1989	3B	Terry Pendleton	StL	NL	161	1390.0	22	21
1990	3B	Terry Pendleton	StL	NL	117	1010.0	12	16
1991	3B	Terry Pendleton	Atl	NL	149	1284.7	11	11
1992	3B	Terry Pendleton	Atl	NL	158	1389.0	11	10
1993	3B	Terry Pendleton	Atl	NL	161	1393.7	6	6
1994	3B	Terry Pendleton	Atl	NL	77	677.7	6	11
1995	3B	Terry Pendleton	Fla	NL	130	1129.3	12	14
1996	3B	Terry Pendleton	Fla	NL	108	928.7	6	9
1996	3B	Terry Pendleton	Atl	NL	41	342.3	-2	-7
1997	3B	Terry Pendleton	Cin	NL	32	220.7	0	0
								
12 yrs	3B	Terry Pendleton	StL/Atl/Fla/Cin	NL	1393	12015.0	88	10

Pendleton was an outstanding fielder, but he still is just the third best from his era.  This isn’t comprehensive for his career – Pendleton also played from 1984-1986, but Pendleton is neither likely to move up, nor drop out of the top three.

Coming in second is Matt Williams.  Williams had the reputation of being a good fielder, and he was.  He was good enough to play shortstop on occasion. 

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	17	104.3	0	3
1988	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	43	302.7	2	10
1989	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	76	518.3	16	42
1990	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	159	1373.7	12	12
1991	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	155	1318.7	9	9
1992	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	144	1248.7	9	10
1993	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	144	1276.7	11	12
1994	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	110	965.3	14	20
1995	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	74	642.3	7	15
1996	3B	Matt Williams	SF	NL	92	796.3	6	10
1997	3B	Matt Williams	Cle	AL	151	1285.7	12	12
1998	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	134	1127.7	7	9
1999	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	153	1358.0	2	2
2000	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	94	804.0	7	12
2001	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	102	852.3	-3	-4
2002	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	56	472.0	4	11
2003	3B	Matt Williams	Ari	NL	42	324.7	2	10
								
16 yrs	3B	Matt Williams	SF/Ari	NL	1595	13485.7	107	11
17 yrs	3B	Matt Williams	SF/Cle/Ari	All	1746	14771.3	119	11

Williams was a dominant fielder.  He is well separated from Pendleton, and his RS/150 is one of the best at any position.

The top fielder at third base for the last twenty years is Scott Rolen.  Rolen has always looked stellar in the field, and has struggled through some back problems.  Never the less, Rolen has always been a great fielder.  Even last season when he played only half the season, he had saved more runs in his half season than anyone else did over the entire year.  He’s just a great fielder.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1996	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	37	322.3	3	12
1997	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	155	1337.0	12	12
1998	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	159	1419.0	18	17
1999	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	112	962.3	14	20
2000	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	128	1080.0	16	20
2001	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	151	1329.3	22	22
2002	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi	NL	100	874.0	11	17
2002	3B	Scott Rolen	StL	NL	55	486.0	6	17
2003	3B	Scott Rolen	StL	NL	153	1339.0	-4	-4
2004	3B	Scott Rolen	StL	NL	141	1228.0	15	17
2005	3B	Scott Rolen	StL	NL	56	486.0	10	28
								
11 yrs	3B	Scott Rolen	Phi/StL	NL	1247	10863.0	124	15

Rolen is having a good year in 2006, and he’ll continue to increase his value above the other third basemen.  Rolen’s excellence afield as well as at the plate should have him in line for the Hall of Fame with any normal decline in the next five seasons.  Rolen may well end his career as one of the top handful of third basemen of all time.

Shortstop

We’ve already seen that Ozzie Smith was a remarkable 130 RSpt (17 RS/150) during the downside of his career with the glove.  I mentioned that was much higher than the next player, but who is that?  Let’s take a look at the honorable mention shortstops, as we’ve already crowned the champ.  That isn’t to say the NL was devoid of good fielding shortstops.  There are a couple.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	119	1012.7	6	8
1988	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	148	1279.3	9	10
1989	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	82	690.0	1	2
1990	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	156	1344.0	19	19
1991	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	120	1032.0	5	7
1992	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	140	1208.7	10	11
1993	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	99	846.7	0	0
1994	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	110	960.3	11	15
1995	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	131	1091.7	0	0
1996	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	151	1242.3	-5	-6
1997	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	63	503.7	4	12
1998	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	145	1236.0	11	12
1999	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	161	1373.7	15	15
2000	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	102	845.7	1	1
2001	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	44	341.3	-6	-22
2002	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	135	1090.3	-4	-5
2003	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	60	470.7	3	9
2004	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	85	684.3	-5	-11
								
18 yrs	SS	Barry Larkin	Cin	NL	2051	17253	74	 6

Barry Larkin has great career value at shortstop.  He has the second highest total in the National League, and a significant lead over third.  Had Ozzie Smith been in the AL, Larkin would have a big lead as the top NL shortstop.  It’s impressive to see.  Larkin was a very good fielder for a very long time, and yet his total value at short is just a little better than Mark Grace’s.  It is an interesting phenomenon. 

I think Larkin is a slam-dunk Hall of Fame player, and his defensive contribution really adds to that.  I hope the writers feel the same way.

No other shortstop really produced with the glove as a long-term starter over the last 20 years.  There are a few that deserve mention lest they be forgotten as outstanding fielders.

Garry Templeton was traded for Ozzie, and I’m not sure Garry wasn’t Ozzie’s peer with the glove.  Templeton posted enormous numbers like Ozzie in the late 70s and early 80s, and here, late in his career, he’s still dominant.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1987	SS	Garry Templeton	SD	NL	146	1243.3	27	30
1988	SS	Garry Templeton	SD	NL	105	899.7	8	13
1989	SS	Garry Templeton	SD	NL	140	1193.0	14	16
1990	SS	Garry Templeton	SD	NL	135	1166.7	1	1
1991	SS	Garry Templeton	NYM	NL	40	279.0	3	12
1991	SS	Garry Templeton	SD	NL	1	4.0	-1	-1
								
5 yrs	SS	Garry Templeton	All	NL	567	4786	52	15

The next guy played in both leagues and a few seasons at second base.  His defense is nearly as good as Smith’s as well.  Rey Sanchez’ defense was probably enough to warrant carrying his bat, and that’s why he kept getting to play.  Sanchez AL defense was +46 at short.  That’s a hundred runs saved in his shortstop work.  Sanchez also saved about 40 runs at second and third, but that’s for another column.

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
1991	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	10	65.7	2	40
1992	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	68	593.3	8	19
1993	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	98	762.3	17	30
1994	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	30	189.3	1	10
1995	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	4	20.0	0	20
1996	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	92	768.0	6	10
1997	SS	Rey Sanchez	ChC	NL	63	279.0	-1	-6
1998	SS	Rey Sanchez	SF	NL	76	505.0	10	27
2001	SS	Rey Sanchez	Atl	NL	48	391.3	7	23
2003	SS	Rey Sanchez	NYM	NL	42	344.3	3	12
								
10 yrs	SS	Rey Sanchez	All	NL	531	3918	53	18

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Adam Everett.  He’s just outstanding.  He will be a very valuable shortstop for uite a few years, and is going to be an excellent free agent worth the money.  Everett was outpacing the NL at the All-Star break this season by 15 RSpt.  I don’t know how well teams evaluate defense, but Everett is likely to be a great defensive player for his career. 

YEAR	POS	NAME	     	TEAM    LG	GP	INN	RSpt	RS/150
2001	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	6	7.0	0	60
2002	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	34	253.7	1	4
2003	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	128	1001.7	6	7
2004	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	99	842.0	11	18
2005	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	150	1292.7	12	12
								
5 yrs	SS	Adam Everett	Hou	NL	417	3397	30	12

Next!

Coming up next, I’ll look at the NL outfielders.  Is Andruw Jones the greatest?

Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 04:10 AM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. spivey Posted: August 18, 2006 at 05:21 AM (#2145331)
Overall, including both offense and defense, does Aurilia's ridiculous year come close to matching any of ARod's seasons at SS?
   2. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 05:58 AM (#2145338)
To *any* of ARod's seasons? Yes. He was close to many of them, but I don't think his season was better than any ARod season after age 23.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: August 18, 2006 at 07:01 AM (#2145358)
Is it just me or am I the only one to forget Mark Grace's great years at SS? :-)

For 1B, is this just range or does it include receiving throws? I'm really having a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea of Sean Casey as a 1B with a lot of range. And if it does include throws, I'd wonder if Sandberg is making Grace look better because Sandberg almost never made a bad throw.

And I'm fine with Oquendo as a fine 2B but having a hard time imagining him being that much better than anyone else -- maybe on a per 150 basis, but he played so few games it seems impossible he could be that good in counting stats ... and if he was that good, why didn't the Cards play him more?

For Rspt vs RS/150, you should (1) probably not report RS/150 for seasons below a certain number of innings/games and (2) it shouldn't be a sum in the total row and (3) the total should be calculated as (total RSpt)/(total g ... or innings equivalent) times 150. Pokey Reese's career RS/150 is around 17; Oquendo's is around 19.
   4. FJ Posted: August 18, 2006 at 07:40 AM (#2145369)
You have the stats for Mark Grace, Kevin Young, and Sean Casey listed again instead of the stats for Larkin, Templeton, and Sanchez....

F
   5. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 18, 2006 at 11:26 AM (#2145395)
Do 1B and 3B get any additional bonus for frequently saving 2B or 3B with outstanding plays while 2B and SS typically save singles? I didn't see this question addressed in your prior article. I apologize if it was there and I missed it. It may have been where you sprinkled in the DPs etc.
   6. Rally Posted: August 18, 2006 at 01:07 PM (#2145415)
Yes, Ivan. Chris uses a specific run value per play saved for each position. Off the top of my head, middle infielders are around .75 and corner guys .80. Outfielders are a bit higher than that. It varies by position but they are all close to .84.
   7. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 18, 2006 at 01:25 PM (#2145421)
Walt:

When Oquendo came up Tommy Herr was still fairly productive so playing every day at second base wasn't going to happen. But Jose was SOOO good with the glove Whitey kept him around as a super-utility guy. When Herr finally departed and Luis Alicea flopped Oquendo broke out of his Tony Phillips routine and was outstanding. But then injuries struck, other guys took his place, and by the time he was healthy again he was out of job. I believe it was also understand that because of his injuries Jose wouldn't be able to play every day and no manager likes to have that type of uncertainty at a key defensive position.

Besides, Jose had NO power and really couldn't run so his game was sterling defense and drawing walks. If he can't stay in the lineup that makes him a pretty limited option.

He had some hands. Oquendo was one of those guys who just knew what do on defense. Just really something to watch.
   8. GGC Posted: August 18, 2006 at 01:50 PM (#2145433)
Do 1B and 3B get any additional bonus for frequently saving 2B or 3B with outstanding plays while 2B and SS typically save singles? I didn't see this question addressed in your prior article. I apologize if it was there and I missed it. It may have been where you sprinkled in the DPs etc.


I believe Chris covers that in the Dr. Strangeglove article.



link
   9. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 02:35 PM (#2145465)
How did that happen? I'll get right on that....
   10. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 02:50 PM (#2145474)
Curious choice at 2B. Given that Reese played as many full seasons at 2B as Oquendo and positively stomps him at RS/150, I'd say Reese is a slightly better choice at 2B than Oquendo despite attaining only 84% of the innings. But Castillo has Oquendo's rate at twice the innings, so I don't know that Oquendo doesn't come in a distant second to Castillo.
   11. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 02:51 PM (#2145476)
Well, apparently the last three setions have referenced teh first three pre tags.
   12. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 03:01 PM (#2145481)
Dr. Memory,
yes, I will be doing more rate stat stuff later. There are some curious isues there as well. This is more of a count stat basis.
   13. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 03:04 PM (#2145482)
Dan is going to have to swoop in and clean that up. And I apologize to Frida's Boss for making half the posts on this thread and posting the article.
   14. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 03:30 PM (#2145500)
Matter of opinion, I guess.
   15. GGC Posted: August 18, 2006 at 03:37 PM (#2145510)
Dan is going to have to swoop in and clean that up. And I apologize to Frida's Boss for making half the posts on this thread and posting the article.


heh
   16. OCF Posted: August 18, 2006 at 03:55 PM (#2145532)
Of course, Oquendo always had the ability to be an excellent defensive shortstop. His only real chance to play SS came with the Mets, when he was a teenager who couldn't hit yet. Eventually the Mets decided to go with bats and Oquendo went back to the minors to learn to hit - and learn he did. The Cardinals at that time were looking at having Ozzie for the forseeable future and were busy trading off their SS prospects for other sorts of value - a prime example being the inclusion of Jose Uribe in the trade that netted Jack Clark. It's possible they took on Oquendo just as minor league depth, not necessarily expecting him to play his way back to the majors. As long as Oquendo was a Cardinal, he wasn't going to play SS. For the 1987 pennant-winning team, he was actually the best RF, although having a RF with Oquendo's power is rather unusual.

At the time that Herr left, I questioned why they would hand the job to Alicea when they had Oquendo available. Oh, well.
   17. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 04:08 PM (#2145553)
I also have to confess, Chris, that the career RS/150 mystifies me. For instance, Young and Casey have fairly comparable total innings and total RSpt, but Young demolishes Casey in career RS/150. I would think upon reflection that a number of 95 per 150 games is suspect; am I not just understanding the number? It seems like the total RS/150 is derived merely by adding the seasonal totals.
   18. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 05:10 PM (#2145680)
Dr. Memory,
that's a function of very few innings for Young. His 39 IP season inflates his number. Evidently that's got a bug in it. He's likely to end up closer to 15 in a given season.
   19. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 18, 2006 at 05:19 PM (#2145716)
OCF:

Well, Herr got traded to Minnesota early in April of 1988 and Herzog went with Alicea immediately. I believe the thinking at the time was that Alicea was the better hitting prospect, ALMOST as good defensively, and Whitey liked Jose's versatility. Alicea was only 22 and had done pretty well in Double A and then 100 or so decent at bats at Triple A.

But after Luis flamed out with the bat it was Jose at second base in '89.
   20. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 05:37 PM (#2145803)
I guess what I'm saying, Chris, that if RS/150 is a rate stat like I suppose it to be, career RS/150 ought not be derived by summing his seasonal RS/150. That's like adding up batting averages, if I'm understanding RS/150. But maybe not.
   21. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 06:17 PM (#2145990)
Dr. Memory,
that could be what I'm doing wrong. Thanks. I should not sum it,but calc it.

Sometimes I'm not very smart.
   22. Russ Posted: August 18, 2006 at 06:25 PM (#2146027)
One thing I've learned from looking at the yearly totals is that defensive measurements seem to be at least one or two magnitudes greater in volatility than offensive metrics (when accounting for mean-variance relationships). In other words, even the best players seem to fluctuate in runs saved a lot more than they would in runs produced.

Which, regardless of how much more important defense is than what typical stathead methodogy believes, only gives more weight to the idea that you should judge position players primarily on estimated offensive talent level than estimated defensive talent level (because your estimate for their offensive talent level is likely to be much better).
   23. Fridas Boss Posted: August 18, 2006 at 06:30 PM (#2146049)
Dial,

That's only an issue if the article discusses rate stats. For counting stats..post away!
   24. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 06:44 PM (#2146094)
Dr. Memory,
you are completely right. Dunno what I was thinking. I am in the process of corrrecting the totals for RS/150. I apologize for my error.
   25. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 07:06 PM (#2146179)
Super, looking forward to putting Pokey back in his place.
   26. Levi Stahl Posted: August 18, 2006 at 07:54 PM (#2146368)
Alicea was awful his rookie year as a Cardinal (.212./.276/.283 in 297 AB, plus 14 errors), but he came back to the team for the '96 season and played reasonably well (.258/.350/.382) for a not-that-good team that overachieved. It seemed to me at the time to be a nice redemption story.
   27. Levi Stahl Posted: August 18, 2006 at 07:57 PM (#2146378)
Well, and Alicea did make 24 errors in '96. That makes his okay offensive performance that year seem a little less helpful, huh?
   28. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 08:32 PM (#2146477)
Alicea was pretty good (nice memory, gents):
TOT    2B    Luis Alicea    StL    NL    451    3581.3    32    12
   29. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 08:34 PM (#2146489)
Noe: the RS/150 numbers have been corrected. A big tip o' the cap to Dr. Memory.

Note: Oquendo still reigns supreme.
   30. Chris Dial Posted: August 18, 2006 at 09:33 PM (#2146603)
Sorry, Toilet, for some reason, when I use teh normal pre tags, the shortstop numbers would link to teh first baseman numbers.

The writing though is just me.
   31. baudib Posted: August 18, 2006 at 09:42 PM (#2146613)
Oquendo's high ranking correlates well with my perception of him at the time. He was a phenomenal fielder. I thought he and Jose Lind were much better than Ryno, who was the perennial Gold Glover.
   32. OCF Posted: August 18, 2006 at 10:18 PM (#2146655)
....and Whitey liked Jose's versatility...

I always understood the "versatility" to be a simple consequence of the defensive spectrum. A high quality defensive shortstop ought to be able to play well all over the place. He had played all over the place more out of circumstance than ability. It was probably a mistake of Whitey to make too much of that.
   33. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 18, 2006 at 10:21 PM (#2146660)
Note: Oquendo still reigns supreme.

Indeed he does, no argument now that the rate stat's been cleared up.

A closer look at Sandberg is interesting. It was generally agreed at the end that his range wasn't there any more, and I tended to agree from what little I saw, but this has him getting much better toward the end than he was in his physical prime. As a result it's hard to know what to think about the pre-1987 Sandberg.

I note that Ozzie Smith comes in at a career mark of 17 RS/150 for what data we have.
   34. baudib Posted: August 18, 2006 at 10:54 PM (#2146696)
BTW, I always preferred Geronimo Pena.
   35. Chris Dial Posted: August 19, 2006 at 12:17 AM (#2146808)
TOT    2B    Geronimo Pena    StL    NL    299    2267.3    15    9


Good, but not Alicea.
   36. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 19, 2006 at 12:45 AM (#2146865)
OK, the preformatted text looks fixed now.

Regarding the variability with the defensive stats, the fact that they're defensive rankings within a position makes them look more volatile then they really are. If we ranked all players defensively regardless of position, it would look a lot more steady year-to-year.

For example (I'm pulling these numbers out of my ass just to illustrate what I'm trying to say).

Let's say that compared to other shortstops, Jeter was like this the last 5 years:

2001: +5
2002: -15
2003: -17
2004: -9
2005: -6
2006: +1

That looks really volatile.

But if we're looking at all defensive players, it would be something like this:

2001: +55
2002: +35
2003: +33
2004: +41
2005: +44
2006: +51

Now, there is some good-sized year-to-year variation there, but it's magnified due to the fact that it's subset of players with similar absolute defensive abilities.
   37. Walt Davis Posted: August 19, 2006 at 12:51 AM (#2146879)
Apparently I should just stop posting ... I pointed out the prob with RS/150 back in post #3 and nobody noticed. :-)
   38. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 19, 2006 at 12:52 AM (#2146883)
As another example, take Manny. Everyone would agree that he shows a constant, year-to-year excellence.

But if we took his offense and compared it to a subset of offensive players, in this case, the 20 best, this is where Manny stands against the 10th most valuable offensive player every year.

2001: -12
2002: +8
2003: +0
2004: -11
2005: -3
2006: +3 (pace)
   39. Chris Dial Posted: August 19, 2006 at 04:06 AM (#2147256)
Walt,
I am sorry. You distracted me terribly with the first sentence of your post. So you get all teh credit for e trying to fix that...

Dan,
thanks, I knew that was the issue (from that same question in about 1999 in rsb), but didn't know the best way to express it. I appreciate it.
   40. Chris Dial Posted: August 19, 2006 at 04:09 AM (#2147266)
And you didn't fix it, Dan. You screwed it back up. Thanks...
   41. Jim Furtado Posted: August 19, 2006 at 01:29 PM (#2147515)
I fixed the formatting.

Very interesting series, Chris. I look forward to the follow-ups.
   42. Russ Posted: August 19, 2006 at 02:18 PM (#2147539)

But if we took his offense and compared it to a subset of offensive players, in this case, the 20 best, this is where Manny stands against the 10th most valuable offensive player every year.


Is that the baseline for the defensive metric? The 10th most valuable defensive player?

The tail ends of a distribution should be more volatile than the middle and the 10th most valuable offensive player is certainly not in the middle.

Now, I do buy that if the average is the average of only 20 people, then that will have some variability and it could be why the metric looks more variable than it really is.

If you did the same Manny exercise with the median LF offensive output, would you see the same volatility? And if you did it with respect to total LF offensive output in the AL normalized to a 162 game season, would you see the same volatility?
   43. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 19, 2006 at 02:27 PM (#2147548)
Is that the baseline for the defensive metric? The 10th most valuable defensive player?

Well, when shortstops are being compared, I'd say yes. They're the top defensive players around.

Jeter's always one of the best defensive players in the majors, but among the group of the very best, shortstops, he tends to be towards the bottom. The base of the performance, the ability to simply play SS, is contained in how we value players offensively already - we're comparing the cream of the performance, not the whole body.
   44. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 19, 2006 at 02:32 PM (#2147552)
If you did the same Manny exercise with the median LF offensive output, would you see the same volatility?

It's not quite the same. The selection is different - I have confidence that all MLB shortstops are in at least the 85th percentile of defensive players in the majors while I have zero confidence that all MLB leftfielders are in the the 85th percentile of offensive players in the majors.

Does anyone who knows what I'm trying to say have a better way to explain this?
   45. SG Posted: August 19, 2006 at 03:33 PM (#2147595)
I think I get what you're trying to say Dan. Based on Chris's Strangeglove article, the typical chances seen at each position are

1B: 281
2B: 507
3B: 430
SS: 532
LF: 348
CF: 462
RF: 365

So even a "bad" defender like Jeter is seeing more chances and converting them into outs than a player who would otherwise be put at shortstop without Jeter's ability to play the position. Is that right?

BTW, if this is true, I'm wondering if we should re-think the defensive hit we give a subpar defender at a premium position. In other words, if we say Jeter's a -10 defender and just subtract that from his value on offense, are we punishing him more than we should when we compare him to someone who plays a less challenging position and is rated better?
   46. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: August 19, 2006 at 04:50 PM (#2147638)
In other words, if we say Jeter's a -10 defender and just subtract that from his value on offense, are we punishing him more than we should when we compare him to someone who plays a less challenging position and is rated better?

I would say "sort of," noting that we don't know that Jeter would be a <u>good</u> player at the other positions. We can suppose, but we don't know.
   47. Chris Dial Posted: August 19, 2006 at 05:16 PM (#2147658)
Thank, Jim. Send me an email so I don't do it again. I'd like to add HtML tables - they are neater, but I don't know how it will do.

The OF for the NL is ugly.

Anyone have a good feel for how many innings is enough for a cutoff?
   48. FJ Posted: August 19, 2006 at 06:00 PM (#2147713)
So even a "bad" defender like Jeter is seeing more chances and converting them into outs than a player who would otherwise be put at shortstop without Jeter's ability to play the position. Is that right?


I'm not so sure that's what he's saying, though he can probably speak for himself.

My interpretation is more that if you took most baseball players and tried sticking them at SS, 85% of them would do a worse job them Jeter. It doesn't really have to do with the chances at each position, but whether those players are able to handle the position itself.

What'd be interesting to see is if there could be some study done comparing just how good a fielder someone has to be to be a SS, 2B, CF, etc.

It'd also answer the thorny problem of how to value DHs with respect to players who actually play the field.

I was thinking a little about it while I was in the shower last night.

One possible way of valuing the DH would be to give him either 0 value defensively or the fielding value above replacement fielder of the worst position player whichever is lower. So, that means that the DH would get 0 or a negative number (because the team would rather have him DH, then put him out in the field and DH the other player).

There are numerous problems with this approach, however.

1) You're making the DH's value dependent upon another player. It SHOULD be independent, IMO.

2) You're leaving out the problem of talking about OVERALL contribution that players bring. That is, if say Manny was a defensive negative compared to a replacement fielder in LF, but Ortiz was a defensive positive compared, it STILL might make sense for the Red Sox to DH Ortiz, if they had a good 1B player and no real other options at LF.

There are probably other problems that I'm missing, but I can't think of them right now.

F
   49. FJ Posted: August 19, 2006 at 06:01 PM (#2147716)
Oh yeah, in summary.

If we could figure out what each position was worth wrt to each other (i.e., how much harder is it to play one position above another), we wouldn't have to go through the kluge that I suggested.

F
   50. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 19, 2006 at 09:58 PM (#2148057)
What'd be interesting to see is if there could be some study done comparing just how good a fielder someone has to be to be a SS, 2B, CF, etc.

Tango did some of this. He doesn't like using hitters "above position", so he did a relationship analysis. I think a SS > 1B = +9 runs.

I think that is wrong because any LHer will be much worse. Also he used older UZR, which is now overhauled, and my data is now much closer to UZR (using ZR zones). So, Tango's work can be re-done witht he database I have - it will have thousands more innings than the original work Tango did (Tango had 3 seasons), now we have 20 and many many more players that have multiple positions. So, when Tango gets this database, he'll produce more/better data.
   51. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 21, 2006 at 10:26 AM (#2149890)
Thanks Rallymonkey and GGC

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