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Friday, December 14, 2012

Lombardi: Baseball’s Greatest Fielders By Position

This is for non-pitchers since 1901:

Pos. 	Greatest All-Time  Honorable Mention 	   Greatest Active
C 	Yadier Molina 	     Jim Sundberg 	     Yadier Molina
1B 	Keith Hernandez      John Olerud 	     Mark Teixeira
2B 	Joe Gordon 	     Mark Ellis 	     Chase Utley
3B 	Brooks Robinson      Clete Boyer 	     Evan Longoria
SS 	Mark Belanger        Jack Wilson 	     Brendan Ryan
LF 	Barry Bonds 	     Bernard Gilkey 	     Carl Crawford
CF 	Paul Blair 	     Devon White 	     Austin Jackson
RF 	Jesse Barfield 	     Roberto Clemente        Ichiro Suzuki

Of course, this list means no disrespect to players like Willie Mays, Tris Speaker, Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, Adrian Beltre, Mike Schmidt, Bill Mazeroski, Frank White, Bill Terry, Vic Power, Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Rickey Henderson and others.  It’s just that I think those listed above are the best defensively, all-time and currently, based only on their merits in the field (and not including what they did at bat).  Your mileage may vary….

Repoz Posted: December 14, 2012 at 01:41 PM | 85 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. JRVJ Posted: December 14, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4324812)
Oh, this is going to be fun.
   2. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: December 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4324818)
I agree with every single one of these rankings.
   3. Bob Tufts Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4324824)
Belanger wins the award for playing his entire career at shortstop without wearing a cup.
   4. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4324837)
Only one of these players played an inning before I was born, and he retired all of 11 months before. I detect skewage.

I admit that I didn't see that much of Jack Wilson, but Jack Wilson? Did I miss something?
   5. Bug Selig Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4324838)
In other news, Jack Wilson and Mark Ellis have apparently retired.
   6. PepTech Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:14 PM (#4324841)
Jack Wilson *and* Brendan Ryan. What, no Spike Owen?
   7. UCCF Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4324843)
Oh, this is going to be fun.

I looked at the catcher methodology, and found Johnny Bench about 2/3 of the way down the list, right after Jody Davis.

I remember Jody Davis. This is not right.
   8. Esoteric Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4324844)
Jack Wilson was great defensive shortstop in his prime, and Brendan Ryan is easily the greatest currently playing, but the omission of Adam Everett is perplexing.
   9. Mefisto Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:17 PM (#4324847)
As pointed out in comments at the blog, the method takes no account of decline phase. Thus, to pick an easy example, it simply takes Rfield per games played for both Willie Mays and Paul Blair, despite the fact that Mays played 1000 more games. If he wants to make a career value argument, then he has to account for that. If he wants to make a peak value argument, then he has to define a peak. For now, he's in no-man's land.
   10. depletion Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4324850)
Mike Bordick on the list but no (contemporary) Rey Ordonnez. hmmm. Bordick came over to the Mets in 2000, when Ordonez was injured and the impression many had was that there was a fielding drop off. Same pitchers, same opposition, same ballparks. I'll have to go check the data.
   11. JJ1986 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4324853)
Something is wrong with his queries because he missed Rickey Henderson even though he has 80% of his games in LF.
   12. depletion Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:25 PM (#4324858)
I see. Ordonez's peak was higher, but Bordick had the better career.
   13. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4324865)
I admit that I didn't see that much of Jack Wilson, but Jack Wilson? Did I miss something?


Wilson was a great defender. It seems insane to have him ahead of Ozzie (I assume that's what Honorable Mention means) but he was a truly great defender.

Bernard Gilkey was the one that shocked me. I'm not saying he wasn't good or even great I just don't remember seeing him and thinking "wow" nor do I remember a lot of buzz about his defense.
   14. zonk Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:39 PM (#4324877)
I looked at the catcher methodology, and found Johnny Bench about 2/3 of the way down the list, right after Jody Davis.

I remember Jody Davis. This is not right.


That's Gold Glove winner Jody Davis to you...

Davis' defensive 'prowess' to me was always a matter of his improvement from dreadful to passable to fringing on good. His first couple seasons he was just terrible... couldn't block pitches in the dirt to save his life, couldn't throw anyone out, etc. By 1984/5 - he had learned to do these things passably well. He got his GG in 1986 in recognition of no longer being a bad DH catching, then -- satisfied -- almost promptly disappeard.
   15. AROM Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4324888)
Jody Davis in 1986 was damn valuable on defense. He threw out 89 runners, with 98 stealing successfully. That's worth about 20 runs right there, he would have to have been beyond horrible at the rest of catching defense to offset that.

He did this while playing in the same division as Tim Raines (70/9) and Vince Coleman (107/14), which makes his CS% all the more impressive.
   16. AROM Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:50 PM (#4324893)
His first couple seasons he was just terrible... couldn't block pitches in the dirt to save his life, couldn't throw anyone out,


For all his other faults on defense, Davis was never bad at throwing people out. He threw out 43% as a rookie, and was never worse than 28% in any season - 28 percent is at least break even level.
   17. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4324895)
[13] thanks. I mean I thought Wilson was really good SS but never noticed anything to make me think that he was an alltimer. It didn't help that the Pirates never showed up on national broadcasts during his career.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:56 PM (#4324903)
This list seems way too tilted towards modern players; only one guy who played the bulk of his career before 1960.

   19. Rants Mulliniks Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:59 PM (#4324908)
Ten years ago this list would have been compiled using Range Factor or some other stat and produced completely different results.

   20. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM (#4324909)
Tony Barron is ranked #1 for RF, but he's thrown out just because his career was 58 games long.

He flew too close to the sun.
   21. something like a train wreck Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4324913)
Austin Jackson is shocking, and I'm a huge Austin Jackson fan. He covers a lot of ground, but he has more than his fair share (or at least more than a great fielder's fair share) of wrong breaks and bad lines. He records a lot of outs because he's surrounded by human statuary.
   22. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4324924)
This list seems way too tilted towards modern players; only one guy who played the bulk of his career before 1960.
It's a function of the methodology.** B-Ref uses three quite distinct sources and methods for its fielding runs. For the contemporary era, we have DRS, and for the recent modern era we have a PBP-based version of Total Zone. These include no regression to the mean factor, and simply report estimated runs saved. For the pre-PBP era, Total Zone includes a regression factor which limits the extent of fielding runs above or below the mean.

**A quick google fails to confirm that what I wrote is correct. This is my recollection, but I could be wrong.
   23. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4324930)
RF Jesse Barfield Roberto Clemente Ichiro Suzuki

Nice.
   24. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:23 PM (#4324933)
I'd like to see Yadier Molina catch without a mitt. That would separate the men from the boys.
   25. Dale Sams Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4324935)
Crawford is the greatest active despite stinking/notplaying for two years? Ok..I guess...
   26. bjhanke Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:29 PM (#4324940)
My all-time Gold Glove list would be:

c Johnny Bench or Buck Ewing (an almost impossible comparison because of the vast difference in equipment and rules)
1B Charlie Comiskey (with credit for inventing a lot of what is now modern 1B defense)
2B Bill Mazeroski
3B Jimmy Collins (basically did invent modern 3B play)
SS Rabbit Maranville (he played 25 years and hit WHAT?)
LF Fred Clarke, if you're only allowing LF to compete
CF Curt Flood or Tris Speaker
RF Roberto Clemente, if only RF can compete

- Brock Hanke
   27. phoenixscienter Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4324958)
Simmons is a better SS than Ryan right now.
   28. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:50 PM (#4324967)
Kevin Young 28th all time at 1B?

Jeff Francoeur 8th. Seems legit.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4324971)
It's a function of the methodology.** B-Ref uses three quite distinct sources and methods for its fielding runs. For the contemporary era, we have DRS, and for the recent modern era we have a PBP-based version of Total Zone. These include no regression to the mean factor, and simply report estimated runs saved. For the pre-PBP era, Total Zone includes a regression factor which limits the extent of fielding runs above or below the mean.

**A quick google fails to confirm that what I wrote is correct. This is my recollection, but I could be wrong.


So, you're saying the methodology is pretty much much worthless for the old-timers?
   30. Willie Mayspedester Posted: December 14, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4324980)
Utley is the best right now with all his injury troubles? What about Darwin Barney on fielding percentage (and cool name bonus points)?
   31. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:11 PM (#4324992)
So, you're saying the methodology is pretty much much worthless for the old-timers?
I don't think it's worthless. It makes good use of the retrosheet data, it's reasonable and logical, it produces reasonably normal looking results.

The problem is using unadjusted RField to compare contemporary players to past players, when the methods diverge so significantly.
   32. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4325007)
I don't think it's worthless. It makes good use of the retrosheet data, it's reasonable and logical, it produces reasonably normal looking results.


That out of 16 players, not one played in the aughts, teens, twenties and the first 8 years of the thirties is reasonable and logical and produces reasonably normal looking results?
   33. AROM Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4325008)
For the pre-PBP era, Total Zone includes a regression factor which limits the extent of fielding runs above or below the mean.


This is correct. Doesn't make the ratings worthless, at least in my totally biased opinion. It's just the way I thought was best to deal with data sources that have gone from being only useful in a very general sense to data sources that have become much more detailed.

Because of that, ranking players by runs saved per inning is not a good way to compare players of today with players who played 75 years ago or something. As an alternative, I'd suggest something like a point system for being the best fielder at your position in each year.

I guess another approach would be to use only data available to all players, like shortstop assists above average, and then convert that to z scores or something.
   34. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM (#4325012)
No Peter Bourjos? GTFO.
   35. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:27 PM (#4325013)
BJ: what about Ashburn and Dom DiMaggio for the CF slot?
   36. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4325020)
I've never heard of Paul Blair before.
   37. Publius Publicola Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4325031)
I like Brock's list a lot. My list would look very similar.
   38. bobm Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:43 PM (#4325037)
<blockquote>
Pos.  Greatest All-Time ... 
 1B   Keith Hernandez 


QFT
   39. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4325048)
That out of 16 players, not one played in the aughts, teens, twenties and the first 8 years of the thirties is reasonable and logical and produces reasonably normal looking results?
The two methods should not be compared on a per-inning basis because of the regression issue.

Each of the methods is reasonable itself. They just work on different ranges of value and can't be easily compared at the top or bottom end of the scale.
   40. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4325059)
I've never heard of Paul Blair before.

Man, I hope that's a joke.
   41. PreservedFish Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:04 PM (#4325071)
Bernard Gilkey? That's the weirdest name.
   42. cardsfanboy Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4325108)
This list seems way too tilted towards modern players; only one guy who played the bulk of his career before 1960.


Improved field conditions, glove, scouting and equipment. Along with raising the overall quality of player will do that. It doesn't mean they were actually better, but that they were getting to more balls.
   43. WahooSam Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:44 PM (#4325112)
My "Best That I've Watched" would be (approx. 1972 onwards)

C - Bench
1B- Hernandez
2B - Orlando Hudson
SS - O. Smith
3B - Schmidt
RF - Barfield
CF - Devon White
LF - Rickey

I watched mainly NL in 70's, and Blue Jays in 80's onwards, so you can see my biases
   44. cardsfanboy Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:46 PM (#4325115)
Looking at the firstbaseman list, and I'm shocked to see Pujols not on the list at all among top 40. There is no way Teix is that much better.
   45. JJ1986 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4325119)
Looking at the firstbaseman list, and I'm shocked to see Pujols not on the list at all among top 40. There is no way Teix is that much better.


He doesn't qualify because it's restricted to guys who mostly played one position. I think that knocks out Andruw Jones too.
   46. cardsfanboy Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:50 PM (#4325121)
c Johnny Bench or Buck Ewing (an almost impossible comparison because of the vast difference in equipment and rules)
1B Charlie Comiskey (with credit for inventing a lot of what is now modern 1B defense)
2B Bill Mazeroski
3B Jimmy Collins (basically did invent modern 3B play)
SS Rabbit Maranville (he played 25 years and hit WHAT?)
LF Fred Clarke, if you're only allowing LF to compete
CF Curt Flood or Tris Speaker
RF Roberto Clemente, if only RF can compete


I would swap out Ozzie or Belanger for Maranville, and probably Robinson for Collins.... can't really say on the outfielders so I'll agree with you there.

   47. cardsfanboy Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:50 PM (#4325122)
He doesn't qualify because it's restricted to guys who mostly played one position. I think that knocks out Andruw Jones too.


Gotcha, missed that part, and not including Andruw Jones is just silly.
   48. Greg K Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:53 PM (#4325125)
Commentary on this list on "The Score" (Canadian sports channel):

"Rogers Hornsby over Roberto Alomar? It's pretty hard to take this list seriously"

Ah, how I have missed baseball punditry.

EDIT: Whooooops, I thought this was the top 100 players thread.
   49. bond1 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 06:01 PM (#4325132)
I guess the inclusion of Barry Bonds means this list is only about fielding ability and not throwing?
   50. BDC Posted: December 14, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4325145)
C - Bench
1B- Hernandez
2B - Orlando Hudson
SS - O. Smith
3B - Schmidt
RF - Barfield
CF - Devon White
LF - Rickey

I watched mainly NL in 70's, and Blue Jays in 80's onwards


My list would be similar, because my history of watching the two leagues is also similar. I'd put Ivan Rodriguez at C, Gary Pettis in CF, and (because I spent some time in Michigan in the '70s) Aurelio Rodriguez at 3B, though Schmidt was awfully good, and so is Adrian Beltre. Best LF I ever saw was probably Dave Winfield, with the Yankees in the early '80s. On the whole I don't think LF is much of a fielding position – I saw Rickey make memorable plays there, but I don't think he was a genius or anything, and his arm was so-so. Josh Hamilton is a good LF; most good LFs are CFs or RFs playing out of position.

Aurelio Rodriguez, even if one never saw him play or had his defensive stats, has one of the better "he hit WHAT?" arguments. He hit like a bad shortstop, but held a job at third base for a long time. Michael Humphreys has Rodriguez about 30th all-time, behind lots of guys I saw play, so I'm probably waxing nostalgic as much as anything …

Hernandez, Hudson, Smith, and Barfield, absolutely.
   51. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 14, 2012 at 06:45 PM (#4325159)
Jack Wilson? GTFO
   52. dlf Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:12 PM (#4325184)
My "Best That I've Watched" would be (approx. 1977 onwards)

P - G. Maddux (as long as you don't think holding runners is part of fielding)
C - B. Boone
1B- K. Hernandez
2B - J. Lind
SS - O. Smith
3B - G. Nettles
OF - G. Pettis
OF - A. Jones
OF - G. Maddox

   53. Tim D Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:16 PM (#4325186)
I'll take Ozzie at SS and I don't really care what anybody's damn numbers say. I saw a lot of Belanger and he was great but Ozzie made plays Belanger could only dream of. I agree with Blair and Brooks. No wonder Earl Weaver was such a smart manager. I'll take Rickey in LF and Clemente in RF. No fly balls will be dropping in. Barfield had the best arm God ever invented but Clemente could throw a little too. And I'll take Roberto going onto the corner. I agree with Yadi and K Hernandez. For 2B I am hard-pressed to go against Maz.
   54. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:22 PM (#4325193)
C - Bench/Sunberg
1B- Hernandez/Vic Power
2B - Maz/N. Fox
SS - Smith/Belanger
3B - Schmidt/Nettles
OF - Blair
OF - Mays
OF - Maddox
OF - Andruw
   55. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:24 PM (#4325194)
Is ESPN aware of this author's slight of Derek Jeter and what steps might they use to rectify this travesty?
   56. dlf Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM (#4325196)
My "Wosrt That I've Watched" would be (approx. 1977 onwards) (ignoring brief trials like Mike Piazza at 1B)

P - N. Ryan
C - M. Stairs
1B - D. Kingman
2B - S. Sax
SS - J. Offerman
3B - P. Guerrero
OF - K. Reimer
OF - G. Luzinski
OF - M. Ramirez

   57. Rob_Wood Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4325202)
ignore post
   58. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4325214)
Matt Stairs was a catcher????
   59. musial6 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM (#4325219)
Bernard Gilkey? That's the weirdest name.


Bernard Gilkey is a man forgotten by history. Perhaps if he'd spent his early 30s abusing steroids instead of alcohol, he wouldn't be such an afterthought.

In February 1998, Mets GM Steve Phillips declined to trade for Gary Sheffield (as the Marlins were breaking up their WS team), saying "I decided that I like Bernard Gilkey on this team, what he does in the clubhouse and what he does for the chemistry of this team.".
www.nytimes.com/2000/03/26/magazine/steve-phillips-s-winter-of-content.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Gilkey's career WAR from 1998 onward: -1.6
Sheffield's career WAR from 1998 onward: 37.2

Fun Fact: Gilkey had a cameo in Men in Black

Not-so-Fun Fact: Gilkey racked up 3 (THREE!) DUIs in a single offseason (2000-01) - and he had (at least) 1 prior to that (during Spring Training 1998). He was arrested at the airport in August 2001 when the Braves (Gilkey's team) were arriving for a series against the Cardinals because he had a warrant out for the unresolved DUIs. That offseason he was sentenced to 120 days in jail and that was it for his MLB career.
   60. depletion Posted: December 14, 2012 at 08:09 PM (#4325221)
Best that I've watched:

P - Greg Maddux
C - Ivan Rodriguez
1B - Keith Hernandez
2B - not really sure. Luis Castillo did some good things.
3B - Brooks Robinson
SS - Ozzie Smith
LF - no one stands out that I recall
CF - Willie Mays
RF - Roberto Clemente

All time worst list should include Raul Ibanez in OF, probably Mackey Sasser at C.
   61. DL from MN Posted: December 14, 2012 at 08:56 PM (#4325234)
All time worst list should include


Delmon Young
   62. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: December 14, 2012 at 09:17 PM (#4325236)
I guess the inclusion of Barry Bonds means this list is only about fielding ability and not throwing?

Bonds did not have a strong arm, but made up for it with accuracy, a quick release, and impeccable footwork. He really was terrific out there.
   63. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: December 14, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4325243)
Best fielders I ever seen:

C - Ivan Rodriguez
1b - Keith Hernandez
2b - Mark Ellis
3b - Mike Schmidt
SS - Ozzie Smith
LF - Barry Bonds
CF - Andruw Jones
RF - Ichiro!
P - Mark Buehrle
   64. Walt Davis Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:11 PM (#4325253)
Before anybody gets too worked up ... I'm only listing guys I actually feel I saw enough of to say they were damn good relative to other guys I saw enough of to feel reasonably confident they were worse. For example, Sandberg at 2B is not being compared to Maz or Frank White because I didn't see enough of them. In reality, I'm probably only legitimately comping him to Morgan, Trillo, Beckert, Grich, Hubbard, a few others. Then throw in NL and childhood biases.

Best:

P Maddux (why not)
C Bench
1B Hernandez
2B Sandberg
SS Ozzie
3B Brooks (c'mon, I watched that WS)
LF ???
CF Andruw (Blair, Pettis, White and others were good)
RF Clemente (having a hard time thinking of who else I'd rank particularly near him ... and I only saw him towards the end of his career so I'm partly extrapolating back to how good he must have been)

As to LF ... as a kid, I'm not sure I ever uttered the phrase "man, he's a great defensive LF". I saw enough of Bonds, Rickey, Luis Gonzalez, Geoff Jenkins and I'm sure many others to say they're good but nothing is standing out as particularly memorable. The correct answer is probably somebody like Willie Wilson who got pushed out of CF. Rfield certainly thinks so giving him 100 Rfield from 78-82 and 9 dWAR when he was mostly in LF. But lots of speedy guys get pushed to LF but aren't great fielders (Brock, Coleman, Raines spring to mind).
   65. JRVJ Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4325261)
FWIW, during my formative, "This Week in Baseball" Years (late 70s/early 80s), Buddy Bell was seen as the elite defensive 3B of the time (Schmidt, Brett & Nettles were certainly acknowledged as top tier defenders, though).

I'm pretty sure I only saw highlights of Bell (never actually watched a game), so I just mention this for context for the younger set.
   66. Walt Davis Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:37 PM (#4325266)
Worst ... again omitting frightening experiments like Piazza at 1B and Hundley in LF

C: Cliff Johnson -- somebody mentioned Jody Davis and he was pretty bad when young; Brian Downing was pretty bad; Posada was pretty wretched really. But in my mind's eye, Cliff Johnson was shaped like I am today, it's amazing he could get into a crouch. Now he couldn't really have been as fat as I remember but crikey he had no mobility.

1B: old Fred McGriff -- I saw a lot of Fred with the Cubs and a bit later. I couldn't believe that somebody who had played 1B most of his life could be this bad even if he was 38 and playing on bad knees. Rfield seems laughably wrong here but a lot of Fred's putridity probably wouldn't show up there. His most obvious flaw was possibly the worst plays on pop-ups I've ever seen. You'd be watching a Cub game, pop-up near the pitcher's mound, first base side ... no McGriff in the picture, here comes the 2B. Pop-up in foul ground, halfway between home and first ... catcher desperately stumbling around trying to track the thing, no McGriff in the picture. He also had pretty lousy footwork around the bag, having a hard time adjusting to throws off the bag.

2B: gotta be Jorge Orta

SS: Jeter's an easy choice ... and I can't think of anybody else who played there long enough to be terrible. Obviously Sheffield or a young BJ Upton (saw him at Durham a couple of times) might have taken this honor if they'd stuck longer.

3B: There were probably worse ones but Pedro Guerrero or Keith Moreland. Only there for a year, Moreland was strictly from the "I've got a big chest, I'll use it to stop ground balls" school although the numbers suggest he was pretty good at that. Guerrero may have made Bobby Bo look like ... OK, not Brooks Robinson but at least Aramis Ramirez

LF: Any number of lumbering oafs but I'll give a special shout out to Rico Carty

CF: old Ken Griffey really was terrible it's sad to say. I wish those mid-70s Cubs teams had generally been more interesting and maybe I would have paid more attention to Jerry Morales. I never liked Morales, always thought he stunk. Maybe my brain secretly knew but couldn't put its finger on it. Anyway, b-r says that not only was he generally pretty sucky, he stunk on defense: -52 Rfield and -1.6 WAR and a pretty staggering -8 dWAR over 4 years as the Cubs full-time (mostly) CF.

RF: Nobody really springs to mind ... maybe this is the opposite of excellent LF. I'm sure there have been some lumbering oafs hidden here as well. Moreland certainly had nothing to brag about.

Honorable mention: every once in a while the Cubs would trot out a Henry Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Glenallen Hill OF. Sosa was still pretty good in those days so he could fake CF but man that was one terrible OF.

   67. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:04 PM (#4325283)
Put me in the group that doesn't remember Gilkey as an elite fielder, and I certainly remember his play, and of course his boozing.

another vote for Reimer being amongst the worst I've ever seen. He came to the Brewers in exchange for another suck ass OFer in D. Bichette, who I still remember getting hit in the nuts by a fly ball.
   68. BDC Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:21 PM (#4325294)
I saw Clemente play, and Mazeroski for that matter, but don't remember them doing anything interesting. I only became aware of baseball late in their careers. Hudson was a guy I saw make hilarious plays the first time I watched him and could barely imagine how good he was. Manny Trillo was great too, though, and Alomar in his youth.

Bad fielders rarely stick around long enough to see much of. Guys who fielded really badly for teams I followed include Greg Luzinski, Reimer, Nolan Ryan in his dotage, Pete Incaviglia – actually, I deserve hazardous duty pay for watching some of this stuff.
   69. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4325297)
as I have noted in my profile--I had the pleasure of watching two of the worst-fielding left-fielders in MLB history in the late 50s-early 60s for the Indians--Tito Francona (the REAL Tito, not his son) and then Daddy Wags--both were very good hitters but couldn't field a lick. Though, to Wagner's credit, he certainly hustled and gave the NIMpression that he was giving his all--but he just wasn't very good..
   70. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4325309)
There is no way--no way!--that Barfield merits being No. 1 over Clemente. Clemente had the range of a center fieler and the better throwing arm, and also had the longer career, for whatever that is worth. Clemente did many interesting things, like throw runners out at first base on potential singles. He could also throw the ball from the warning track to the catcher on one hop. If you ever get a chance to watch the 1971 World Series highlight film, when Clemente was 37, he made two of the most remarkable throws I've ever seen.

There is also no way that Jack Wilson rates ahead of Ozzie Smith. I just don't see that at all.

I never saw Gordon play, but it is surprising that he rates ahead of Maz, who is generally regarded as the greatest at the position.

Finally, I'm glad to see Paul Blair get some recognition.
   71. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 15, 2012 at 02:23 AM (#4325375)
Some "best I've seen" who haven't been mentioned and may or may not have been very good players:

P - Greg Smith
C - Ron Karkovice
1B - Darin Erstad
2B - Placido Polanco
SS - Adam Everett
3B - Pedro Feliz
LF - Brett Gardner
CF - Dwayne Murphy
RF - Franklin Gutierrez
DH - Rafael Palmeiro
   72. Bug Selig Posted: December 15, 2012 at 08:47 AM (#4325391)
Moreland certainly had nothing to brag about.


I lost some respect for the sport of football when I learned that he played defensive back for Texas. What could his 40 time have been? A minute and a half?
   73. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 15, 2012 at 09:29 AM (#4325400)
DH - Rafael Palmeiro

I saw what you did there.
   74. bjhanke Posted: December 15, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4325432)
Publius - Why, thank you very much! I'd be interested to see what your list ended up actually looking like....

cardsfanboy - IMO, there are only four SS who can compete for best glove ever: George Wright, Honus, Rabbit, and Ozzie. Wright is a horror to analyze because he played so early. Honus did not play SS for several years. And I already had Comiskey and Flood down, who are from STL, as am I. I was a little worried about hometown bias, but there's also this: Rabbit Maranville was the anti-Derek Jeter. Maranville played forever despite not being able to really hit major league pitching, because he was still a very very good glove as he approached 40. Ozzie didn't play quite as long, and was a better hitter. So, I went with Rabbit. Ozzie is, obviously, a choice that I would not question - nor would anyone else that I know of. In fact, Ozzie is the main reason that Mark Belanger doesn't get more fame for his glove. He was absolutely tremendous, but you could see that he wasn't QUITE as good as Ozzie, because they played close in time to each other. If I had to compare Mark to Rabbit without the context of Ozzie, I don[t know how that would come out. They played in very different environments. - Brock

   75. bjhanke Posted: December 15, 2012 at 11:15 AM (#4325446)
AROM (#33) - I understand what you're doing with regression for old-time players, and it does make sense, but I have recently had an idea that I've been working on, and want to offer it up, because it's relevant to this subject. I call it My Jeter Idea. The idea is this: because of Three True Outcome (3TO) analysis, it may no longer be possible for a modern fielder to be as valuable on defense as the old-timers were. Here's my reasoning: If 3TO means that Ks, HR, and BB are on the rise, which they are, and if they are almost entirely the responsibility of the pitcher, which they are because the fielders can't do anything about them, other than the occasional wall-reach homer prevention, then doesn't it follow that the percentage of "preventing runs" that is due to pitching has gone up, and the percentage that is due to fielding has gone down? And, if this is true, then doesn't it follow that old hot gloves - Bill Dahlen, Bobby Wallace, George Wright, and other guys, who weren't SS - had to have been more valuable than modern gloves at the same position are, at least by the defensive game played?

It's kind of a paradoxical idea. The value of individual pitchers has gone down, because they pitch so many fewer innings than the old timers did that this has overwhelmed the increase in 3TO. But that's individuals. The percentage of preventing runs that is due to pitchING, rather than to any individual pitcher, has to have gone up due to the increase in 3TO, meaning that the percentage due to fieldING has gone down. Some of that is offset by the fact that modern fielders play more innings than the old-timers do, but I don't think that this increase is anything like the decrease in pitcher IP or the increase in 3TO. So, My Jeter Idea is that modern teams keep people like Jeter and Piazza at SS and Catcher for longer than they used to, because the damage a bad glove can do has decreased.

Does that make any sense to you? - Brock
   76. Mefisto Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4325480)
Brock, your idea works but only with an important adjustment. There were FAR more errors committed in, to pick an example, 1908 than 2008. Those errors led to far more unearned runs (roughly 30% in 1908 v. roughly 8% in 2008). In order to adjust for that, we need to do something more than simply compare fielders to their contemporaries, we need to adjust for era.
   77. cardsfanboy Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:56 PM (#4325494)
Does that make any sense to you? - Brock


Yes it does(I think you have mentioned it before, because I'm pretty sure I've seen it or imagined I have before) Mind you the HR and BB aspect of that three true outcomes doesn't matter in regards to defense.(except as mention relative to percentage of runs prevented.) It's the K, along with the number of balls put in play per game that figures into this. On top of that modern fielders are more than likely on average, in better physical shape than in the past, so their physical prowess, better gloves, better fielding conditions and positioning all also figures into it. Also because of the TTO, that means that it's possible that more men are on base, leading to extra value for those guys who are better at turning double plays.

   78. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 15, 2012 at 01:06 PM (#4325503)
Brock is certainly right about TTO percentage--I wouldn't have guessed this, but 2012 appears to be the highest in MLB history--the first time over .300

(HR+BB+K)/PA

2012 .304
2002 .285
1992 .251
1982 .235
1972 .250

what happened this past year is that HRs were down from their peak in the sillyball era, but K's went through the roof

in recent years:

2011 .292
2010 .295
2009 .295
2008 .288
   79. isaacc7 Posted: December 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4325511)
Doug DeCenzo! I'm mostly kidding but didn't he have so,e sort of great fielding streak at one point?
   80. Karl from NY Posted: December 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4325567)
The idea is this: because of Three True Outcome (3TO) analysis, it may no longer be possible for a modern fielder to be as valuable on defense as the old-timers were.

This premise is pretty easily demonstrated by instead applying it to starting pitchers. It's no longer possible for a modern pitcher to be as valuable as Cy Young pitching fifty games per year. So it's certainly possible that the modern game does not offer as much potential for fielding value as in past decades.
   81. BDC Posted: December 15, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4325601)
I never saw Gordon play, but it is surprising that he rates ahead of Maz

If you subtract Mazeroski's final two negative years, he does rate ahead of Gordon even by this methodology. It's hard to tell whether that's "fair." Mazeroski came up earlier and did not leave for a war midcareer, but they both retired about the same age, so it's fair to say that Gordon kept his fielding skills longer (and was a far better hitter to start with, of course).
   82. Bug Selig Posted: December 15, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4325607)
Does that make any sense to you? - Brock


It obviously makes sense to Dave Dombrowski. If you can assemble a pitching staff of enough strikeout pitchers, you can run out whatever defense you want. I'm sure that at some point this past season; Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta played in the field together. They were punting defense at 6 of the 8 possible positions.
   83. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: December 15, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4325609)
Rabbit Maranville was the anti-Derek Jeter. Maranville played forever despite not being able to really hit major league pitching, because he was still a very very good glove as he approached 40.


He'd been the best defensive SS in the NL for 10+ years when Bill McKechnie (total glove-first mgr) moved him to 2b in 1924, to get rookie Glenn Wright in there at short.
So Maranville spent a year as the best defensive 2b in the league.

Then by 1932, Maranville had been the Boston Braves SS for three years - again with McKechnie as manager. He was just OK in the field in 1931, and he was 40 years old, so McKechnie replaced him with a good young glove (again), and put Rabbit at 2b (again), where he was really good (again) - played every day, 3rd/league in range, 2nd in Fld%. Braves ended up with their best record in 16 years.

Could NOT hit a lick, but - since fielding wasn't tracked nearly the way it is now - he must have looked absolutely spectacular on defense.
   84. Eugene Freedman Posted: December 16, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4325999)
Did Mark Ellis retire? He's #2 all-time, but not top active. Utley isn't better as of last year, because he was out so much, so this makes no sense to me.
   85. BDC Posted: December 16, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4326010)
Does that make any sense to you?

Absolutely. Very roughly speaking, the ML strikeout rate has doubled since the deadball era, from three per game to seven per game (again, that's very roughly). The result is that defenses overall went from making eight innings of outs per game to seven, or so. It's got to be a big factor. Paradoxically, you could have guys today who are far better at actual fielding (surfaces and gloves having a lot to do with it) but who don't contribute as much to winning with that better fielding. (Mefisto's point about errors is well-taken, but entails that a guy 100 years ago with a superb fielding percentage, all else equal, was more valuable among the more-valuables.) This dovetails with Karl's point too: individual pitchers today might be faster, stronger, throw harder stuff that breaks better: but not contribute as much to winning as a less-talented ace from the 1900s or 1910s.

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