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Monday, August 19, 2013

SABR: New sabermetric component, SABR Defensive Index, revealed for Rawlings Gold Glove Award

A no-arm twisting toast to Chris Dial!

Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH), and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) unveiled today the committee of seven sabermetric experts and the SABR Defensive Index™ (SDI™), the new statistical breakdown for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award® and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award™ selection processes the committee created.

The 2013 season marks the first season Rawlings formally incorporates sabermetrics as a component of the two Award platforms.

  “As we looked to marry ‘The Art of Fielding with the Science of Baseball™,’ the composition of the SABR Defensive Index is exactly what we were hoping to achieve,” said Mike Thompson, senior vice president of marketing for St. Louis-based Rawlings. “Since its inception in 1957, the Rawlings Gold Glove Award has relied on the major-league managers and coaches’ invaluable insights and keen understanding of the art of fielding to reward the best defensive players in the game. The new sabermetric component in the selection process is just another example of how the iconic Award has evolved throughout history as the industry standard honoring defensive excellence at the highest level of baseball.”

Rawlings revealed the revised selection process overview in March as part of its new collaboration with SABR. Since that announcement, SABR enlisted an independent committee of experts in baseball analytics and defensive measurement to devise the SDI. The SABR Defensive Committee includes:

  Committee chair Vince Gennaro, SABR President and author of Diamond Dollars: The Economics of Winning in Baseball
  Sean Forman, founder of Baseball-Reference.com
  John Dewan, owner of Baseball Info Solutions
  Bo Moon, executive vice president and co-founder of Bloomberg Sports
  Chris Dial, author and recognized expert on defensive metrics
  Michael Humphreys, author of Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed
  F.X. Flinn, SABR board of directors

Repoz Posted: August 19, 2013 at 02:26 PM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 19, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4522761)
Michael Humphreys, author of Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed

I know annual numbers are available on the publisher's website as an appendix to the book, but they stopped a few years ago. Has anyone out there created their own spreadsheets from the book to calculate DRA? I'm in the process of it, but it's kind of slow going... perhaps because I haven't read the whole book cover-to-cover yet... just trying to pick and choose spots where it looks like he gave details.
   2. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4522772)
A few years ago he gave a presentation at a SABR convention where he said he'd revamped his approach. The results are generally the same, he said, but just more extreme at either end w/ the best/worst fielding saving/costing their teams even more runs.
   3. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:01 PM (#4522773)
Congrats to Dial on this, by the way. Sean Forman & F.X., too.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4522779)
I suspect it will be a really great package that almost none of the voters will bother with.

   5. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4522786)
Oh yeah, and agreed with [3] and [4].
   6. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4522812)
It would be interesting to see historical SDI leaders vs. actual Gold Glovers.
   7. Lassus Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4522818)
Congrats to Dial as well. Sean, eh, he's already beyond our congratulations. ;-)
   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:50 PM (#4522829)
I suspect it will be a really great package that almost none of the voters will bother with.


The voters don't have to:

How will you blend the SDI with the managers' and coaches' votes?

The committee has created a simple way to convert the SDI—which is expressed in the number of runs a fielder "saves" his team—into 30 "votes" for each Rawlings Gold Glove Award awarded.

What percent of the overall RGGA criteria will the SDI represent?

The 30 votes originating from the SDI will be added to the votes we typically receive from the managers and coaches. Each manager and up to six (6) coaches on the major-league staff is allowed to vote for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award. NOTE: managers and coaches cannot vote for their own players. Based on the number of votes typically submitted from managers and coaches, the SDI will represent approximately 25% of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award criteria, depending on the number of votes received from the managers and coaches.


-- MWE
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: August 19, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4522837)
The voters don't have to:


They may not have to, but that's not the intent:

Rawlings will include the SDI as part of the revamped statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches in September.
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 19, 2013 at 04:29 PM (#4522858)
Is the SDI formula going to be publicly available? No mention of that in the article, but it wouldn't seem all that necessary to include the info with the Gold Glove ballots if it were otherwise available. It may well be an improved metric, and the "math" is probably beyond my level of interest (and ability), but I'm not a fan of non-transparent criteria. Seems like the info should be widely available for evaluation if it is being suggested that all aspects of defense can be reduced to a single number, and done so accurately for all positions that it may determine the Gold Glove winners.
   11. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: August 19, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4522862)
It may well be an improved metric
Unlikely, as it has to be limited to the current season's results. It may be the best we can currently do with regards to a single year value stat, though.
   12. Dan Hirsch Posted: August 19, 2013 at 04:37 PM (#4522863)
Pat Rapper's Delight,

I calculate DRA on my site The Baseball Gauge
   13. PreservedFish Posted: August 19, 2013 at 04:49 PM (#4522868)
Given how casual/lazy the GG voters usually are, I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually a highly suggestible lot when they are filling in those ballots.
   14. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 19, 2013 at 05:04 PM (#4522875)
Thank you for [12], Dan! I believe that's exactly what I'm looking for... broken down by component even!
   15. KJOK Posted: August 19, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4522885)
So I think the only 'popular' fielding metric not included would be Baseball Prospectus? Anyone know if they declined to participate, or did they not make the cut?

   16. Nineto Lezcano needs to get his shit together (CW) Posted: August 19, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4522886)
So I think the only 'popular' fielding metric not included would be Baseball Prospectus? Anyone know if they declined to participate, or did they not make the cut?


We weren't asked, so it's not like we declined anything. You'd have to ask the committee members (several of which I believe are around here from time to time) why it was excluded.
   17. Moeball Posted: August 19, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4522891)
I'm actually stunned this happened.

Given how, over the course of 100+ years of MLB history, baseball "insiders" have been extremely reluctant to allow those they deem "outsiders" to have any influence over anything (running the front offices of clubs, participating in award selections, etc.), this is a huge step forward. It's like they suddenly decided to start listening to those they have always thought of as the basement dwellers. Very unusual.

There will still be some bugs to work out, of course. It's interesting to see that Sean and John will both be on the committee which should lead to some lively discussions.

Given the variance in the defensive metrics even today - which are still way better than they were 20 years ago - this should be interesting. Take, for example, the ratings on Mike Trout this season. According to Total Zone runs, he is +8 runs defensively so far, which would be in keeping with his defensive reputation. But according to Baseball Info Solutions RDRS #s, he is -9 runs, very poor. This is the rating that is used in his WAR calculation on B-Ref. Well, which one is it? Is he a better than average fielder or a poor one? He can't be both, but according to the most popular methods in use today - both of which are supposedly based on play-by-play data - he is just that. Now, even with slight variations in how the PBP data is interpreted, I would expect that maybe one method would say a player is a +9 and the other indicates he's a +11, or a -9 and a -11 if a poor fielder. But they should both verify an overall indication that either the guy is a good fielder or he isn't. Not "We have no freakin' idea if he's great or terrible". That just makes no sense at all and I can hear Branch Rickey mumbling somewhere about how nobody can do anything with defensive statistics. The weird thing is, it's the very poor defensive season per RDRS that is keeping Trout from running away from Miguel Cabrera again this season for the WAR title. Not that it will matter much because Miggy will probably rack up another MVP this season regardless of how the WAR numbers end up.

But even if the GG process won't be perfect, it should still yield better results than the past methods have. I doubt we will see another fielder get Raffy's gift and get handed a GG for only 28 games played at his position. Derek Jeter and Michael Young and their defensive similars should never receive another GG ever again. If that result happens then this will be a very good thing indeed.

Finally - speaking of Jeter - it's interesting that Michael Humphreys is on the committee. I have heard Humphreys say that Jeter has been very overvalued defensively in his career - not just by the voters that have handed him 5 GG awards or the media that constantly gushes over him - but by the defensive metrics as well. I don't have Humphreys' book in front of me at the moment so I don't recall what he had Jeter's career numbers at when he wrote it. But I have heard Humphreys say that the -200 runs or whatever that WAR shows, for example, for Jeter's career - is probably overvaluing him substantially, as hard as that is to believe. A more accurate number is more likely in the range of -300 or even -400 runs, which is staggering. If this were the case, Jeter's WAR, which is currently at +72 - would drop by 10 or 20. Worse yet, Jeter's WAA -currently at +33 - would also drop by 10 or 20. If his career WAA was only in the 15-25 range - would that even make bottom borderline HOF discussion? I don't think so. Do we have anyone in the HOM with numbers that low?

   18. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 19, 2013 at 06:08 PM (#4522893)
Based on the number of votes typically submitted from managers and coaches, the SDI will represent approximately 25% of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award criteria, depending on the number of votes received from the managers and coaches.
I hope this doesn't become like the BCS.

The computer polls and strength of schedule were originally included in the BCS because humans are limited to just how many games they can see (especially coaches). But every time the formula spit out an answer that "the public" didn't like, the formula was changed - first polls had to not consider margin of victory, then "quality wins" were added in (then modified the very next year), then the "quality wins" were completely removed and the computers were de-emphasised - all in an attempt to get the "right" teams to play for the national championship.
   19. Steve Treder Posted: August 19, 2013 at 06:33 PM (#4522910)
Congratulations to Sean and Chris, and of course everyone else involved too. World domination is clearly on the way.
   20. Jim Wisinski Posted: August 19, 2013 at 06:36 PM (#4522913)
Pat Rapper's Delight,

I calculate DRA on my site The Baseball Gauge


Dan! Good to see you man. How's life?
   21. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: August 19, 2013 at 08:23 PM (#4522949)
I suppose that once in a while the SEC champion will fail to win the new college football playoff, but I bet it won't be more often than once every four or five years.
   22. KJOK Posted: August 19, 2013 at 11:32 PM (#4523128)

Finally - speaking of Jeter - it's interesting that Michael Humphreys is on the committee. I have heard Humphreys say that Jeter has been very overvalued defensively in his career - not just by the voters that have handed him 5 GG awards or the media that constantly gushes over him - but by the defensive metrics as well. I don't have Humphreys' book in front of me at the moment...

If you read #12 you know you don't need the book in front of you...
Jeter DRA Fielding At Baseball Gauge
   23. Moeball Posted: August 20, 2013 at 02:41 AM (#4523179)
OK, now I'm really confused...looking at the Jeter page on the Gauge, it looks like they now have him at -319 runs defensively for his career. Am I reading that correctly? I take it that is the Humphreys DRA calculation?

But the WAR calculation only has him at -9dwar or something like that? That must be based on a ridiculously unrealistic overstatement of his defensive value. Which just illustrates my point - if Jeter's overall ranking was based on his actual fielding performance, his WAR would drop sharply and his WAA - which, by the way, isn't included on the Gauge Page that I can see - would almost disappear. That's not HOF material. He would have been more valuable as a DH his whole career.
   24. boteman Posted: August 20, 2013 at 06:21 AM (#4523191)
How does FIELDf/x figure into this, if at all?
   25. BDC Posted: August 20, 2013 at 07:31 AM (#4523200)
the WAR calculation only has him at -9dwar or something like that? That must be based on a ridiculously unrealistic overstatement of his defensive value

dWAR, of course, includes positional adjustment, so it shows the sum of Jeter being historically bad at a very difficult position for a very long time. Year for year, his dWAR is in the range of that of an indifferent first baseman.

I have no way of knowing whether the observations or calculations that go into dWAR for Jeter are correct, but they're a plausible starting point for comparing long-career bad shortstops to long-career ordinary first basemen: given that Jeter is pretty much one of a kind in the former group.
   26. Lassus Posted: August 20, 2013 at 07:46 AM (#4523208)
According to Total Zone runs, he is +8 runs defensively so far, which would be in keeping with his defensive reputation. But according to Baseball Info Solutions RDRS #s, he is -9 runs, very poor. This is the rating that is used in his WAR calculation on B-Ref. Well, which one is it? Is he a better than average fielder or a poor one? He can't be both, but according to the most popular methods in use today - both of which are supposedly based on play-by-play data - he is just that.

This really does encapsulate my feelings on advanced defensive metrics. It's actually rather maddening.
   27. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:24 AM (#4523218)
TotalZone (at BBRef) isn't based on Ball-in-play data - its based on traditional data.
   28. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:27 AM (#4523220)
it's well known that Christopher can be had for the right number of beers.

being from Milwaukee I have that ace in the hole.

the brewers first gold glove winner since 1982 is all but in the bag!
   29. Lassus Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:29 AM (#4523223)
Traditional data? Could you elaborate?
   30. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4523232)
TZ? TZ
   31. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4523233)
Ben Oglivie is a lock!
   32. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 20, 2013 at 08:50 AM (#4523235)
Also, yes FRAA was included in the evaluation. Just not selected (so was win shares and some others).
   33. Dan Hirsch Posted: August 20, 2013 at 09:45 AM (#4523270)
Jim Wisinski,

How's it going? I no longer live in the the TB area, but I'm still a huge Rays fan. I decided to branch off from a "Rays only" website to a more historical/MLB site.


Moeball,

The Baseball Gauge uses Baseball-Reference's WAR, so the -320 Runs from DRA are completely separate from the defensive WAR totals. But BDC is correct in that the WAR total uses a positional adjustment. B-Ref has Jeter at -230 Fielding Runs and +129 positional runs, which turns into the -8.8 defensive WAR

   34. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 20, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4523389)
WTF is Rawlings Platinum Glove Award™?
   35. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 20, 2013 at 04:10 PM (#4523703)
RTG, THE best fielder. So of the GG winners, who is the tops? I would expect it to be Machado or Simmons (probably Simmons).

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