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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Defensive Regression Analysis - Part 3
1999-2001 DRA-UZR-DM Ratings, Position-By-Position
I will go through the positions in descending order of skill/importance, what Bill James long ago described as the Defensive Spectrum: shortstop, second base, center field, third base, right field, left field and first base. As promised, I will end with a review of the career DRA ratings (through 2001) for I-Rod and Piazza, the best and worst fielding full-time catchers over the past decade or so, as I lack the most up-to-date UZR ratings at catcher. UZR infielder ratings include "DP" ratings; UZR outfielder ratings do not include "Arm" ratings. In Part III, in the context of the discussion of historical outfielder ratings from 1974-2001, I will discuss DRA arm ratings in the outfield. All numerical ratings are denominated in terms of runs saved or allowed relative to a league-average fielder; e.g., +25 means 25 runs "saved"; ?12 means 12 runs "allowed".
The "Notes" column addresses examples where DRA and UZR seem to be reaching meaningfully different results. The following "code" of comments applies: "dm=dra" means that DM information strongly supports DRA; "dm~dra" means that DM information is mixed, but on balance, appears to favor DRA over UZR; "?" indicates it is unclear whether DM supports DRA or UZR; "dm~uzr" means that DM information is mixed, but on balance, appears to favor UZR; "dm=uzr" means that DM information strongly supports UZR. The one reference to "dial=dra" refers to an instance in which Chris Dial?s zone rating matches better with DRA. The one reference to "park" refers to a (Fenway) park effect.
DM commentary comes from three separate sources: team essays for 1999 and 2000, which contain capsule summaries of individual player performance, and the "Gold Glove" essay for 2001. DM?s webpage does not provide team comments for 2001 or Gold Glove essays for 1999 and 2000. In general, this mix of essays generally does not provide commentary for average or below-average fielders in 2001. The team comments for 1999 and 2000 more than make up for the lack of "Gold Glove" essays for those years.
DRA and UZR basically agree that Aurilia, Clayton, Renteria, Tejada, Deivi Cruz, Nomar, and Alex S. Gonzalez were basically average over the ?99-?01 period. DRA and UZR agree that Rey Sanchez was outstanding and that Neifi Perez was pretty good, at least in 2000. DRA and UZR basically agree that Jeter, Guzman and Alex Gonzalez were clearly below average, with the DRA ratings for Guzman being less extreme and the UZR rating for Jeter being less extreme. We could quibble about a few single season ratings?UZR shows Clayton as a viable Gold Glove candidate in 2001; DM?s 2001 Gold Glove Review ("DM GG") does not mention Clayton. On the other hand, DRA shows Renteria as a viable Gold Glove candidate in 2001, and DM GG doesn?t mention him either.
The significant differences are over Vizquel, Ordonez, and, possibly, A-Rod. DM GG had this to say about Omar, my nomination for the most over-rated fielder in history:
"[Vizquel] was one of three Cleveland infielders to be rewarded with Gold Gloves [in 2000]. But that infield was below the league average in turning ground balls into outs. And according to the STATS Major League Handbook, they were fourth worst in the league in converting double plays when grounders were hit in double-play situations.
"The bottom line is that somebody isn’t making nearly as many plays as people think . . . .
"[In 2001], Cleveland’s infield was 13th in the league in the percentage of ground balls turned into outs. And they were only a hair above the league average in double-play percentage.
"You could argue that the infield looks bad because the corner guys—Jim Thome at first, Travis Fryman and Russ Branyan at third—don’t cover much ground, and you’d be correct. Problem is, there’s absolutely no evidence that their middle infielders are doing more than their share, either . . . .
"Suffice it to say that Vizquel’s range wasn’t all that good this year."
UZR rates Vizquel above average; DRA rates him below average.
Rey Ordonez has a historically high UZR rating for 1999: +39. DM does not seem to suggest that Ordonez was having a historically outstanding season at short. "Error totals aren’t usually a good indication of fielding prowess, but the four errors charged against Ordonez were impressive nonetheless." DM says nothing about his range. DRA rates Ordonez?s 1999 season at +10.
Regarding A-Rod, DM seems to take a middle position between the moderately high rating he has under UZR and the barely above average rating he has under DRA. In 2000, DM?s team comment for Seattle describes A-Rod?s fielding in a manner that supports DRA: "While A-Rod lacks the great range of some other AL shortstops, he does rate above-average and has very good hands." UZR rates A-Rod?s 2000 season at +18; DRA rates it +9. DM has nothing to say about A-Rod in 2001. UZR rates him slightly above average (+8); DRA rates him as slightly below average (-6).
All in all, DRA appears to have "worked" in evaluating full-time shortstops during the 1999-2001 period.
DRA and UZR basically agree at second base. In its 2000 Florida Marlins comment, DM classifies Luis Castillo among young players with "great speed and defense", so it?s probably the case that UZR has measured his fielding better than DRA, though DM does not elaborate at all regarding Castillo?s defense, and does not mention Castillo at all in its 2001 Gold Glove review. If DRA has failed to recognize his talent, it?s not a talent of significant magnitude. DRA, UZR and DM all agree that Pokey Reese was outstanding and that Adam Kennedy was very good, particularly in 2001.