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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Bill James: Why We Need Runs Saved Against Zero

        Absolute values, measured from zero up, create structure to our thought.  Absolute values make analysis possible.  Without reference points, it is very, very difficult to create a map, because every little error magnifies itself over space, creating an uncertain relationship between distant points.  “Surveying” is a matter of accurate measurement, yes, but it is also a system of creating multiple reference points.  Every map starts with a zero point; you don’t know what it is, but the guy who created the map does.  (For Google Earth, by the way, the zero point is in Lawrence, Kansas.  Really.)

        I understand, of course, why fielding is difficult to measure in absolute terms.  It is difficult to measure in all sports.  Offense is measured from the ground up.  Defense is measured from the sky down.  How tall is Charlie, measuring down from the sky?  It’s a hard problem.

        But the lack of a zero point, in measuring fielding, creates chaos in our ability to analyze fielding.  It creates just as much confusion in measuring fielding as it would in measuring income, or in creating a map.  And, because we have been measuring fielding in this odd way, there are lots and lots and lots of things about fielding that we SHOULD know, but we just have no way of knowing.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 23, 2020 at 01:00 PM | 182 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Mike Webber Posted: June 25, 2020 at 11:04 PM (#5959568)
@93
Is there any work that breaks down the components of defense? Range, speed, hands, throwing. A single positional value seems coarse; different types of players have different skills that would translate differently around the diamond.


Defensive Runs Saved from the BIS Fielding Bible will show this, and it has become more refined in just the past year. Go to the Fielding Bible Web site if you want to read about the updates or see the leaderboard. At SS last season DeJong and Baez were the MLB leaders in DRS. DeJong was better at positioning range and throwing, while Baez was better at Good Plays/MisPlays and Double Plays turned.
   102. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 09:15 AM (#5959594)
Let me ask you this:Is this only rational criticism that you can come up with to the suggested "bucket method.?"

If so, then if we could somehow show that nearly every position player is being used at his optimal position then this criticism would disappear? And the method would be totally logical, yes?


It's not my only objection. I also think that the offensive differences may not provide a good estimate of the defensive differences. That said, I seriously doubt players get used optimally. There are lots of examples of players who probably played the wrong position (Derek Jeter) and I've seen claims made for which I'm quite skeptical, e.g., that 1B was more important defensively in the deadball era (and even later) relative to other positions.

But if it were true that players were being used optimally, that would obviously support the use of offense as a proxy, subject to my first objection.
   103. Rally Posted: June 26, 2020 at 10:35 AM (#5959609)
For infield (non-1B) and outfield you can use the position adjustments as a reasonable guide to how a position switcher should do. If you have an average defensive corner outfielder, he will be about -10 runs if forced to play a full year in center. If you have an average shortstop he should be a bit better than average if moved to second or third.

It does not work reliably for comparing infield to outfield. Combination of different skills being used and of course lefthanded outfielders never get to play infield.

It certainly does not work comparing catcher to any other spot in the field. Yadier Molina is a great defensive catcher so he should be able to play at other positions.. No. Don't even go there.

It doesn't work for first base at all. Partly due to 1B having fewer batted balls to field than other spots. If the SS adjustment is +7 and 1B is -10, that does not mean we expect an average shortstop to be a +17 defender at first base. There is no such animal, maybe some players are +17 or better for a single year but for extended periods +10 seems to be about the limit. If I had to guess, I'd predict that the over-qualified defender would be a +5 first baseman.

It works out well enough that I'm willing to pay a +17 bat, +0 glove 1B about the same as a +0 bat, +0 glove shortstop. Moving that shortstop to first base and you are pretty much wasting his value, as the Colorado Rockies demonstrated with Ian Desmond.
   104. . . . . . . Posted: June 26, 2020 at 10:35 AM (#5959610)
LeMahieu at 6-4 is an exception to the short 2B standard. A 3 time gold glover with good metrics. Mike Moustakas played some 2B last year and was signed to play there for the Reds. Not super tall, but a big guy that in the past would not have been tried at 2B. He seemed to do a decent job at the position.


What's interesting is that the best theory as to why 2B had to be short was for the agility to be the pivot for the DP, which is a specialized, mostly 2B-only skill (SS do it for the 4-6-3 but that doesn't require turning away from the runner and the quick pivot). I have wondered whether the prohibition on take-out slides made the pivot less demanding and opened the door to taller 2B which will change the spectrum of the position.

One of the best examples of defensive physical constraints leaking over to other positions is catcher. Catcher selects for short leg-height ratio. Since that correlates with speed, catchers are slow and less valuable baserunners. If you did a defensive spectrum based on baserunning value you'd think CF and SS were easy positions and C was a hard one. You'd be wrong b/c the physical requirements of the position create a stronger effect than the defensive spectrum.
   105. Mike Webber Posted: June 26, 2020 at 11:25 AM (#5959623)
@104 - Also the rise in K's and Launch Angle has caused both the number of DPs and the DP opportunities to go down.

Similar to the fall and rise of the stolen base from the 1930's to the 1970's. We went 40 years with no stolen bases in the league and the throwing arms of catchers were maybe not requirement they were in the deadball era. Not as much stealing and bunting, don't need as big an arm to play catcher. Arms of catchers aren't what they once were, suddenly a rise in stolen bases.

Stolen bases dwindle again, Gary Sanchez can play catcher for several years instead of moving to 1b/DH much sooner.

   106. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 11:33 AM (#5959628)
For infield (non-1B) and outfield you can use the position adjustments as a reasonable guide to how a position switcher should do.


This is based on data from actual position switchers, correct?
   107. . . . . . . Posted: June 26, 2020 at 11:58 AM (#5959638)
Similar to the fall and rise of the stolen base from the 1930's to the 1970's. We went 40 years with no stolen bases in the league and the throwing arms of catchers were maybe not requirement they were in the deadball era. Not as much stealing and bunting, don't need as big an arm to play catcher. Arms of catchers aren't what they once were, suddenly a rise in stolen bases.


Yep. The thing is, defensive requirements can be non-linear. Catcher is a great illustration of this. The time it takes a player to run from first to second base is not evenly distributed in MLB - its going to be some flavor of normally distributed around a mean. So the defensive value of a good arm+pop time for a catcher is not linear. Differences in the time it takes for the catcher to get the ball to second base will have a huge impact on defensive value if the time is within 1 stdev of the median time it takes for a runner to get there. But once the catcher time is short enough that he's going to beat 65% of the runners to 2nd base, the value of incremental time savings rapidly dimninishes because of the nature of the curve - and there's almost no point in trying to beat the outliers to second base because there aren't enough of them to matter.

The effect of this is that there's sort of a baseline arm+pop time requirement to be an MLB catcher, and any catcher needs to hit that number to stick at the position in MLB. If there was no other constraint on catchers and catchers were smack in the middle of the defensive spectrum, this would still have an effect on catcher offense because the pool of people who could hit than number is going to be much smaller than the pool of total potential pro baseball players.

Now, if a position creates more defensive value than offensive value, relatively speaking, then it will select stronger for defense skill and youd see less offensive even without the reduced population size

And if a position selects for a skill that is ANTI correlated with offensive value, then defensive selection will have a disproportionately strong effect on offensive value. You pretty clearly see that with catcher, maybe also with 2B, probably not for other positions.

So breaking it down position by position:

Position --- Value of defense --- Size of pool --- Physical disadvantage
--- Super high --- Small --- No
--- High --- Small --- Yes
1B 
--- Low --- Large --- No
2B 
--- Medium --- Medium --- Yes
SS 
--- High --- Large --- No
3B 
--- Medium --- Large --- No
LF 
--- Low --- Large --- No
CF 
--- High --- Medium --- No
RF 
--- Low --- Large --- No 


And that witch's brew outputs the observed OFFENSIVE defensive spectrum.
   108. Rally Posted: June 26, 2020 at 11:59 AM (#5959639)
I have wondered whether the prohibition on take-out slides made the pivot less demanding and opened the door to taller 2B which will change the spectrum of the position.


Maybe, though in LeMahieu's case he was winning gold gloves there before the Utley rule went into effect.

This is based on data from actual position switchers, correct?


Correct.

More that 10 years old, but here's the source of a lot of this:
https://blogs.fangraphs.com/historical-position-adjustments/
   109. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 12:10 PM (#5959641)
Thanks.
   110. PreservedFish Posted: June 26, 2020 at 12:15 PM (#5959643)
It's remarkable that David Eckstein played so much shortstop. Like all tiny guys, he was a born 2B, and unlike the little guys with strong arms that got unfairly pigeonholed as 2Bs, he actually did have a crappy arm.
   111. Rally Posted: June 26, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5959678)
Yeah, the funny thing is that the guy playing 2b when he joined the Angels, Adam Kennedy, was a minor league SS. Can’t argue with the results though.
   112. PreservedFish Posted: June 26, 2020 at 02:26 PM (#5959680)
It was also amusing how quickly the stathead community turned on him. One minute he was an OBP God in the minors, a Youkilis type, the next minute he was a scrappy overachiever celebrated for doing the little things.
   113. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 26, 2020 at 04:10 PM (#5959710)
There are lots of examples of players who probably played the wrong position (Derek Jeter)...


OK well then show me how'd you go up about proving that. I mean you can use made up numbers. Just how you'd do it in general. Cause im not sure how certain you can be. Other than if the player actually played the other position.
   114. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 04:23 PM (#5959712)
I mostly can't prove it, of course, except in the fairly rare case of position switchers. However, if a player's defensive numbers are really bad, then I don't think it's a stretch to say he's out of position a lot of times. To be clear, a player can be a bad defender and still put in the best available position. Take Willie McCovey, for example. He was a bad defender but there was no DH rule for his career so it was play him at first or lose his bat. 1B was therefore the correct move.

But I'm making a weaker claim than that: I'm only saying that it's not clear to me that managers always put players in the optimal position.
   115. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 26, 2020 at 04:47 PM (#5959720)
It does not work reliably for comparing infield to outfield. Combination of different skills being used and of course lefthanded outfielders never get to play infield. It certainly does not work comparing catcher to any other spot in the field. ...It doesn't work for first base at all.



OK so a lot of these positional switches cannot be accomplished for all practical purposes. If so then what is the practical use of these positional adjustments that you refer to in 108? Many of these switches cannot be made. And also there seems to be little reason to shift a decent defensive player to an easier position (shifting to the right of the spectrum) because obviously he's going to have less defensive chances and there should be better hitters available at the easier position.

Of course there could be a time in a game when you have to move say Rusty Staub to 1b because of an injury or a double switch or something. And also if you want to move a bad defender to an easier position, say Jeter.

Is that the kind of use you want for the positional adjustment? Because I dont see why bucket method wouldnt have the same or better practical value.

Or do you use it compare like the all time greats? Should we give ARod a positive adjustment because we know he could have played Ss and only went to 3b to accomodate Jeter. But while that sort of adjustment might make sense, there might be lots of other situations where the guy is being forced to play out of position because of some sort of hole in the roster?

Like let's say it would be better to move ARod to SS, that way he's now the same hitter (we hope) and still a good defender, but his contemporary SS in the league are hitting 10 runs/season worse. So that's a win. BUT if his replacement at third, is suffering more than 10 runs vis a vis the avg 3b then its a net loss. These sort of practical considerations are going to hurt any calculation of positional adjustment, no?

Secondly do we really have enuf data pts. for making a significant movement across the spectrum? I mean, like SS to 2b, both of those positions hit about the same and Im not sure 2b is that much easier. ANd Lf to RF, thats very similar, make an adjustment for the arm and I guess we can figure that out. I mean for more meaningful moves.

What's left?

3b to OF. I guess there's Mike SHannon, maybe Santo, did Jim Ray Hart do that? Rose at some pt.
2b to OF. younger Pete Rose, Hank Aaron.
SS to OF. Yount, was Molitor? Marwin Gonzalez?
C movements: Joel Youngblood, Jimmy Foxx, Joe Torre, Johnny Bench.

it doesnt seem like there would be enough data to make any firm conclusions. You've got lots of noise in there. There's players who are aging e.g. Rose, there might be injury issues, there might be small samples to compare the same player at same time.
   116. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 26, 2020 at 05:06 PM (#5959727)

I mostly can't prove it, of course, except in the fairly rare case of position switchers


Well on which two positions are you reasonably sure of? Which ones can we state an objective value in runs, if we switch from one to the other?

ANd if you can't prove it, then how do you know the bucket method Im promoting isnt the best proxy we have?

However, if a player's defensive numbers are really bad, then I don't think it's a stretch to say he's out of position a lot of times.


Well even this is not clear. We've got certain primates like Snapper and CFB insisting OF defense is only good for like 10 runs a year. Well to be sure they would say an excellent defender is only good for 10 runs above avg. If you were to take that stuff seriously you would start to field teams like a beer league softball team. LUzinski at 2b? Sure why not? How many runs can he cost you.

BUt thats what you get if you swallow this crap from TZ literally. LIke they've got Rabbit Maranville, probably the greatest def SS of his day and only two seasons in 22 does he save more than 20 runs at SS. Only 7 times does he get more than 10.

Hell, Im sure Luzinski can add about 100 more runs of offense there at SS, why not stick him there?

OK getting more realistic...

Its still not clear that if he's bad on defense we need to shift him. Like Im sure (not everyone else is) that Arky Vaughan is a bad SS, but he's hitting the hell out of the ball. So I guess he's fine at SS. Did you ever see Dale Berra play SS? He was definitely not fine there.

THere's plenty of bad defenders we can stick at corner OF and still have a net positive. Im pretty sure Kittle was a bad defender, was he overall positive? What about Bichette? MIke Easler was really bad in LF. I think LUzinski was but Im not sure how bad. BUt presumably those guys were hitting enuf to make it worth it.

What about central defense? Al Oliver had little range, I guess he was a net positive maybe. Jeter was bad. I always thought Ripken should have been playing 3b his range was limited. Then there's 3b. I guess Madlock was supposed to be bad but teams kept playing him there. Boggs?

I mean it all depends, right? YOu have to run the numbers. SO we get back to the bucket theory again.
   117. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 26, 2020 at 05:16 PM (#5959730)
Take Willie McCovey, for example. He was a bad defender but there was no DH rule for his career so it was play him at first or lose his bat. 1B was therefore the correct move.


Well I dont know that either. As you mention there are practical concerns, some of it has to do with whos available on the roster to play OF or 1b.

BUt lets say in an ideal, theoretical world. Do the positional adjustments that PF is talking about (I dont have a name for these, give me a name). Would they be able to guide us?

Like the question is: DO we put McCOvey at 1b or LF? or 3b? Or hell can he hit well enuf to play SS?

Can we look up positional adjustments in a table somewhere and say, OK moving from 1b to LF, those hitters are 5 runs/season worse hitters than 1b (using the numbers I posted in post 78). Would we lose more than 5 runs if McCovey plays LF?

I dont think we can just look that up. Obviously not there are 1b that could play there and be OK and there's one that cant. Personally I can him easily losing 10 runs there, or more. HOpefully he's decent at 1b.
   118. John DiFool2 Posted: June 26, 2020 at 05:28 PM (#5959736)
It doesn't work for first base at all. Partly due to 1B having fewer batted balls to field than other spots.


Hmm. Obviously the more RH hitters we have, the more chances the left side of the infield will see.

But this might also indicate that 1B have been, strictly speaking, playing in the wrong locations (pre-shifting). But of course there is one huge constraint-they have to play close enouugh to the bag to get back to it in time to catch any throws. Else the pitcher will have to hustle over there, without a 1B mitt & without the drill and such to ensure no lost outs.
   119. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 06:25 PM (#5959752)
Like the question is: DO we put McCOvey at 1b or LF? or 3b? Or hell can he hit well enuf to play SS?


Well, McCovey played about 1220 innings in LF in 1964 and was -14 rfield. In 1300 innings at 1B in 1965, he was net 0. Naturally it's going to depend on your options as to what you would have done as the Giants manager. In 1964 they had Orlando Cepeda to play 1B and he hit for a 148 OPS+. I'd say that's worth it to have McCovey give up 14 runs in LF. But not many teams have options like those Giants did with those 2 players, and in general it's probably not worth it to give up 14 runs by playing someone out of position.

As for SS, I'm pretty confident that McCovey would have been by far the worst fielding SS in baseball history, and while I never saw Dale Berra, I did see Johnny Lemaster.

Well on which two positions are you reasonably sure of? Which ones can we state an objective value in runs, if we switch from one to the other?


I wasn't referring to specific players, I just meant that conceptually we could plausibly show that position switchers were better or worse at different positions and the magnitude.
   120. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 26, 2020 at 07:19 PM (#5959762)
As for SS, I'm pretty confident that McCovey would have been by far the worst fielding SS in baseball history, and while I never saw Dale Berra, I did see Johnny Lemaster.


RIght, and I think this is by far a way more interesting question. And maybe it relates to James question about how high to set the baseline. I really didnt follow the whole thing. BUt thats a real interesting question. The worst SS seem to be about -10 OAA and it could be much worse once you factor in stuff that's not counted in OAA, such as relay throws.

Its got to be worse for McCOvey. BUt how much worse? Isnt that the real issue here?

In 1964 they had Orlando Cepeda to play 1B and he hit for a 148 OPS+. I'd say that's worth it to have McCovey give up 14 runs in LF


SUre. LIke you said there are practical concerns that start to overwhelm whatever sort of theoretical concepts we put out there. McCovey is probably still a net positive there despite the bad 1964 season, what happened then?
   121. Mefisto Posted: June 26, 2020 at 08:16 PM (#5959773)
McCovey is probably still a net positive there despite the bad 1964 season, what happened then?


Cepeda blew out his knee in 1965 and then the Giants traded him to the Cardinals, partly because they couldn't figure out what to do with both of them and partly because of his knee. McCovey went back to 1B in '65 because the Giants had better options at LF than at 1B at that point, and he stayed there. But he got progressively worse as a fielder at 1B too.
   122. Walt Davis Posted: June 26, 2020 at 10:21 PM (#5959784)
Trammell vs Grace -- I don't know how long it would take Trammell to get used to 1B (1 month, 3 months, a season, two seasons?) but once he got used to it yes, I firmly believe he'd have been much better than Grace. I did also state a belief that Trammell's superiority would be less than dWAR would have us believe because Trammell's primary advantage over Grace is superior range (Grace was rather slow) and that has limited value in (traditional) 1B defense. (I would assume he also had a better arm and likely better hands though possibly not as quick in terms of reaction time as Grace.) There is also of course the issue that 1Bs get fewer GBs hit in their direction. Now it's possible that Trammell would have some bizarre reason why he couldn't learn to receive throws at 1B but barring that (which I consider extremely unlikely), Trammell would be better than Grace at nearly every aspect of 1B defense.

Now Keith Hernandez's problem is that he suffered from the biggest defensive limitation there is -- throwing left-handed. (Shared by Grace of course). If he threw right-handed, Hernandez almost certainly would have been a 3B or 2B (depending on arm/range) ... heck, he might have had enough range and arm to play SS for all I know. If you are a LHT with good/quick hands then 1B may indeed be the best place for you to play.

But let's not overstate Hernandez's brilliance. His defense (Rfield) is being compared to some of the weakest defenders of his era. He's historically awesome as a 1B ... because historically it is often manned by aged plonkers. Based on TZ, Stargell was only -7 per "year" at 1B; Aaron at 37-38 was only -4; Banks on bad knees was zero; Killebrew was -1; Boog was -1; Balboni was only -4; Cecil Fielder was -4. Hernandez was a wizard at 1B but being 10-15 runs better than Steve Balboni is not much to hang your hat on. Hernandez was a great defender ... for a 1B. He was probably a good defender in some absolute/neutral sense but it's very unlikely he was great in some absolute/neutral sense ... but being LHT, we'll really never know other than it was decided he'd be better at 1B than CF.

(Note, DRS, TZ, etc. are the numbers we've got. I've got my doubts about them but without those or other similar numbers, we've got nothing but personal opinion.)

As to absolute/neutral -- this is what statcast is trying to do although still stratifying by IF and OF. Players aren't ranked by position, the numbers are based on range/time (and other stuff) and the probability a play that far away is made. They intoduced their IF version last year and have provided a few years of data. They say Javy was the best of all in 2019 at +14 although adjusting for PT it was probably Andrelton. The top-rated 1B is the highly-rated Matt Olson at an impressive +9. Christian Walker is at +7, Goldschmidt at +4. The worst 1B in the "qualified" list is Alonzo at -5 which is nowhere near as bad as Vlad or Jorge Polanco at -12. (Those are run values, not outs)

Those 2019 numbers suggest 1B are pretty average IFs. If you look across all three years, the picture doesn't change substantially. The elite guys (Simmons, Ahmed) are way out there and Olson is the only guy who can hang with the next tier but Smoak, Goldschmidt, 1B-3B Travis Shaw do just fine and the bottom of the table are mainly bad SS and 2B. (It's still a counting stat so some of that will be opportunities but that would be true of guys at the top as well.) Still 8 of the top 12 are SS (if we include Javy), plus the two amazing 3B Arenado and Chapman, then LeMahieu and Wong. By these numbers, Olson could likely be a solid 3B or 2B and he even throws RH -- he is on the same team as Chapman though. Still he only played a few innings at 3B in the minors but did have a fair number of innings in RF.

For those who don't peak at statcast numbers often, the main thing they suggest is that defense doesn't matter a whole lot, IF or OF. Or at the very least, MLB has gotten less tolerant of terrible defense and/or better at not playing guys out of position. There will be a few consistently outstanding guys, most everything else is average-ish and almost nobody is truly terrible. On the IF, the worst guys over 3 years are Gregorius, Amed Rosario, Jorge Polanco -- and we're talking about 6-7 runs a year ... maybe -10 if we comped them to just SS.

Certainly by this measure, there is almost no difference in defensive performance across IF position ... median "3 year" values for "qualified" players (no idea what the "qualified" criteria are).

1B 0
2B 0
SS +3
3B +3

And those differences could easily be due to opportunities. Note, when it came out, they allowed you to separate by lineup position (SS) and actual fielding position ("as SS") to adjust for shifts and such. Either they've hidden that or dropped it -- I assume these are lineup positions not actual positions -- since we're looking at "qualified" that's probably the best way to do it anyway. Whether this equivalence is a new thing brought on by nerds or historically true, I can't say. (We don't seem to see as many fat guys in the game but I'm not sure that would be enough to explain this equivalence.)

And by the way, I've been watching baseball for 50 years. The notion that my take on the relative defensive abilities of players at different positions is influenced by Rpos is deeply silly. I couldn't have told you in 1972 how many wins better a defender (in an absolute sense) your typical SS was than your typical 1B but it was pretty obvious which one was better. If you're going to accuse me of some form of blind devotion, accuse me of blind devotion to traditional baseball beliefs.
   123. DanG Posted: June 26, 2020 at 11:55 PM (#5959800)
Tallest players with 800+ games at 2B

Player            Ht    PA From   To
DJ LeMahieu       76  4454 2011 2019
Neil Walker       75  5111 2009 2019
Ben Zobrist       75  6836 2006 2019
Ron Oester        74  4666 1978 1990
Bobby Grich       74  8220 1970 1986
Jerry Lumpe       74  5441 1956 1967
Daniel Murphy     73  5623 2008 2019
Chase Utley       73  7863 2003 2018
Kelly Johnson     73  5139 2005 2016
Mark Grudzielanek 73  7603 1995 2010
Jeff Kent         73  9537 1992 2008
Delino DeShields  73  6652 1990 2002
Ryne Sandberg     73  9282 1981 1997
Damaso Garcia     73  4124 1978 1989
Manny Trillo      73  6573 1973 1989
Rob Wilfong       73  3015 1977 1987
Davey Johnson     73  5465 1965 1978
Glenn Beckert     73  5572 1965 1975
Julian Javier     73  6197 1960 1972
Bobby Knoop       73  4004 1964 1972
Frank Bolling     73  6190 1954 1966
Nap Lajoie        73 10468 1896 1916 
   124. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 28, 2020 at 11:49 AM (#5959955)
*** NEWS FLASH ****
*** NEWS FLASH ****
*** NEWS FLASH ****


(Note, DRS, TZ, etc. are the numbers we've got. I've got my doubts about them...


I like how you sort of buried this as sort of a footnote to your KHernandez take. Like pundits announcing bad news at the end of a news cycle so no one will notice it. The last time we had extended defense discussion concerning OFer's and the statcast OAA numbers you claimed to be agnostic on the whole matter. Despite these two systems often being at vast odds with another, you said you had no preference for either. Does this now represent a sea change in your opinion or did you harbor secret doubts all along?



For those who don't peak at statcast numbers often, the main thing they suggest is that defense doesn't matter a whole lot, IF or OF.


What does this even mean? Is defense less important than say: Base running (Rbas)? Or a marginal reliever? Would the Orioles be better off trading Victor RObles for Tommy Kahnle, you know so they could punt their useless defensive guy and get some marginal relief help for their bullpen. Would that be good?

Can we play Greg Luzinski at SS? his offense should outweigh his defensive liabilities, yes?
Or Manny Sanguillen at 2b? He should be able to outhit the average 2b by 60 runs or so, that would outweigh his defensive liabilities, yes?

I mean did anybody really expect say Luis Aparacio's glove to have more impact on runs than Barry Bonds's bat? What are you expecting out of defensive runs saved anyhow?

The infielder OAA numbers from statcast, I presume, represent assists on balls hit into play. NOt relay throws and other such. If a great SS can get 20 more OAAs a season, he should be able to at least get a few more on assists and other heads up plays, I think.


Or at the very least, MLB has gotten less tolerant of terrible defense and/or better at not playing guys out of position.


I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are we talking some historical trends here? We dont have historical stat cast numbers, so you're saying that TZ numbers in the old days had more variance w/in a given position than they do today? Or are you saying that if like Arky Vaughan or Dick Allen came up today they'd be shifted to positions to the left of the defensive spectrum? Shortstops of the 60s for example appear to be clones of one another statistically speaking, was there more variance in def numbers back then?

Isnt the big pink elephant in the room that concept of How Many Runs Can A Really Bad DEfender Cost You? Isnt that what Bill James is getting at when he talks of starting the zero pt. up in the sky somewhere? But no ones done that calculation yet right? If say Ernie Lombardi played SS, would he cost you 50 runs a year? or a 100? Any guesses, or do you remain agnostic?



Trammell vs Grace -- I don't know how long it would take Trammell to get used to 1B (1 month, 3 months, a season, two seasons?) but once he got used to it yes, I firmly believe he'd have been much better than Grace.


WHy did you continue to beat on this drum for so long? I mean what's the big point here?

. I did also state a belief that Trammell's superiority would be less than dWAR would have us believe ... There is also of course the issue that 1Bs get fewer GBs hit in their direction.


That's all there is to say right? There's no argument that shifting good defenders to easier positions on the defensive spectrum is a waste of valuable resources. Trammel will be playing 1b, so his fellow 1bmen will be hitting better than fellow SS, so Trammel's bat will be of less use than it was at SS. And of course Trammel should be a better than avg. fielder at 1b, but his abilities are better used at SS where he gets more chances.

All of that should be elementary. What was your pt in all this?


   125. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 28, 2020 at 12:14 PM (#5959960)

It works out well enough that I'm willing to pay a +17 bat, +0 glove 1B about the same as a +0 bat, +0 glove shortstop. Moving that shortstop to first base and you are pretty much wasting his value, as the Colorado Rockies demonstrated with Ian Desmond.


Rally, what are these numbers in relation to? I presume they are hitting +17 and 0 respectively, in relation to the league as a WHOLE, yes? Not vis a vis other players playing the same position? If so I guess I agree, but then arent these numbers very similar to the same thing I did using the Bucket/position concept upthread? Here's the spectrum and the differential in off runs produced at each:


1b > corner OF > 3b > CF > 2b/SS > C

13 > 7.5 > 6 > 2 > -5 > -8

Going from 1b to SS represents 18 runs of offense, the off differential between avg 1b and avg. SS.

But that shouldnt come as a suprise should it? With hundreds of players in the league and managers trying to optimize them they should be getting about 18 runs more out of a position that is maybe 18 runs easier to field.

   126. TJ Posted: June 28, 2020 at 01:13 PM (#5959985)
The Worst Defensive Players I Have Personally Seen (not going by any stats, just the multiple times I’ve watched them play over the years.)

LF- Greg Luzinski. Yes, he was that bad. Watching him line up facing the left field line and leaving it up to Garry Maddox to handle the left-center field alley was hilarious. It was like a one-man left field foul line shift.
CF- Ron LeFlore- All he had was speed. Lousy jumps, terrible hands, a wildly inaccurate arm and Odysseus took more direct routes to get somewhere.
RF- Jose Canseco- the home run ball off of his head may have been the funniest moment of his defensive career, but nowhere near his worst.
1B- Mo Vaughn- guys like Cecil Fielder and Steve Balboni were bad, but they had least seemed to have soft hands. I never saw Dick Stuart play, but he could not have been worse than Mo Vaughn.
2B- Juan Samuel- not that he couldn’t play second base. Just seemed like he preferred not to. (I excuse guys who got the yips like Steve Sax even though he was pretty bad before that happened).
SS- Johnny Lemaster- Yes, he was as bad at short as Luzinski was in left. At least Luzinski could hit.
3B- Nick Castellanos- I hate to pick Nick because he tried so hard. But I am convinced the Tigers moved him to right field not because of his defensive liabilities but to protect him from himself.
C- Gary Sanchez- I thought I would never see a worse defensive catcher than Mike Piazza. I was wrong.
P- Nolan Ryan- I thought about Jon Lester, but his only issue was throwing, and his throws would sail softly and harmlessly over the first baseman’s head. Ryan couldn’t field, and any throws to first endangered anyone sitting five rows up behind first base.
DH- Lonnie Smith. Had to get him in here somewhere.

Yes, I would buy tickets to watch this team play just for the defensive hilarity that would ensue.
   127. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 28, 2020 at 02:14 PM (#5959998)
Mike Easler in LF was for sure bad.
   128. Rally Posted: June 28, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5960000)
#125, yes, vs overall average. Our numbers are very close.
   129. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 28, 2020 at 02:59 PM (#5960008)
those numbers are from Hardball times c2007, I wish someone could update those. I dont see a way how to do it on baseballref.
   130. . . . . . . Posted: June 28, 2020 at 03:01 PM (#5960011)
As soon I as I saw Mike Easler's name I thought "man, what ever happened to him. Dude really knew how to hit and was a great hitting coach".

Turns out he teaches hitting at Mo Vaughn's (his ex-disciple's) school!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaLaqsHeD2M


Man, I would love for my kid to be taught how to hit by Mike Easler and Mo Vaughn. Those guys really, really thought about it in a way few guys of their generations did.
   131. PreservedFish Posted: June 28, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5960015)
Most of the "worst fielders ever" that I've seen were short-lived experiments that ended with the manager apologizing and swearing that it would never happen again: Todd Hundley in LF, Mike Piazza at 1B, Hanley Ramirez in LF, and so on. I suppose this is a different sort of category, though.
   132. Rally Posted: June 28, 2020 at 04:07 PM (#5960025)
Frank Thomas was the worst defensive 1b I ever saw. Adam Dunn deserves a spot on the team, but Luzinski is hard to top.
   133. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 28, 2020 at 04:08 PM (#5960026)
Bill Virdon tried to put Sanguillen in RF, perhaps because Clemente (recently killed) was his close friend. You could tell he had immense athleticism but was just learning to read balls and such. It lasted about six weeks and it really makes no sense. At that pt. was good defensively at first then his arm got injured or something. Later, the Dodgers ran all over him in the 74 NLCS. BUt he could hit, one season he actually produced more offense than johnny Bench. The only NL to do that I guess. So why move him off C? made no sense. I guess they had Kirkpatrick, and Milt May as backup Cs but they werent solid.

Bill James said he saw KC try to play Ed Kirkpatrick in LF and it was really bad. I dont think they tried that in PIT. It might be interested to run the "positional bonus" think on Al Oliver to see if he should have moved out of CF .
   134. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 28, 2020 at 09:30 PM (#5960075)
Just thinking out loud here....

I don’t think you can measure defense from a zero point all at once at every position. But you might be able to one position at a time for positions other than 1B and C.

Let’s say we are talking about shortstop, and we make these assumptions:
-All other players besides the SS are average fielders.
-Our fictitious shortstop makes zero plays (read: has zero assists but all other elective plays get made by other players).
-A single is worth about half a run.
-The typical team hits 1000 total balls into the SS area (I don’t know what the real number is)
-An average SS has 400 assists (again, I don’t know the real number)

So the average shortstop would save 200 runs vs Mr. Zero (or whatever the number is with real-life numbers).

This approach would work for 2B and 3B. At C and 1B, however, you would have to assume Mr. Zero would catch pitches or catch throws, respectively, from other infielders, otherwise, the infinity trap. In the outfield I guess you’d have to credit the opposition with a double or triple for each non-play by Mr. Zero.

I’m not sure whether that would get at what James is trying to do or not, but it does start you at zero.
   135. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 28, 2020 at 09:34 PM (#5960079)
Actually, I forgot to include the value of the out not gotten. If that costs the defense a tenth of a run, then each miss by our shortstop is worth six-tenths if a run, and the average shortstop saves 240 runs instead of 200 above Mr. Zero.

By my reckoning, however, Derek Jeter somehow ends up at -327 against Mr. Zero. ;)
   136. Ron J Posted: June 29, 2020 at 09:33 AM (#5960098)
#110 Then there Kevin Reimer. Possibly the most entertaining bad fielder of all time (non Lonnie Smith division) because he tried hard but honestly seemed unable to judge a ball in flight. So he'd run hard in a random direction and hope for the best.

I've never seen a major league player dive for a ball and miss as badly as Reimer did -- and it wasn't a one time thing.

He wasn't around that long but still regularly appeared in misplays of the week segments.

Dave Collins also seemed to have a lot of trouble judging balls in flight but was fast enough to outrun a certain percentage of his mistakes.
   137. Rally Posted: June 29, 2020 at 09:35 AM (#5960099)
A play made at shortstop is worth about .75 runs. That is one way to do it, but at the team level you'd end up with all fielders combining to save something like 3000 runs. And then add whatever pitchers save. If defense is 1/3 fielding and 2/3 pitching, then 9000 runs saved by a team.

In some ways a low estimate, compared to the infinite runs given up by incapable defenders. But also about 10x what Bill James is trying to end up with, which requires some sort of minimal competence.

The whole effort still seems to me like more trouble than it's worth.
   138. Ron J Posted: June 29, 2020 at 09:40 AM (#5960102)
#137 That's why I haven't been very interested in this discussion. There limiting factor is the precision of our inputs (the exististing defensive data) and that's sufficiently noisy that I remain unconvinced any changed in accounting are meaningful.
   139. Rally Posted: June 29, 2020 at 09:42 AM (#5960103)
#110 Then there Kevin Reimer. Possibly the most entertaining bad fielder of all time (non Lonnie Smith division) because he tried hard but honestly seemed unable to judge a ball in flight. So he'd run hard in a random direction and hope for the best.


He sure was. He was responsible for the only triple Sam Horn ever hit. Especially amazing considering:

1. Few triples are hit to left field
2. Camden Yards is not generally a good place to hit triples
3. Horn was not, shall we say, fleet of foot.

Sadly I missed it by one game, I was in the left field seats the night before with a bunch of friends. We were heckling Reimer most of the game.
   140. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 29, 2020 at 06:09 PM (#5960256)

The whole effort still seems to me like more trouble than it's worth.


Well its hard to argue with that but the whole thing brings up more interesting issues that are tangential. SUch as: why are all these middle infielders in the dead ball era of the 60s all the same 80 OPS hitters?

Is it not reasonable to assume that somewhere there could be a guy who could field passably, and still out hit the competition enuf so that his bat would be a net plus at SS?


Putting aside the ARods, the Honus Wagners who would be inner circle or pretty close. But what about guys like Arky Vaughan or Cal Ripken or Jeter or BOudreau or Tony Lazerri? Could they only exist in eras of high offense? I would tend to doubt it because if you hit say 380 in lively ball era why couldnt you hit say 320 in a dead ball era? Hell the absolute number isnt even that important. If say Jeter could hit 280 in 1967 he's got to be 50 runs ahead of the nearest SS. So then the issue his how much of his defense a liability? More than it was in the 2000s?
   141. Ron J Posted: June 29, 2020 at 06:35 PM (#5960268)
#140 Sure it is reasonable. But there was a stunningly wide consensus that said in effect, we don't care what our SS hits. We have to have the best possible glove.

And our second baseman just needs to be great on the pivot and bat second.

It was baffling to me even then.
   142. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 29, 2020 at 06:41 PM (#5960271)
Right, so I think SB were up if Im not mistaken. Not sure if GBs were somewhat diminished with increased KOs. Its also possible that this was an illusion that created the need for great defense. hmmm
   143. Mefisto Posted: June 29, 2020 at 06:50 PM (#5960277)
Tony Conigliaro.

But the "defense first" attitude from managers then (and at other times and places) reinforces my view that managers don't make optimal decisions.
   144. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 29, 2020 at 08:11 PM (#5960282)
But that attitude wasnt prevalent in the old days say the 1920s. I have to think they didnt suddenly get all old and crotchety one day in 1962 or whatever....

KOs just about exactly doubled between 1950 and 1965. This would lead to abou 7.5% decrease in GBs.
   145. McCoy Posted: June 29, 2020 at 08:35 PM (#5960284)
The talent pool and getting that talent to the majors and keeping it healthy wasnt very good.
   146. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 29, 2020 at 08:56 PM (#5960287)

this one has a chart about 1/3 of the way down that compares SS OPS+ to all the rest of the positions. The big lag began in the late 60s and reached a nadir in the early 70s where it remained mired for the rest of the century. They finally got past C in year 2000 it looks like:

https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2019/7/11/20690121/shortstop-offense-home-runs-fernando-tatis-jorge-polanco-tim-anderson


I presume the other lines near the bottom are CF and C. It would be interesting to see if these positions fluctuate based on the off. environment of the era.
   147. Rally Posted: June 29, 2020 at 09:19 PM (#5960291)
It makes me wonder, where were the decent hitting middle infielders that didn’t get to play because the manager had to have a .230, 2 HR glove man?

In other eras, would Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle been given more of a chance to stay in the infield.
   148. Mefisto Posted: June 30, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5960338)
Mel Ott might have been a third baseman had different attitudes prevailed.

I have to wonder how things would stand even today if Earl Weaver hadn't kept Ripken at SS.

But that attitude wasnt prevalent in the old days say the 1920s.


I'm not sure that's true -- Rabbit Maranville -- but "defense first" was the attitude for 1B and 3B for long periods of time.
   149. Rally Posted: June 30, 2020 at 10:39 AM (#5960347)
Cal had already been moved to third in the minors. He played SS as a 17 year old in rookie ball. Next 3 years played more 3B, but at least spent some time at short. Made the big leagues as a 3B. Weaver deserves all the credit in the world for moving Cal back to short.
   150. Mefisto Posted: June 30, 2020 at 12:07 PM (#5960362)
"Kept" in the sense of "kept him there after he got criticized for moving him to SS".
   151. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: June 30, 2020 at 01:03 PM (#5960373)


I'm not sure that's true -- Rabbit Maranville -


I guess you have a point for the 1920s. There's Travis Jackson and Buddy Myer both averaging about 120 OPS for a six or 7 year stretch but its not like there's a plethora of these guys. Im guessing its like after Ruth showed it was possible to go for the fences it still took a while for power hitters to come through the pipeline.

By the 30s you've got Cronin, Appling, Vaughan and TJackson and probably a few other lesser ones who can hit and play SS. It may have taken a while to rethink your player development ideas and get guys into that pipeline.

I mean yeah, there's very likely an institutional attitude thing going on as well.

As for the late 60s/70s etc thing. This era of low hitting SS coincides pretty closely with the advent of astro turf was there something about this that necessitated a need for rangey short stops or something?
   152. DL from MN Posted: June 30, 2020 at 01:42 PM (#5960383)
the advent of astro turf was there something about this that necessitated a need for rangey short stops or something?


Yeah, the ball got through the infield a helluva lot faster.
   153. John DiFool2 Posted: June 30, 2020 at 02:31 PM (#5960388)
Except that turf was in a minority in the AL.

Which may help explain why Yount/Trammell/Ripken were all in the AL.
   154. Rally Posted: June 30, 2020 at 02:41 PM (#5960392)
Would make an interesting case study, looking at when the turf was introduced for each team.

The 1964 Astros did not have quick middle infielders. At 2B was 36 year old Nellie Fox, who stole zero bases. At short was Eddie Kasko (33) and Bob Lillis (34), who combined for 8 steal and 15 CS. Fox played only a handful of games in 1965 in the first year of the Astrodome. A youngster named Morgan took over at 2B, you might have heard of him.

Kasko/Lillis were a combined +7 in 1964, and -11 in 1965. They played the lion's share of SS innings both seasons, only difference is Kasko was the primary in 1964 and Lillis in 65. So that's one data point in support of the idea that an old, slow middle infielder who has enough skill to be adequate on grass can't play on turf.

I do have fielding splits on BBref. In 1965 Kasko was -2 at home, -2 on the road. Lillis -5 home, -3 on road. So maybe mostly a case of older players declining that good fielders not able to adjust to new circumstances.
   155. Rally Posted: June 30, 2020 at 02:47 PM (#5960393)
Which may help explain why Yount/Trammell/Ripken were all in the AL.


Only thing that explains that is they were drafted by AL teams and too good for those teams to give them up. Ripken was not fast, but Trammell and Yount ran very well. There is exactly zero reason to think they would not have been able to play shortstop on turf.

I can consider that lack of foot speed may be an obstacle, and perhaps Ripken would have had more trouble on turf. But what exactly would have stopped Yount or Trammell? The mere fact that they could hit is not in itself an impediment to playing defense.
   156. Rally Posted: June 30, 2020 at 02:53 PM (#5960394)
The turf shortstops used would make sense if, for example, fast and good fielders could handle the turf without ill effects, but a slow moving, good hitting type might be -5 on grass but -20 on turf.

In the mid 80s the Expos seemed to disagree that this was the case, trading for Hubie Brooks and moving him to short. Hubie was not exactly Brooks Robinson at third, but as a shortstop he turned out to be a non-disaster.
   157. John DiFool2 Posted: June 30, 2020 at 08:39 PM (#5960486)
Understand, _I_ don't believe any of that. Just pointing out the mindset was likely still there and operative, tho those 3 men likely helped started turning the CW there around as such.
   158. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 30, 2020 at 09:58 PM (#5960501)
If Mike Schmidt had come along ten years later, he might well have stuck at SS. Schmidt at SS and Money at third would have been a better left side than Bowa/Schmidt. Money started hitting the moment the Phils dealt him. Probably so happy to be away from Bowa.
   159. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 01, 2020 at 03:28 PM (#5960590)
Money started hitting the moment the Phils dealt him.


He had two seasons of .250 BaBip those last two years in Philly. He immediately went back to normal in MIL. That's odd. No one knew about babip back then, but even if we had I'd guess there was something wrong rather than two seasons of bad luck.

ANd hell, Im not sure the trade overall was bad, For one thing, you'd have to be prescient to figure a bad hitting Money and an out of position Schmidt would better than solid SS/Bowa, and excellent/Schmidt. I mean it would be great if it worked but who could predict.

And what they got in return worked out fine. Aside from the throwaway pieces (Billy Champion, John Vukovich etc) they mainly got Longborg who gave them two seasons of VG and two seasons of OK; and KBrett. Ken was useful for a few seasons in PIT as Phi turned him into Cash: Dave Cash. Who filled the 2b for a few years and was 3x all start. I dont really see how he's a 4-5 WAR player but I guess he's good.

So they added front line pitching and completed the infield, all for giving up the back up to Schmidt. Money turned out to be more useful than Bowa it seems to me. Bowa seems good in the field if you give him the benefit of the doubt w/ respect to screwy TZ numbers, but seems to give all of that back with the bat .Money is clearly well above avg as 3b hitter and also a good fielder.

I think the PHI did well there and managed to set them up for a great run in the latter 70s. Lonborg and Cash were both key contributors. What was the alternative? Hope Schmidt can play SS and Money can turn around his bat? And maybe no one wanted to trade for Bowa? THe PHI of 72 and 73 were a joke and a few years later they were the dominant force in the NL east, they did well.

Despite whatever hitting issues he had, Money must have been highly regarded. PIT gave him up as 20 yr old prospect along w/ journeyman WOody Fryman, for the last few seasons of Jim BUnning, who was avg for about 3 years. I guess PIT was hoping to shore up pitching for a team that was pretty deep in position players.
   160. Rally Posted: July 01, 2020 at 03:57 PM (#5960596)
I didn't know Money was the starting SS in 1969, the year before Bowa came up. His TZ stats are good that year, but they moved him to third. Maybe he's one of the guys who could have played longer at short in an alternate world, and brought up the league average offense.

He was a better player than Bowa, but Bowa was a decent player, just a lousy hitter. Up and down with the defensive ratings but a net positive for his career, and an excellent base runner. If Philly had kept Schmidt and Money on the left side, I can guarantee you Bowa would have had a job somewhere. For example, his 1972 season (OPS+ 72) is a good match for his career rate stats. Out of 12 NL teams, the Phillies actually had the 3rd best OPS from the shortstop position that year. My oh my were those shortstops awful at the plate.

I can't see much incentive to move/replace Bowa since he was a big league regular before Schmidt came up, and most teams had someone worse at the spot.
   161. Rally Posted: July 01, 2020 at 04:04 PM (#5960597)
Curious if moving Money to 3B was a "he's an OK SS on grass, but not quick enough for turf" decision. Probably not. They moved him in 1970, and the Vet opened in 1971. Probably just a case where Bowa was ready to play and they thought that was the best way to use them. Schmidt did not factor into the decision as he wasn't even drafted until mid season 1971.
   162. Ron J Posted: July 01, 2020 at 04:37 PM (#5960611)
Memory says that Money was just playing SS wrong. Slightly less mobile than the typical SS of the day but with a stronger arm.

That spelled 3B.
   163. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 01, 2020 at 04:38 PM (#5960612)
I can guarantee you Bowa would have had a job somewhere.


So who needs a SS? NYY has aging Gene MIchael who isnt very good anyhow. I dont know where Trammel was at this pt. but he's not on DEt roster and they have very little there. MIN has Danny Thompson who died tragically a few years later. STL: has Tyson but maybe he's expendable. And HOU they have Metzger, same.

what do you get in return?

NYY how about Doc Medich? Det: a young Ed Farmer? MIN: an older Jim Kaat? HOU a young JR RIchard? or 26 yr old Larry Dierker? STL has some depth there, maybe a young Reggie Cleveland?

Are any of these trades better than what they did pull off?


NO NO I GOT IT: they make the ultimate challenge trade: PIT Dave Cash to PHI for Larry Bowa. That would be so awesome. We dont have to #### around w/ Taveras, or Mendoza or Tim Foli, or Dale Berra or whatever else they put over there. That was a real hole for them ever since Gene Alley hurt his arm in 67 or whatever .


Curious if moving Money to 3B was a "he's an OK SS on grass, but not quick enough for turf" decision.


Could the same be said of Bowa? I remember when he played, but I dont have much recollection of what he looked like in the field.
   164. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 01, 2020 at 04:51 PM (#5960617)

I can't see much incentive to move/replace Bowa since he was a big league regular before Schmidt came up, and most teams had someone worse at the spot.


I dont get the reasoning here. You move players when you have a bounty of players at a position. Presumably you would move a proven regular because he's a better bet for a new team, and you've got an inhouse prospect that you have better info on. This seems like basic economics.

The fact that most teams have a worse player at the spot, is a reason TO MOVE HIM rather than not. You just need to find a trade partner that has depth at a position you need. Presumably this would be SP, maybe 2b, 1b also seems a bit of a hole with light hitting Willie Montanez there.
   165. Rally Posted: July 02, 2020 at 07:30 AM (#5960667)
“ So who needs a SS? NYY has aging Gene MIchael who isnt very good anyhow. I dont know where Trammel was at this pt.‘

In 1972? Middle school.
   166. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: July 02, 2020 at 02:03 PM (#5960733)
126/tj: is your list about looking bad or being bad (i'm guessing the former)? for instance, skates (lonnie) looked ridiculous but wasn't terrible in terms of outcomes (i don't just mean stats - he was fast enough to get to balls and he might not fall down before reaching them.
not a criticism of your list - genuine question.
   167. Ron J Posted: July 02, 2020 at 06:21 PM (#5960793)
#163 Bowa's rep was "makes the plays you expect your SS to make". Probably the minimum acceptable range for the day but extra points awarded for being unusually reliable.
   168. Ron J Posted: July 02, 2020 at 06:30 PM (#5960794)
#166 Bill James on Lonnie Smith (In an earlier essay James pointed out that Smith fell down a lot because he had small feet and had a tough time gripping the ball because he had small hands. But because he was fast and mostly played LF and never dogged it a lot of the time his mistakes didn't cost. And he nailed a fair number of guys who simply assumed he was going to make a mistake)

I would try to tell you what a bad outfielder Lonnie is, except that I confess that I would never have believed it myself if somebody had tried to tell me. I will say, though, that the real cost of Lonnie's defense is not nearly as great as the psychic impact of it all. He makes you wail and gnash your teeth a lot, but he doesn't really cost you all that many runs.

One reason for that is that he recovers so quickly after he makes a mistake. You have to understand that Lonnie makes defensive mistakes every game, so he knows how to handle it. Your average outfielder is inclined to panic when he falls down chasing a ball in the corner; he may just give up and sit there for a while, trying to figure it out. Lonnie has a pop-up slide perfected for the occasion.

Another outfielder might have no idea where the ball was when it bounded off his glove. Lonnie can calculate with the instinctive astrophysics of a veteran tennis player where a ball will land when it skips off the heel of his glove, what the angle of glide will be when he tips it off the webbing, what the spin will be when the ball skids off the thumb of his mitt.

Many players can kick a ball behind them without ever knowing it. Lonnie can judge by the pitch of the thud and the subtle pressure through his shoe in which direction and how far he has projected the sphere.

He knows exactly what to do when a ball spins out of his hand and flies crazily into a void on the field. He knows when it is appropriate for him to scamper after the ball and when he needs to back up the man who will have to recover it.

He has experience in these matters; when he retires he wil be hired to come to spring training and coach defensive recovery and cost containment. This is his specialty, and he is good at it.
   169. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 03, 2020 at 12:14 PM (#5960865)
I remember reading that passage. Is that a literal copy? that was so funny.
   170. Ron J Posted: July 03, 2020 at 12:42 PM (#5960869)
#169 Word for word to the best of my ability.
   171. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 03, 2020 at 04:07 PM (#5960895)
its from one of the yearly prospectus books, no?
   172. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 03, 2020 at 04:11 PM (#5960896)
how did Lonnie Smith manage to put up at 8.8 war season at age 33 after 5 seasons of barely above replacemenmt? wow.
   173. Ron J Posted: July 03, 2020 at 06:39 PM (#5960912)
#171 Yes. Also in Let's Not Eat The Bones
   174. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 03, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5960914)
thats where I read it: Lets not eat the bones...It was so funny. Was it Smith that failed to tag up on that fly ball that was hit in the world series vs MN? I remember some sort of baserunning blunder.
   175. TJ Posted: July 03, 2020 at 09:30 PM (#5960934)
126/tj: is your list about looking bad or being bad (i'm guessing the former)? for instance, skates (lonnie) looked ridiculous but wasn't terrible in terms of outcomes (i don't just mean stats - he was fast enough to get to balls and he might not fall down before reaching them.
not a criticism of your list - genuine question.


Thanks for the question. It’s based on my observations over the years, which probably makes it a combination of both. In Lonnie Smith’s case, I am sure it is more looking bad. I loved watching Lonnie Smith play because you never knew what you would see but knew it would be entertaining. Lonnie was never boring, whether at the plate, on the bases, or in the field. I’m sure there were worse outfielders than Lonnie, some of whom have been cited by others. But they were just painful to watch, nowhere near as much fun as Lonnie Smith...
   176. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: July 04, 2020 at 12:15 PM (#5960997)
here's the play: 1991 world series. Game 7, top of the 8th, scoreless tie. Smith leads off the 8th with a double, Pendleton follows what is described as "line drive to deep LF/CF". Smith tags up for no good reason instead of going halfway to third. Ball lands for a double but is quickly relayed back so Smith ends up on 3rd where he is stranded when the inn. ends on a GB and a DP. Game remains scoreless into extra inn. and MN eventually wins.

in terms of weighted runs, that would probably only count as 0.2 of a run, since he probably has about 80% or more chance of scoring from 3b with no out. Still...
   177. Ron J Posted: July 04, 2020 at 12:49 PM (#5961006)
#176 A big part of the problem on the play is that Smith never picked up the third base coach. He was entirely focused on reaching third with one out.
   178. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 04, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5961061)
I vaguely remember seeing a Lonnie Smith clip one time where he let a ball go through his legs, turned around and chased after it, and had it bounce off the wall and go back through his legs again headed in the other direction. He was really something else.
   179. Rally Posted: July 06, 2020 at 09:19 AM (#5961250)
here's the play: 1991 world series. Game 7, top of the 8th, scoreless tie. Smith leads off the 8th with a double, Pendleton follows what is described as "line drive to deep LF/CF". Smith tags up for no good reason instead of going halfway to third. Ball lands for a double but is quickly relayed back so Smith ends up on 3rd where he is stranded when the inn. ends on a GB and a DP. Game remains scoreless into extra inn. and MN eventually wins.


Lonnie led off with a single. He was running on the pitch when Pendleton hit the ball in the gap, so that's why people thought he should have scored easily. He held up around second before advancing to third, the middle infielders (Gagne and Knoblauch) confused Lonnie somehow. I think they might have pretended to be turning a double play?
   180. Ron J Posted: July 06, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5961253)
#179 As I said, the real issue is that Smith never picked up the 3B coach. Of course he had a great view of the play.
   181. Rally Posted: July 06, 2020 at 03:30 PM (#5961315)
Just watched the video. He should have had a great view of the play, but apparently did not. Knoblauch pretends to field a ball and flips the imaginary baseball to Gagne, who is moving towards 2B. Lonnie just stops right past 2B. Then he seems to realize his mistake and moves to third, but it's too late at that point. Looks to me that when Lonnie is finally heading to 3B, the coach is telling him to stop.

He was running on the play, my guess is he never picked up the ball off the bat, maybe he had his head down as he took off from first. Probably any question of whether Lonnie could hear A) a coach yelling to him or B) the crack of the bat is negative, the Metrodome was a noisy place.
   182. TJ Posted: July 06, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5961361)
Yeah, Lonnie screwed the pooch on that play. But the Braves still had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs and didn’t score. (Gant weakly grounded out to first with a drawn in infield and, after an intentional walk, Sid Bream grounded into a double play). There is plenty of blame to go around among the Braves hitters for that loss...
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