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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dewan: What about Nate McLouth’s Gold Glove?

Whoosh…that changed quicker than a Bobby Darin career move.

McLouth’s -40 was the worst plus/minus figure for any center fielder in baseball last year. Not only that, it was the worst plus/minus figure for any outfielder in baseball. Not only that, it was the worst plus/minus figure for any player in baseball.

Is he that bad? No, absolutely not. The fact that there are a significant number of managers and coaches that think he’s good definitely means something. There are aspects to being a good defensive outfielder that come into play other than catching balls hit in the air. They are lesser aspects, but important ones. I will get into more depth on these in The Fielding Bible—Volume II coming out in February of 2009. For example, we are planning a video review of all McLouth’s key fielding plays. But let me touch on a couple of things here.

...All in all, I no longer think of McLouth as the worst center fielder in baseball. It means something that at least some of the managers and coaches think highly of him. And we see that two areas of his defense are above average: his ability to prevent baserunners from advancing on hits and his ability to make a play above and beyond the ordinary. But we also see that, despite this low error total, he has more than his share of defensive misplays. And the most important aspect of playing outfield defense is covering ground, and McLouth struggles here big time.

Repoz Posted: November 16, 2008 at 12:52 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Roy Hobbs of WIFFLE Ball Posted: November 16, 2008 at 01:52 AM (#3010042)
However, his good plays more than make up for the 25 misplays and errors. He had 31 good plays, good for third place among center fielders behind Carlos Gomez of the Twins (33) and B.J. Upton of the Rays (32). This is clearly what managers and coaches who vote for the Gold Gloves were seeing.

Net Plays are good plays minus defensive misplays and errors. McLouth had six more good plays than defensive misplays and errors, or six Net Plays. That was the seventh highest total in baseball among center fielders. Not bad.

Now I'm confused. Am I supposed to believe plus/minus, good plays, or net plays? One metric says he's the worst fielder in baseball. The second puts him top 3 at his position and the third puts him squarely in the top 10 at his position. Dewan says he doesn't think he's the worst, but does Dewan put him in the middle, the bottom 25%, the bottom 10%, ahead of two guys, or what? How do you weight the relative importance of these metrics into an overall assessment?
   2. Lassus Posted: November 16, 2008 at 02:07 AM (#3010050)
Defensive Metrics Not Quite Screwed On Tight Yet, news at 11.
   3. EnderCN Posted: November 16, 2008 at 02:32 AM (#3010054)
you believe plus/minus but you keep in mind that the voters are probably really looking at good plays or net plays because they don't remember the ball hit over McLouths head that 80% of CF catch, they remember the amazing diving catches that are much rarer.
   4. 4seamer Posted: November 16, 2008 at 02:34 AM (#3010055)
He had 31 good plays.. this is clearly what managers and coaches who vote for the Gold Gloves were seeing

Thirty-one good plays and a few hundred bad routes with a ton of extra runs allowed = Gold Glove.


However, I mentioned in another thread McLouth shouldn't be held accountable for being required to play in so much which netted quite a few bad plays. Still, he runs horrid lateral routes.
   5. Roy Hobbs of WIFFLE Ball Posted: November 16, 2008 at 04:53 AM (#3010085)
How many bases, on average, is a "good play" worth? The guy had 31 good plays and 25 bad ones. Only six CF had a better net than McLouth. He must be doing something right. Unless good plays are worth significantly less than bad plays, it's hard to understand how he isn't somewhere around average. If that's the case, which seems possible given Dewan's post, plus/minus is indicating a roughly average CF is the worst fielder in baseball.
   6. Elston Gunn Posted: November 16, 2008 at 06:02 AM (#3010091)
Well, I'm wondering if the good play/bad play distinction doesn't do much to account for McLouth's crappy speed. For instance, is a diving catch automatically marked as a good play even if Carlos Gomez would have been standing under the ball comfortably? Based on the way Dewan describes them (i.e. they try to be as objective as possible), it seems likely that it is. Then, all that good plays mean is that he's excellent at catching the balls he can get to, not that they are good plays in and of themselves. I could be wrong though. I'd love to see a fuller explanation.
   7. Roy Hobbs of WIFFLE Ball Posted: November 16, 2008 at 06:20 AM (#3010094)
#6: If that's how they're defining a good play, and it may be for all I know, it is useless to even monitor them. I'd also like a fuller explanation.
   8. Elston Gunn Posted: November 16, 2008 at 06:45 AM (#3010099)
They review every play and decide if a play fits one of those categories. It sounds somewhat subjective, but because of the strict definitions of the categories, it actually becomes quite objective. For example, here's the definition of one of the 55 Defensive Misplays:

"Defensive Misplay Number 38, Failing to Anticipate the Wall: Outfielder goes to the outfield wall, allowing a ball to bounce over his head back toward the infield, allowing a runner or runners to take bases which they might not have been able to take had the fielder turned and played the ball off the wall."

I guess that's a strict definition, but it seems that this kind of definition is much more likely to include, "Diving Catch:..." than "Caught a Hard Hit Ball X Feet Away," don't you think? Again, I really don't know. Just trying to extrapolate a little. And I agree that if that's the definition, they're as useless as errors (which aren't completely useless, but close).
   9. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 16, 2008 at 02:19 PM (#3010128)
Nate doesn't have crappy speed. Slow reactions, maybe, but in pure foot speed he's above average.

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