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Monday, May 24, 2021

Five Fielders: The best by era, regardless of position played

Bill Mazeroski
While other players were elected to the Hall of Fame for primarily defensive accomplishments, particularly catchers and shortstops, Maz was the first in recent years (McPhee was the second, having had the door opened for him). Like those who preceded him, he was derided for his low batting average (Tinker, Maranville, Ferrell). Maz was further derided as a one-hit wonder among HOFers, that hit being the home run that won the 1960 World Series. But sabermetrics reveal his greatness: he is first since 1953, by a wide margin, in Total Zone Runs among second sackers.
Runners-up: Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Mark Belanger

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 24, 2021 at 02:25 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defense, john thorn

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   1. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: May 24, 2021 at 03:08 PM (#6020593)
When a shortstop is not moved to second base or third in his twilight years in the game, that is a sign of continued effectiveness, even dominance. It was true for Dickey Pearce in the 1870s, Honus Wagner in the 1910s, and Rabbit Maranville in the 1920s. ... In five of his last six years as a regular in Boston, enduring into his forties, he won MVP votes.

In the last two of those six years (ages 40 and 41), he was a full-time second baseman.
Defense-obsessed manager Bill McKechnie moved Maranville off short twice: in 1924 (Pirates, for Glenn Wright) and in 1932 (Braves, for Billy Urbanski). Maranville was 40 in 1932, still a good defensive player.
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 24, 2021 at 03:53 PM (#6020598)
While other players were elected to the Hall of Fame for primarily defensive accomplishments, particularly catchers and shortstops, Maz was the first in recent years (McPhee was the second, having had the door opened for him).
Actually, it’s the other way around. McPhee was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, elected by the Veterans Committee, as was Mazeroski in 2001.
   3. John Northey Posted: May 24, 2021 at 03:54 PM (#6020600)
Dickey Pearce - games at 2B/OF/P his final few years
Honus Wagner - mostly at 1B his final year, lots of time at 2B and 3B his final years as well. In fact only one season did he not play a position other than SS.
Rabbit Maranville - only at 2B his final 3 seasons, from age 30 up he only had 2 seasons where he only played at SS, one under 10 games.
This is what I call sloppy writing - this info is very easy to access online. At multiple sites.

Also, being left at SS doesn't mean you are good at it, but that you refuse to play elsewhere and your manager feels you have power. See Jeter, Derek for the #1 example - he only played at SS and DH and PH never at 3B or 2B or anywhere else despite only having 3 seasons with a positive dWAR out of 20.
   4. TomH Posted: May 24, 2021 at 04:10 PM (#6020604)
re: Andruw Jones' selection as the modern DEE-FENCE uberman: Yes, Andruw at his peak might be the best CFer ever. But Mickey Mantle might have been the best overall peak post-1930 player ever, yet that does not make him the best player in most everyone's eyes... 'cause longevity counts. Jones was not so hot in CF past age 29 or so, which would make me pick someone else.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 06:06 PM (#6020616)
I couldn't load the article for whatever reason. Anyway, Ozzie never played anything but SS; neither did Aparicio. Larkin started twice at 2B in his debut season. Omar made a couple of appearances elsewhere but didn't start a game elsewhere until he was 42. It's impressive but not incredibly rare and, pretty much by definition, "mostly true" of any of the 19 players who've played 2000+ games at SS (Bowa, 3 starts at 2B at 39.)

We've named several already, who are the 19 players (as listed at b-r)? I'll be impressed if you get 17-18 without a bunch of guesses.

1. Omar
2. Jeter
3. Aparicio
4. Ozzie
7. Bowa
10. Maranville
15. Larkin

   6. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 24, 2021 at 06:09 PM (#6020617)
Dave Concepcion?
Bud Harrelson?
Bert Campaneris?
   7. salvomania Posted: May 24, 2021 at 06:48 PM (#6020620)
Glenn Wright?
   8. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: May 24, 2021 at 07:37 PM (#6020624)
In jest (perhaps): Alex Gordon?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 10:33 PM (#6020672)
I should know better than to post a quiz on a workday (for me). If you get bored waiting for me or just want to cheat, you can go here

Anyway, Ripken yes, Trammell yes, Appling yes, Concepcion yes, Campaneris yes ... Harrelson no. I don't even know who Glenn Wright is but if that was a guess, it's wrong. Obviously not Gordon.

The good hints I can think of would give them away; the others I have no good hints for. Of the 7 left, there are two pre-live-ball guys, 3 post-expansion guys. Will come back with the easy hints later if not gotten and will try to come up with hints for the tough ones.

1. Omar
2. Jeter
3. Aparicio
4. Ozzie
5. Ripken
7. Bowa
8. Appling
9. Concepcion
10. Maranville
11. Trammell
14. Campaneris
15. Larkin
   10. baxter Posted: May 24, 2021 at 10:33 PM (#6020673)
Jimmy Rollins & Maury Wills
Dick Groat? Joe Cronin?

Frank Crosetti?
George(?) Davis 19th century player inducted into HOf?
Marty Marion?
   11. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:12 PM (#6020678)
Rollins is #6. The others no.
   12. baxter Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:13 PM (#6020679)
Also, Tejada, Griffin or Tony Fernandez (although Fernandez must have played too many games at 3b/2b?)
   13. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:17 PM (#6020681)
Time for some easy hints. There's one HoFer and one probably should be HoFer.

Not so easy hints for the other 4: An RoY, a guy who played for 11 different teams, a 2-time AS for the Reds, and a 19th-early 20th century guy who was so mediocre I got no clues.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:17 PM (#6020682)
#12: no, no, no.
   15. DL from MN Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:18 PM (#6020683)
Marty Marion is a good guess, so is Cronin. Jim Fregosi? Honus Wagner isn't on the list? Bill Dahlen and George Davis are probably the dead ball guys. Pee Wee Reese missed a bunch of time to WWII but I think he's on there. Lou Boudreau is my last guess.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:35 PM (#6020687)
Dahlen and Reese are yes, the shoulda and is HoFers. Otherwise no to #15.

1. Omar
2. Jeter
3. Aparicio
4. Ozzie
5. Ripken
6. Rollins
7. Bowa
8. Appling
9. Concepcion
10. Maranville
11. Trammell
12. Dahlen
14. Campaneris
15. Larkin
19. Reese

Lunch break over, I'll be back in a couple of hours by which time you're probably all asleep anyway.
   17. baxter Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:36 PM (#6020688)
Roy McMillan & Kid Gleason

I think Reese is a great guess, also Fregosi, but then again, my record on guessing is pretty bad (anybody want to buy a Beanie Baby?).
   18. DL from MN Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:40 PM (#6020689)
2-time AS for the Reds

   19. DL from MN Posted: May 24, 2021 at 11:43 PM (#6020692)
a guy who played for 11 different teams

Edgar Renteria didn't quite hit 11
   20. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 25, 2021 at 12:03 AM (#6020695)
a guy who played for 11 different teams
Sounds like the well-traveled Royce Clayton.
   21. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: May 25, 2021 at 12:06 AM (#6020696)
I cheated. I would have never guessed 16, 17 and 18 on the list.
   22. baxter Posted: May 25, 2021 at 01:17 AM (#6020705)
Shawn Dunston?
   23. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: May 25, 2021 at 01:32 AM (#6020706)
I looked it up and 16 was a guy I’ve never heard of. The other three have been mentioned since Walt Davis last updated.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2021 at 03:25 AM (#6020710)
Edgar Renteria didn't quite hit 11

Eek! No he didn't ... nor did he win RoY which I thought he had. He finished 2nd. He is #13. Sorry for the bad clue.

Sounds like the well-traveled Royce Clayton.

Indeed at #17.

Roy McMillan

Yep at #18.

And the missing guy is Tommy Corcoran who played for Brookly 1890-96 and Cincy 1897-1906 and then a bit with the Giants. He had a career 74 OPS+, never better than 93. He finished with 20 WAR, -11 WAA. From 21-27, he had 12.5 WAR and was dead even. He then was a 1-WAR player (give or take) for 5400 PA.

There were some very good guesses (better than mine) that fell short ... but Fregosi should be known for what could have been. He was roughly Nomar through age 28 but had only 100 starts at SS and <2000 PA left in his body at that point. Given the Mets traded Ryan for him just after his major injury and first bad half-season, I'd have thought that was better known. Anyway the final list:

1. Omar
2. Jeter
3. Aparicio
4. Ozzie
5. Ripken
6. Rollins
7. Bowa
8. Appling
9. Concepcion
10. Maranville
11. Trammell
12. Dahlen
13. Renteria
14. Campaneris
15. Larkin
16. Corcoran
17. Clayton
18. McMillan
19. Reese

Peckinpaugh and Templeton (expected a guess there) just missed. Kessinger, Tejada, Belanger (<1700 starts, <1500 complete games) and Speier (surprise!) were also 1900+. Griffin (good guess) and OCab (how quickly we forget) had solid showings. Fernandez ended up with juat 1573 but did have 500 games (469 starts) at 2B/3B. I didn't realize Tejada had that many although he spent less time at 3B than I recalled (about 1 season's worth) -- he was on durable guy -- he had most of his 1946 games at SS in just 12 seasons.
   25. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: May 25, 2021 at 07:07 AM (#6020713)
When a shortstop is not moved to second base or third in his twilight years in the game, that is a sign of continued effectiveness, even dominance.
Like Jeter!
   26. Moeball Posted: May 26, 2021 at 10:31 AM (#6020903)
John Thorn is getting a little long in the tooth, so his writing maybe isn't as crisp as it once was, but he himself is a part of baseball's history, for better or worse, and he was quite influential at one time. His affinity for Maz is long held, as is mine. Once upon a time many years ago I applied to become John's assistant - the vacancy had been listed and the request for applications posted - and I submitted for approval an article contrasting Maz and the Angels' Bobby Knoop (pronounced Kuh-nop, btw, and currently living in the Phoenix area at the ripe old age of 80+ something), who won some Gold Gloves of his own in the 1960s as the American League's answer to Mazeroski. My research indicated that both were probably saving about the same number of runs over the course of a season, but in two distinctly different ways. Maz tended to shade a little closer to second, which led to more DPs, at which he was second to none in turning, whereas Knoop tended to play a little more in the hole, taking away more potential singles to RF. At any rate, I didn't get the job, but I may have highlighted a glitch in John's own research with Pete Palmer, which I will get to a bit later.

As an aside I have to mention that I dearly love this website and all its participants with their various quirks. Although we may argue about a lot of things, it is with much more intelligence than what I usually encounter in casual Padres fans. They have emphatically told me everything from Jason Kendall wasn't really a better hitter than his father Fred(!) to informing me that there really wasn't a Coors Field effect on hitting! But I digress.

John Thorn, of course, collaborated with Pete Palmer on writing The Hidden Game of Baseball which came out in 1984. It is still one of the most important books on statistical analysis ever written and should be a part of every serious fan's digital bookshelf. It was a product of its time; it started some rather silly arguments. As official statistician for the American League Palmer had access to official scoresheets of every AL game from 1901-1983 and he fed these into the computer to analyze the play by play data. Then he got the NL scoresheets as well and did the same thing. The results spit out from the data were eye opening to say the least. Yes, as Pete's colleague Bill James had been telling everyone, walks were more a function of the batter than the pitcher. On base percentage was more important a factor in impacting offense than batting average. Bunting - ahh, bunting, yes, that was a source of controversy. At the height of the Earl Weaver vs. Gene Mauch strategy debate - Weaver hated to use the sacrifice bunt whereas Mauch employed it at every opportunity - this book seemed to indicate that bunting was, indeed, a poor strategy. Game, set and match to the Earl of Baltimore. So en masse everyone in baseball decided that no one needed to know how to bunt anymore because why be skilled at something no one needs? Of course, people were misinterpreting what the book was actually saying. Yes, using the sac bunt early in a game the way Mauch did hurt the team, not help it. The decrease in multiple run innings resulting from handing opponents an easy out more than offset the increase in chances of scoring that first run. Teams using the sacrifice early scored fewer runs and won fewer games than teams that didn't. So everyone concluded that the bunt was a useless weapon. But had they bothered to read a little further in the book they would have seen that the sac bunt still has an important place in baseball strategy. When it's the bottom of the 10th and the game is tied, and you've got a man on second with no one out - a fairly common occurrence in 2021 thanks to new rules no one asked for - you NEED a good bunter in that situation since you only need one run to win the game (said in Jack Nicholson's voice). But somehow no one seemed to think about that part so now we have a league full of guys who can hit HRs and strike out but can't bunt.

OK, back to John and Pete and Bill Mazeroski, I swear. Their analysis came to the conclusion that Maz prevented more runs from scoring than any other player in history. Not just the best fielder at second base, but at any position. Ever. To the tune of almost 400 runs saved above an average fielder over his career. Even with Bill's poor hitting, his overall WAA was estimated to be about 35 for his career. (Btw just using the concept of WAA in 1984 was a major breakthrough). A player with 35 WAA for a career doesn't seem out of place in the HOF and thus the campaign for Maz began in earnest and ultimately led to his eventual election. Now, in 2021 we know Palmer's Defensive Linear Weights calculations overstated the value of DPs (talking about double plays here, for those of you who may be spending a little too much time on porn websites), meaning that Maz was really saving maybe 15-20 runs per season over an average fielder, not 35-40 as originally perceived. that I think of it my own research way back when may have led to the same conclusion. Makes a big difference in assessing his HOF qualifications. Now he looks like yet another poor VC choice.
But it wasn't always viewed as such. Once upon a time, based on his reputation Maz was considered a great enough fielder to offset his poor hitting and be worthy of a spot in Cooperstown similar to Ozzie Smith (who also had some unexpected postseason hitting heroics of his own). We may not view Maz with the same reverence today, but I still have a fondness for him and happily sponsor his page on B-Ref.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: May 26, 2021 at 12:08 PM (#6020926)
Nice post Moe.
   28. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 26, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6020962)
Yeah. THat as a nice post.

Moe. Do you have any guesses as to how many runs above average the following positions would save, when a fielder is having an outstanding year: 3b, SS, CF? This seems like an important battle ground in current sabermetric debates, at least to me. I think its important.

A factor of +20 runs/year for a second baseman wouldnt surprise me. I dont think they can save the same number as a SS.
   29. Moeball Posted: May 30, 2021 at 04:12 PM (#6021591)
In the past more balls were hit to short than second so it would seem like more opportunities to save runs. Now with shifts on a lot of left handed batters, more strikeouts, fewer balls in play, I'm not so sure that's really the case any more. I personally think about +20 to +25 runs is about the maximum anyone could save in a season although b-ref credited Matt Chapman with a couple of +30 type seasons, but I think that's a bit generous. I'm actually more intrigued with the other end of the scale. How many runs can a bad fielder cost you? B-ref seems to think about -20 runs is the reasonable limit in a season but I think it's far more than that, at the risk of starting the 1000th discussion of Derek Jeter.
   30. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 30, 2021 at 10:51 PM (#6021628)
Rally conceded -30 for the worst. SOme of the recent analysis of Jeter suggests the same for Jeter

It really has to be +30 at the other extreme. Belanger achieved that and so did AParacio at SS. Mookie made +30 in CF. Did he do it twice? And CHapman is it? the guy for Oakland at 3b also 30. I think 30 is about the limit. And so far only SS 3b and some gifted OFers could do that. I dont think 2b or 1b can. Not sure about C with all the framing issues and stuff. But since its a very key defensive position, one has to be open to the idea.
   31. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: May 31, 2021 at 10:55 AM (#6021647)
How many runs can a bad fielder cost you? B-ref seems to think about -20 runs is the reasonable limit in a season but I think it's far more than that

Well, if tou put me at short stop, the answer would be hundreds. I’d probably make about 500 fewer plays than the average MLB short stop per season. But obviously no major league team would ever let me play for them. Worse than -20 is the point where a player gets sent to another position, DH if there isn’t any they’re better than -20 at.

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