Archive for the ‘fielding’ Category

Kouzmanoff’s fielding

Websoulsurfer compares Kevin Kouzmanoff’s fielding to some great all-time third basemen. He also makes the case that Kouz has been better with the glove this season than Ryan Zimmerman.

I just don’t see it. If we look at THT’s advanced fielding stats, we see that Zimmerman has a substantial lead over Kouzmanoff in plays made. He also has more in-zone chances. If we give Kouz the same number of opportunities in his zone as Zimmerman has, Kouzmanoff would indeed be 3 plays better than Zimmerman. However, Zimmerman would still have 45 more out-of-zone plays than Kouzmanoff. So, they are similar with balls hit in the BIS-defined third base zone, but Zimmerman makes a bunch more plays outside of that zone.

By the way, Zimmerman’s UZR is at +16 runs, while Kouzmanoff is at +6. Kouz has had a good season in the field by most measures, and his fielding percentage is impressive, but I’m not really sure that he’s anything more than an average defensive third basemen.


First base fielding, THT style

We move onto first base in this slow moving series. Thanks as always to The Hardball Times for the data.

Top 5

Player Team RAA
Pujols STL +11
Konerko CHA +10
Kotchman ATL +9
Youkilis BOS +7
Garko CLE +7


Bottom 5

Player Team RAA
Fielder MIL -11
Helton COL -11
Hernandez CIN -10
Giambi OAK -7
Davis TEX -7


Adrian Gonzalez’s fielding

By the numbers, Gonzalez never seems to rate well. This year he’s average by this stat. On balls in his zone, he’s made 92 plays on 114 chances (3 plays better than average). On balls outside of his zone, however, he’s made just 23 plays (-4 plays). One half year of data doesn’t tell us much, though. Here’s his UZR (BIS data) from 2006 through 2009:

Year UZR
2006 +7
2007 -7
2008 -3
2009 +3


Overall, like UZR, most metrics see him around average. Who is right? The fans who see him as one of the best first basemen in the game or the numbers which peg him right around average? I really don’t know. It’s important to note that these stats don’t consider picking errant throws and some don’t consider double plays (UZR does, however – the THT-based numbers above do not). We may be safest taking a middle ground, and assuming Adrian is a +5 fielder, while fully acknowledging that he really may be average (or a bit below) or +10. There’s a pretty lot of uncertainty here.

Third base fielding, THT style

Here are the top 5/bottom 5 third basemen, according to the data at THT:

Top 5

Player Team RAA
Hannahan OAK +15
Zimmerman WAS 15
Rolen TOR 14
Crede CHA 12
Beltre SEA 12


Some familiar names there like Zimmerman and Beltre. Beltre’s loss will be a big one for Seattle (I hear they might be interested in Kouzmanoff…). I had no idea Hannahan was this good. UZR has him at +14/150 so far for his career.

Bottom 5

Player Team RAA
Lowell BOS -15
Young TEX -14
Feliz PHI -12
Fields CHA -10
Peralta CLE -8


Some interesting names here, including Lowell and Feliz, who are generally regarded as great defenders, and Peralta and Young, who have both recently switched over from shortstop.

Technical note: I’m now reporting all fielding numbers to the nearest whole number to not give the impression that they are accurate to the decimal. I could put them into buckets (-5 – +5, +5 – +15) or something like that to further emphasize the uncertainty, but I’ll leave that much up to you.

Kouzmanoff’s fielding

Kevin Kouzmanoff has received some praise this year for his great fielding percentage (.989), which is second in MLB (behind only Geoff Blum – minimum 300 innings). This is of course an accomplishment, but the goal of fielding is not to avoid making errors. It is to make as many plays as possible given your opportunities.

Kouzmanoff has made 86 of 123 plays in his zone this year. That’s about 70% – major league average is about 72%. He’s about two plays below average here. He’s made 20 out of zone plays. Given his opportunities, we’d expect him to make about 22 OOZ plays. So he’s also –2 here. That’s a total of –4 plays, or about –3 runs.

UZR has him at –1 run this year, and –1 for his entire career. This year (by UZR), he’s +3 on error runs, and –4 on range runs. It should be noted that Kouz’s lack of errors does result in less extra bases by the opposing team (on overthrows and things like that). UZR does take that into account, while other metrics don’t.

However, that has a relatively small impact on his overall fielding ability. He’s been an average fielding for his entire career. Hopefully his low error totals won’t trick anybody* into thinking that Kouzmanoff is a gold glove caliber third basemen.

*unless they are interested in trading for him : )

Second base fielding, THT style

We’re moving on to second base in an early glimpse at 2009 fielding performance, according to stats available at The Hardball Times. Check this link for a little background on what we’re doing. Here are the second base top/bottom 5, then the Padres:

Top 5

Player Team RAA
Hill TOR +15.2
Phillips CIN +10.1
Weeks MIL +9.2
Kendrick LAA +8.8
Zobrist TB +6.9


Bottom 5

Player Team RAA
Schumaker STL -9.5
Uggla FLA -9.2
Kennedy OAK -8.6
Getz CHA -8.2
Collaspo KC -6.8



Player Innings RAA
Eckstein 519 -4.1
Gonzalez 73 0


Eckstein hasn’t been very good, according to these numbers. UZR has him at –.5 runs, so it’s clearly too early to tell if he’s really lost a step or not. Over the past two seasons, however, UZR has Eckstein at about –15 runs total (at shortstop). For his career, he’s about 2 runs below average per 150 games.

For the Blue Jays, Aaron Hill appears to be a star defensively at second. According to UZR, he’s +10 per 150 for his career. Though, interestingly, he’s –8 runs at short in about a half a season’s worth of innings (mostly in 2006).

In last place is Skip Shumaker who has been bad by UZR, as well, at –9 runs. His double play partner, Brendan Ryan, leads shortstops with a +12.7 mark (THT stats) so far.

Shortstop fielding, THT style

You may remember last year I tracked fielding performance through the season with the numbers available at The Hardball Times. You can find a pretty good primer here.

There’s still some nuanced debate about the best way to calculate things, mostly revolving around estimating out of zone chances, but for now I’m sticking with the same method as last year. Over the next few days, weeks, however long it takes me, we’ll run through the seven positions (I leave out pitcher and there are no stats for catcher).

Let’s start with shortstop (total runs above average):

Top 5

Player Team RAA
Ryan STL +12.7
Bartlett TB +10.9
Andrus TEX +9.1
Scutaro TOR +7.5
Wilson PIT +7.2


Bottom 5

Player Team RAA
Betancourt SEA -16.2
Tejada HOU -9.3
Guzman WAS -8.8
Cabrera OAK -8.4
Lugo BOS -7.4


The two main caveats are the usual ones. To judge a player with fielding stats, you probably want to use years of data, not a couple of months. Two, this stat particularly — and all fielding stats in general — is not the end-all-be-all. The two kind of tie together in that the uncertainty in measuring fielding requires much more data than offense or pitching.

Anyway, this is just a fun early season glimpse. I think the early numbers pass the ‘smell test,’ with some expected players showing up in the top (Bartlett, Andrus, Wilson) and the bottom 5 (Betancourt, Lugo, Guzman). Let’s check out the Padres:

Player Innings RAA
Rodriguez 287 -4.7
Burke 184 -5
Wilson 106 -5.5
Cabrera 33 -.9


Ouch. Wilson has been really bad, but the others not much better. Overall, –16 runs in the early going. Khalil Greene, by the way, was –1.1 before going to the DL in St. Louis.

One thing that kind of bugged me is that a lot of people dismissed these numbers when MGL released his UZR to FanGraphs. I understand the notion: why use a clearly inferior fielding stat when a better one is available? I think it’s a good idea to use as many numbers as possible, if the stat is reasonable in its construction. While this stat is not that detailed, not nearly as much so as UZR, I still think it could add some value. Let’s briefly compare the two stats on the guys listed above:

Player RAA UZR
Ryan +12.7 +7
Bartlett +10.9 +1
Andrus +9.1 +6.7
Scutaro +7.5 +4.5
Wilson +7.2 +6.5
Betancourt -16.2 -9.6
Tejada -9.3 -7
Guzman -8.8 -5
Cabrera -8.4 -5.2
Lugo -7.4 -5.3
Rodriguez -4.7 -3
Burke -5 -2.8
Wilson -5.5 -1.1
Cabrera -.9 -.1


UZR is a little more conservative, but the numbers follow each other pretty nicely. Of course, that’s to be expected, at least to a degree, as both numbers use the same data set (Baseball Info Solutions).

Comparing 14 players through two and a half months certainly isn’t convincing, and it isn’t meant to be, but it at least shows that the THT numbers are in the ballpark. Anyway, my point is not to endorse the THT numbers Fred McGriff style, rather to just report them throughout the season, as a fun, perhaps occasionally enlightening exercise.

Oh, yeah, the Padres could use some fielding at short, especially when the current set of shortstops is hitting .208/.303/.292