Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Some Questions About Fielding Metrics

This is going to be one of those posts that frustrate you by posing questions without giving the answers. The Fan fully recognizes his in advance. And the reason this post will work out that way is because the Fan doesn't know the answers. These are simply questions that baffle the poster. And the reason for the questions in the first place is because the two most respected sources for WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Fangraphs and completely disagree far too often and the disagreement comes down to fielding. Both organizations use different fielding metric sources to equate the fielding part of the WAR equation. has heard about these disparities so often that it has taken the drastic step of listing WAR, bWAR (batting WAR) and fWAR (fielding WAR) for those who want to rate players without the distraction of the fielding metrics.

Take for example, the case of Robinson Cano. The Yankees' second baseman was four in the majors in assists and made three errors all year. But according to Fangraphs, he's only the ninth best fielding second baseman in the majors. They place his fielding as a negative value at -0.6. How can his fielding be a negative value!? doesn't really help Cano's case either. They flat lined him at 0.0. In other words, he didn't provide any value for his defense. How is that possible? And Cano's case isn't the only one. His infield-mate, Teixeira, also gets no love from fielding metrics despite scouts raving about him. Yeah, the Fan knows the observation versus stat argument and agrees that the stats usually come out ahead. But clearly something is deficient here.

So what are the questions then? Okay. Here they are. But remember, they don't have answers and thus frustrate not only the readers of the post, but the one who writes it:

  • If a good third baseman routinely ranges deep to this left (as he is encouraged to do) and continuously snares the ball in front of the shortstop, does that count against the shortstop since he didn't field the ball in his zone?
  • The same thing applies for first baseman ranging far to the right to field a ball in the second baseman's zone (remember the Cabrera play in the infamous Galarraga one-hitter?). Does the second baseman get a minus for not fielding that ball in his zone?
  • The centerfielder is told to run down balls no matter where they are hit. So he routinely races to right or left to make a catch. Is that a minus for the left fielder or right fielder for not making the play in their zones?
  • Big Papi is at the plate and a shift is put on and the shortstop is playing on the right side of the second base bag. Papi hits the ball right to him. Does that count against the second baseman since the shortstop fielded the ball in his zone?
  • Say a shortstop ranges far up the middle and dives and stops the ball but can't get the runner out at second. In the meantime, his efforts kept the runner on second from scoring as he would have if the ball had gone into the outfield. Does that count against the shortstop? He didn't get an out, right?
  • A ball is slammed up the middle but the pitcher gets a good piece of it with his glove. Unfortunately, the ball trickles over to third and the third baseman tries to bare hand it because that is his only shot at getting the runner, but he misses it. Does that dink against the third baseman in the fielding stats?

Those are this Fan's questions. They may very well be very stupid questions and this post may well be chewed up on some baseball think-tank site (and yes, that's happened before. Just do a search on the Flagrant Fan and you'll find them). The fielding metrics may already take that stuff into account. But the Fan doesn't know that and what if it doesn't? Either way, the fielding metrics are not trusted by a large percentage of writers these days and it seems for good reason. Signs point to even better ways of measuring fielders with FieldF/X. That would be welcomed. Any improvement would sure go a long way to properly value a player.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

This is why I don't lend much credence to fielding metrics. Cano has the strongest arm of any second baseman in baseball right now. That alone allows him to make plays most second basemen wouldn't be able to make.