Wrap Up, Part Two

Dave · October 2, 2007 at 8:44 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yesterday, we talked about the offensive contribution of the Mariners hitters and even worked in an adjustment for the position they played. However, we stopped there, as I wanted to give the defensive valuation its own post. So, picking up from where we left off with part one of the wrap-up, we have yet another post with me talking about defensive value.

The Mariners, as a team, allowed 813 runs this year. That’s 32 runs more than the league average despite playing half their games in the lowest run scoring environment in the American League. That’s not good, obviously, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who watched the team play that their weakness was in run prevention, not run scoring. But what parts of run prevention did the team really fail at?

Here are their performances, by outcome type, compared to league average:

Single: +65
Double: +23
Triple: +3
Home Run: -15
Walk: +10
Strikeout: -52
Hit Batter: +3

Well, we see one obvious strength of the pitching staff – they gave up 15 less home runs than league average. Of course, that’s almost all Safeco Field, but for the purposes of figuring out why the team gave up more runs than average despite playing half their games in a cavern, we can eliminate home runs from the equation. The team wasn’t particularly homer prone. And while they issued a few more walks than average, the difference isn’t huge – that’s not the culprit either.

The glaring weakness? Hit prevention. The team gave up 65 more singles, 23 more doubles, and 3 more triples than league average. That’s a lot of hits, and in turn, a lot of runs, going on the board for the other team.

Now, thanks to some inroads in statistical analysis, we’ve come to understand that hit prevention is not solely the domain of the pitcher, despite what mainstream analysis may still tell you. When a hitter makes contact and the ball doesn’t leave the yard, the outcome of that ball in play is, in part, determined by the quality of the defenders on the field. The Mariners, as a team, were terrible at turning balls in play into outs. On the season, they converted just 68.1% of their opportunities to make an out defensively, compared to a 69.6% league average. You may look at the percentage difference and say “ehh, big deal”, but each team deals with approximately 4,500 balls in play every year, and over the course of the season, that 1.5% difference adds up to about 68 plays not made.

Now, thanks to batted ball data, we can get even better accuracy. The Hardball Times, using data from Baseball Info Solutions that classifies every play as a groundball, flyball, or line drive and gives expected outs based on hit type, has the Mariners at 64 plays below average. Pretty close to our rough metric, but shows that the pitching staff did indeed give up a few more extra hard to catch balls than we’d expect. That’s not a big surprise to anyone who watched Jeff Weaver or Horacio Ramirez get torched on a regular basis this year.

Okay, so, using that 64 plays below average number, and thanks to Tango (as always), we can understand that those 64 plays the defense failed to make cost the Mariners about 50 runs. Fifty runs.

Wait a second – the team, as a whole, gave up 32 more runs than average, but we’re blaming the defense for being 50 runs worse than average? That means that we’re saying that the team had an above average pitching staff?

Well, almost. You have to remember to factor in Safeco Field. An average pitching staff that plays half their games in Seattle would give up less runs than average just thanks to the environment they play half their games in. But, yes, I am saying that the main factor in the team’s struggles at keeping runs off the board was not the pitchers, but instead, the fielders.

And, you know what, the numbers are on our side. The Mariners had a team Fielding Independant ERA of 4.48 compared to a league average of 4.51. Based on walk rate, strikeout rate, and home run rate, the Mariners had an average pitching staff, but their defense was worse than every other American League team besides Tampa Bay (whose attrocious defense also masked a pretty decent group of pitchers).

I know some of you will still want to blame the pitchers for the high ERA, because after all, it’s what everyone else in baseball does. But think of it this way? Do you really think the reality is that Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Cha Baek, Sean Green, and Ryan Feierabend all mysteriously lost about the same amount of ability to prevent hits on balls on play over the winter? All of them posted significantly worse rates of outs on balls in play than in ’07 than they did in ’06. Or, is it more likely that the common denominator behind them, their defense, wasted a lot of opportunities to create outs?

The evidence all points to the same fact – the Mariners defense was terrible this year. One of the worst in baseball. There’s no real way to argue differently – this is basically the same thing as stating that the Mariners hit for a high average or won more games than they lost.

The real question, for the purposes of player valuation, though, is which players were responsible for those 50 runs that the M’s forfeited with their defensive problems.

This is where subjectivity comes into play a bit. On a macro team level, we’ve just about got defensive evaluations nailed down. Splitting that pie up becomes a bit tougher, and the level of confidance goes down somewhat. Thanks to a lot of good work by a lot of people, we know that a great defensive player is about 20 runs better than the average for his position and a terrible defensive player is about 20 runs worse than the average for his position. Beyond those limits, teams realize that the defender is playing the wrong position and make an adjustment. It’s very rare to see a +20 or -20 player stick at one position, and everyone else falls somewhere in that range at pretty much each position.

However, as you’ve seen me talk about before, I’m still more comfortable using a +/- 5 run margin of error on both sides of the run values that the advanced defensive metrics come up with on an indvidual player basis – there are variations within teams that could affect the ratings, such as positioning of the fielders, handedness of the pitching staff, or a player “ballhogging” and always calling off all his teammates on plays that multiple players could make. This won’t affect the team’s totals, but it will affect the way we dole out credit/blame to the individual fielders, and so I’d rather use the ranges around the run values while people figure out how to solve those issues.

So, what do the numbers tell us about the Mariner fielders this year? Using a variety of inputs, we can safely come to the following conclusions:

Raul Ibanez – disastrous left fielder, -15 to -25 runs
Ichiro – above average center fielder, +0 to +10 runs
Jose Guillen – below average right fielder, -5 to -15 runs
Adrian Beltre – above average third baseman, 0 to +10 runs
Yuniesky Betancourt – below average shortstop, 0 to -10 runs
Jose Lopez – average second baseman, -5 to +5 runs
Richie Sexson – terrible first baseman, -10 to -20 runs
Kenji Johjima – who knows? – we don’t really have any idea how to evaluate catcher defense properly.

If we used the median value of those ranges, we’d come out with Ibanez at -20, Ichiro at +5, Guillen at -10, Beltre at +5, Betancourt at -5, Lopez at 0, and Sexson at -15, for a total of 40 runs below average. Toss in the part-time players (Broussard’s nothing to write home about with the glove either) and it ties pretty closely to the -50 that we see from the team wide total.

The controversial numbers, I’d expect, will be the “above average” ratings for Ichiro and Beltre, both of whom have stellar defensive reputations. Ichiro, I’m pretty comfortable with – he was consistently in the +10 to +20 range as a right fielder, and now that he’s being compared to a better crop of defenders in center, we’d expect his relative performance to decline. As good as Ichiro is defensively, he’s not head and shoulders ahead of guys like Curtis Granderson and Corey Patterson, who are also terrific defensive players in their own right. There’s nothing wrong with being a +5 center fielder – this still makes him one of the best defenders alive.

Beltre, I think, is just getting hurt by stiffer-than-normal competition at third base. Beltre’s really good, no doubt, but I’m not sure we appreciate just how good Brandon Inge and Mike Lowell are as well. You may not think of third base as a position with good defensive players, but there are some really, really good fielders manning the hot corner in the American League right now. With those kinds of peers in the group, it’s a little less surprising that Beltre’s defensive prowess doesn’t rate as well as we might expect from watching him play everyday.

This team, essentially, had two good fielders, a couple of average ones, a couple of below average ones, and two of the worst guys taking the field on a regular basis in baseball. Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez just killed the Mariners with their gloves this year, and the rest of the team wasn’t good enough to make up for the organization putting two designated hitters behind their pitchers on a nightly basis.

Okay, that’s enough long-winded writing. If we apply the defensive run values to the position adjusted offensive run values from yesterday’s post, here are the results, and I’m comfortable using these as definitive metrics of value from the Mariners regular position players for 2007.

Stars

Ichiro Suzuki: +30 to +40 runs

Good Players

Adrian Beltre: +10 to +20 runs
Kenji Johjima: +10 runs offensively, ? defensively

Average Players

Jose Guillen: +5 to -5 runs

Below Average Players

Raul Ibanez: 0 to -10 runs
Yuniesky Betancourt: 0 to -10 runs
Jose Vidro: -3 runs offensively, no defensive adjustment

Bad Players

Jose Lopez: -15 to -25 runs

Disasters

Richie Sexson: -30 to -40 runs

Ichiro carried the position players, while Beltre and Johjima added positive value and Guillen provided league average production and consistency. Ibanez, Betancourt, and Vidro were small negatives, Lopez was a big problem, and Richie Sexson was one of the very worst players in baseball.

Add it all up and you have a group of position players that’s simply not playoff caliber. If the Mariners want to win consistently, they have to make some significant upgrades to this group – there are too many holes and not enough stars. It would take one of the best pitching staffs in the league to carry this group to a division title.

Comments

208 Responses to “Wrap Up, Part Two”

  1. SBG on October 2nd, 2007 8:56 am

    -10 to -20 runs defensively at first base? Ouch, that’s terrible.

  2. shupurrs on October 2nd, 2007 9:00 am

    Very interesting analysis. As far as metrics go, how is range measured? I know that Yuni’s range at short is far and away above average but it looks like he’s getting rated below average in this analysis. Not gonna disagree with Ibanez, it was brutal watching him track down deep flies this year. We can now only hope that management takes notes from the guys on this site who have respect for qualitative analysis when it comes to evaluating a team’s performance as opposed to the 88 fluke wins that look good on paper.

  3. MrIncognito on October 2nd, 2007 9:06 am

    Given how many balls were hit into his zone, Yuni converted a slightly-below average percentage into outs. It’s very consistent with his performance last year, so I think it’s pretty safe to call him slightly below average.

    here’s a list of 2007 MLB SS with a qualifying number of ABs. You’ll find Yuni at .802, about 2/3 of the way down the list:

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/thtstats/main/index.php?view=fielding&linesToDisplay=50&orderBy=zone_rating&direction=DESC&qual_filter=1&season_filter%5B%5D=2007&league_filter%5B%5D=All&team_filter%5B%5D=All&pos_filter%5B%5D=6&Submit=Submit

  4. smb on October 2nd, 2007 9:06 am

    Now this aligns a lot better with what we witnessed all year. And I think the admission that there’s no reliable way to evaluate catcher defense is proof of sorts that the incorporation of this type of analysis into your talent evaluation practices is the best way to put together a contender. Taking stock of what you do and don’t know is rational and lets you be empirical about your conclusions…thinking you know everything and not backing it up with analytical proof is a surefire way to spend $110 million a year and continually miss the playoffs.

  5. Manzanillos Cup on October 2nd, 2007 9:11 am

    It’s pretty crazy that we’re still at the point where we have no idea how good a catcher is defensively. I mean, we might observe that a particular catcher has a great arm and is so-so at blocking pitches in the dirt, but about how many runs does that translate to?

    The positional adjustment makes you think that catcher is the toughest position to play, but people seem to take for granted that there isn’t much deviation from the mean when it comes to their defense – like all catchers at the major league level are pretty similar in defensive ability (aside from the obvious Mike Piazzas out there).

    Who are the +20 and -20 catchers out there? Do teams have lower tolerances for bad catchers than they do at other positions? And if catcher defense is so important, why is it that every minor league system in the majors has 2-3 catchers who could play decent defense on a major league level?

  6. Alaskan on October 2nd, 2007 9:16 am

    Dave,

    Does “part-time players” include the pitchers’ defense? Or is that not considered? Even if it were, I suppose small sample size issues would begin to emerge.

    Also, my understanding is that 1B is going to have fewer opportunities than, say, LF. Does the +/- 20 range apply across the board? Surely the limits should be more stringent for those players with fewer opportunities?

  7. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 9:27 am

    It’d be nice to have a better look at individual catcher defense. Johjima scores well (+17) on BPro’s FRAA, but they also show Richie as a +6 this year and +11 last year. That system obviously has problems.

  8. The Ancient Mariner on October 2nd, 2007 9:32 am

    It would take one of the best pitching staffs in the league to carry this group to a division title.

    . . . and if we did, most people wouldn’t know it.

    It’s pretty crazy that we’re still at the point where we have no idea how good a catcher is defensively.

    Not really; everything the catcher does is tied up with what the pitcher’s doing (even steals/caught stealing, though it’s possible to allocate credit and blame in the running game between pitchers and catchers), which makes it very hard to isolate the catcher’s work in the overall sphere of run prevention.

  9. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 9:34 am

    -10 to -20 runs defensively at first base? Ouch, that’s terrible.

    Yea – Richie Sexson’s probably the worst defensive first baseman in baseball. Worse than Prince Fielder. Worse than Ryan Howard. He’s really, really bad.

    As far as metrics go, how is range measured?

    Range is part of this, but so is ability to convert the fielded ball into an out. Betancourt made 23 errors, and while his range makes up for some of that, it’s still tough to make that many misplays and still rate as well above average.

    It’s pretty crazy that we’re still at the point where we have no idea how good a catcher is defensively.

    There are some things we can quantify, but we haven’t yet begun to disintangle pitcher performance from catcher performance. There’s been some work done on the issue, but none that I’m willing to hang my hat on yet. I think the wise move is to default to “we don’t know” for everyone, and not really put much credence in any defensive evaluation of a catcher beyond the obvious (like throwing arm).

    Who are the +20 and -20 catchers out there?

    If there are any, no one knows. Not us, not the teams – no one. We’re just not at that point where we have good enough tools to break things down to that level.

  10. Mike Snow on October 2nd, 2007 9:34 am

    You should pretty much ignore Baseball Prospectus for defensive metrics. Even their writers have been incorporating other, better measurements alongside the in-house ones.

  11. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 9:34 am

    Stop using FRAA. Stop it. Seriously.

  12. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 9:38 am

    Question about catchers for Dave and everyone: How many actually call their own game? I know announcers talk about how ‘Player X calls a great game’. It’s hard to pick up on TV, but at games you can catch some catchers looking to the bench inbetween every at bat looking for a sign. Do a lot of managers call games?

  13. Mike Honcho on October 2nd, 2007 9:48 am

    Wow. I’ll refrain from picking on Jose Lopez for now, but are we really an average 1B and AJ in LF away from being 30-50 runs better?

    There is reason to be optimistic for 2008 if we an expect improvement from Felix, AJ in LF, no Sexson, and less Vidro.

    Any idea how Ibanez would be as a 1B? Personally, I’m not keen on the idea…

  14. Manzanillos Cup on October 2nd, 2007 9:48 am

    So Beltre comes out solidly as the second best position player on the team. Something tells me that he’ll still make ESPN’s “Baseball’s Worst Contracts” list, though. Ahh, mainstream baseball press …

  15. Mike Snow on October 2nd, 2007 9:51 am

    It seems there’s a considerable chance that the team will try to play Ibanez primarily at first next year. Since he hasn’t played the position significantly in several years, is there any way to project how he would perform there? (other than his reputation from KC, which I believe was mediocre at best)

  16. don52656 on October 2nd, 2007 9:52 am

    As a season ticket holder who watched this defense all year, I generally concur with the defensive analysis. Frankly, my biggest gripe with the way Adam Jones was handled was knowing that if he hit .230 or so, he’d still would have increased our chances of winning because of the defensive upgrade in LF. There were many, many occurrences when a hit fell in LF that I knew Jones would have gotten to the ball.

    Regarding the Sexson analysis, I am not so sure. I agree that the right side of the infield was porous, but I am tempted to divide the problem more evenly between Lopez and Sexson. Maybe it’s just perception, but it just seems to me that Lopez plays 2B favoring the middle and leaving a huge gap between him and Sexson, especially apparent when we were holding a baserunner on first.

    Defensive metrics for catchers are a problem, but given the % of caught stealing this year, it seems likely that Kenji was above average defensively.

    If Betancourt’s relatively low rating is a result of the number of errors he made, then shouldn’t we be able to determine that his rating in the second half of the season, when his error rate diminished, improved?

    How would you like the challenge of trying to trade an aging first baseman coming off a dreadful season offensively and defensively with a $14 million contract for 2008?

  17. JMHawkins on October 2nd, 2007 9:54 am

    What about Tango’s work on WP/PB for catchers? (basically, compare the WP/PB rate for pitchers with and without the catcher). Is it just incomplete (e.g. no throwing arm) or does the general idea need more work?

    Regarding Sexson’s defense at first, this is a case where statistics totally support the visual annecdotal evidence. I got so used to grounders scooting past him to his right (“the Richie Roll”) that it was really frustrating to watch the other team’s 1B routinely converted those grounders into outs.

    I know this isn’t post isn’t looking forward yet to next year, but things are certainly not headed in a good direction. Ibanez, Sexson and Guillen are all on the wrong side of 30 and begining to accumulate injuries. All three are likely to decline defensively next year.

  18. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 9:57 am

    Pasta-diving Richie?

  19. jeffs98119 on October 2nd, 2007 10:00 am

    It seems strange to me that all positions have the same -20/+20 runs range. Shouldn’t shortstop, second base, and centerfield have the potential to effect runs more than the other positions?

  20. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 10:02 am

    Remmber, this is runs above average relative to the abilities of their peers on other teams, so as long as every team is treating those positions with the same importance, the variation in ability won’t differ greatly from other positions.

    You could actually argue that the range at SS is really +25/-25 thanks to the presence of Adam Everett and Derek Jeter, but I tend to think of those two as outliers, rather than normal situations.

  21. brad_i on October 2nd, 2007 10:03 am

    Remember when people thought Yuni was one of the best shortstops last year?
    http://www.tangotiger.net/scouting/scout2006_winners.html

    And his errors did drop off in the second half, but according to THT, half of them were fielding errors, so its not just his erratic arm (which will probably become more erratic with a less giant first baseman)

  22. Beniitec on October 2nd, 2007 10:04 am

    How did our other second basemen do this year compared to Lopez? I mean…if we really want to upgrade the team we’d start with LF and 1B. But JLO really had a bad year. Would WFB have been an upgrade over Jose…based on his offensive year and the few times he replaced him at second? It’s probably a small sample size… And I’ll probably get yelled at for mentioning the IGNITOR.

  23. gwangung on October 2nd, 2007 10:04 am

    Ibanez, Sexson and Guillen are all on the wrong side of 30 and begining to accumulate injuries.

    Makes me wonder why this team and the local media don’t take this into account more. For roster construction, it would behoove you to start bringing in young, talented players from your minors and not rely on vets. If you spell your older regulars on a consistent basis, you avoid injuries, keep them fresher [avoiding more late season collapses], give experience to developing players and might improve defense a tad.

  24. built2crash on October 2nd, 2007 10:06 am

    In my opinion this is one of the times when things can be over analyzed. I find it hard to believe that if we upgraded our defense, that it would have more of an impact than upgrading the starting rotation.
    Dave,
    are you saying that if we threw 5 starters out there that have high strike out rates that this would negate the bad defense and significantly improve team ERA base on fewer balls in play?

  25. JMHawkins on October 2nd, 2007 10:07 am

    Regarding the Sexson analysis, I am not so sure. I agree that the right side of the infield was porous, but I am tempted to divide the problem more evenly between Lopez and Sexson. Maybe it’s just perception, but it just seems to me that Lopez plays 2B favoring the middle and leaving a huge gap between him and Sexson, especially apparent when we were holding a baserunner on first.

    Sexson missed a ton of grounders that when right under his glove as he dove to his right. He would just kind of dive and do a sommersault with the ball scooting right under him. He was able to physically get to the location of the play, so I don’t think it was Lopez leaving too big a gap. Sexson was just not able to get his glove in front of the ball.

  26. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 10:12 am

    I find it hard to believe that if we upgraded our defense, that it would have more of an impact than upgrading the starting rotation.

    Go take a look at the Toronto Blue Jays. Their Fielding Independant ERA was only marginally better than the Mariners, but they ran out the best defense in the AL this year and finished 2nd in the league in ERA. Unless you’re prepared to argue that guys like Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum, and Casey Janssen are world beating pitchers, I think you have to recognize that the Blue Jays run prevention had more to do with the greatness of Aaron Hill and John McDonald than it did with Toronto’s pitching staff.

    Yes, defense matters. A lot.

    are you saying that if we threw 5 starters out there that have high strike out rates that this would negate the bad defense and significantly improve team ERA base on fewer balls in play?

    Well, I think its easier to field a good defensive team than find five high strikeout starting pitchers, but yes, if the team had less pitch-to-contact starters, it would minimize the effect of the bad defense.

  27. smb on October 2nd, 2007 10:13 am

    “He would just kind of dive and do a sommersault with the ball scooting right under him.”

    I beg to differ…it’s usually a belly flop, but you’re right about the ball always going under him. I’d pay to see Big Richie try to do a real somersault.

  28. lokiforever on October 2nd, 2007 10:13 am

    Also – Sexson was pretty bad at chasing down foul pop-ups. Just plain slow.

  29. scraps on October 2nd, 2007 10:22 am

    I think one of the biggest advances in baseball knowledge that has simply not made it into the media, or even to a lot of front offices, is that we can measure team fielding and that it matters a lot. In recent years, I can remember the Mariners, White Sox, and Angels all going to the postseason with extraordinary team fielding numbers (in the case of the latter two, winning championships) without it being given much notice in the media; of course the Mariners had great offense too, but in the case of the White Sox and the Angels, the reasons they won were so apparently mysterious to the media that both teams were regarded as miracles of chemistry, leadership, etc. All three teams made moves that badly damaged their team fielding, and all declined, especially the Mariners and White Sox.

    Even among those who think fielding matters, you won’t find very many in the media who understand that we can measure it.

  30. thefin190 on October 2nd, 2007 10:23 am

    Again a very terrific analysis by Dave. Good job!

    I guess I never really payed attention to 1st base defense but I do remeber now to think of it a couple grounders either bouncing off richie or rolling past him. I guess him being as tall as he is makes him immobile. Also Ibanez was just terrible also, and should only be DH, and maybe first if the Mariners can’t find anyone else.

    I agree with you that defense was a big part. Even though we all know defense wasn’t to blame for consistently bad Weaver and HoRam performances, but also I can remember watching how Lopez and others flubbed when Weaver was pitching, making errors which cost the game. And those Beltre errors (even though that was a very rare occurance) and a Bteancourt error would cost HoRam a win. I agree defense needs to be fixed. Even though having Jones a regular in the OF next year should improve it, I think the M’s will need to improve it more in order to be able to compete.

    Dave and/or Derek, I have a question. Are the coaches to blame at all? I mean if they have a good coach that can point out their mistakes couldn’t they improve, or is a player pretty much as good as they are and coaching doesn’t really matter in the big leagues? I mean in Ibanez’s, Vidro’s, or Sexson’s case they just can’t field, but someone like lopez or betancourt, could they improve from good coaching at all?

  31. JMHawkins on October 2nd, 2007 10:26 am

    beg to differ…it’s usually a belly flop, but you’re right about the ball always going under him. I’d pay to see Big Richie try to do a real somersault.

    Okay, let’s split the difference between somersault and belly flop. He would tuck his left shoulder in and roll over as he hit the ground.

    Yes, defense matters. A lot.

    when you consider than on average, more than 70% of PAs result in a ball in play, it makes perfect sense that those guys running around with gloves matter.

  32. Eastside Crank on October 2nd, 2007 10:26 am

    It would be very hard to have all star caliber infielders if the 1st baseman is a poor defender. The infielders need to have confidence that their errant throws will at least be stopped. The second they start thinking about the throw they begin to make mistakes. Look at Beltre. The times he has trouble throwing is when there is a runner on second and he is not decisive in throwing to 1st to get the out. Sometimes he hesitates and then hurries a bad throw. For comparison, Troy Glaus is the opposite. His throws to 1st are automatic with little thought about trying to make the out at 3rd. Having a bad defensive 1st baseman compounds the problem. Think back to all the great stops Olerud used to make on throws in the dirt and throws wide of the bag.

    Betancourt’s problems seem to be lapses in concentration. He clearly can make outstanding plays but he is not there mentally all the time. This looks like a manager problem to me. To a much greater extent the same is true for Lopez. If he continues to take games off the Mariners need a new second baseman or a new approach to working with him.

    In partial answer to #24 if the pitchers do not have faith that the players behind them will turn balls in play into outs their pitching will suffer. I saw that happen with the post Kirk Gibson Dodgers that rushed too many young players into the majors.

    All in all this has been a great analysis by Dave and makes Mariner fans much more knowledgeable going into the winter.

  33. skyking162 on October 2nd, 2007 10:27 am

    Regarding the Blue Jays, not only did they have the best infield defense in the majors, they had the most extreme groundball pitching staff. Think that’s a coincidence, especially considering their park increases homeruns? I don’t.

    Compared to other teams’ situations, the Mariners should find relatively cheap lefty flyball starters and trot out an outfield of Jones/Ichiro/X. I’m sure Dave’s mentioned that a few (hundred) times.

  34. Evan on October 2nd, 2007 10:28 am

    I think you have to recognize that the Blue Jays run prevention had more to do with the greatness of Aaron Hill and John McDonald than it did with Toronto’s pitching staff.
    As a guy who sees a lot more Jays games than I probably need to, I have the agree that Hill and McDonald are brilliant defenders. The double plays those guys turn are absurd.

    I might go so far as to argue that they’re the reason Halladay threw 7 complete games this year.

  35. Seth on October 2nd, 2007 10:33 am

    Hey Dave–when you say you came up with the defensive +/- stuff based on “a variety of inputs,” what do you mean?

  36. Evan on October 2nd, 2007 10:33 am

    Regarding the Blue Jays, not only did they have the best infield defense in the majors, they had the most extreme groundball pitching staff. Think that’s a coincidence, especially considering their park increases homeruns? I don’t.

    Ricciardi has some odd foibles as a GM, but he does appear to be pretty good at finding pitching.

  37. MarinerDan on October 2nd, 2007 10:36 am

    The data on Sexson only makes it more confounding that the Mariners didn’t let Sexson go when he was inexplicably claimed on waivers.

  38. built2crash on October 2nd, 2007 10:39 am

    I have no doubts defense “means allot”, never have, just wasn’t aware of how much it related to the pitching staff effectiveness.
    Dave makes a great case and I would have gone on thinking all off season that the M’s needed starting pitching and that’s it. But now it’s evident that they have 2 area’s they can try to improve on.

  39. Alaskan on October 2nd, 2007 10:39 am

    RE: 20,

    Maybe I don’t fully understand the statistic. Can someone answer this?

    If we say that a SS sees 100 opportunities, and a RF sees 20, then shouldn’t the range of +/- 25 for the passable SS translate to a range of +/- 5 for a passable RF?

    And again (as I mentioned in comment 6), does the pitcher himself receive no credit (or blame) for defense? If we picked up perennial Gold Glover (I know, I know, but let’s pretend the GG actually means something for a minute) Greg Maddux, does he have a positive defensive contribution that can be considered, separate from his pitching?

  40. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 10:40 am

    I certainly don’t want to suggest that the Mariners don’t need to improve the rotation – they obviously do. Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez suck, bad defense or no bad defense.

    They just need to improve both the pitching and the defense. And probably the offense, too. Despite their 88 wins, this team has a lot of problems.

  41. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 10:48 am

    If we say that a SS sees 100 opportunities, and a RF sees 20, then shouldn’t the range of +/- 25 for the passable SS translate to a range of +/- 5 for a passable RF?

    No, that’s not how this works.

    Let’s say an average shortstop gets 400 opportunities and turns 320 of those into outs. Now, say there’s a shorstop with ridiculous range – we’ll call him Adam Everett – who gets to 350 of those 400 opportunities. He makes 30 more plays than the average shortstop. That makes him something like a +20 defensive shorstop.

    Now, let’s say an average right fielder gets 250 opportunities and turns 220 of them into outs. If we stuck an Adam Everett caliber defender in right fielder, he might convert 240 of those 250 opportunities into outs, making him a +17 or +18 defensive right fielder.

    Now, because the premium positions do see more opportunities than the corner positions, you’ll rarely see a team stick a super high level defender in a spot like that, but it still happens occassionally – Ichiro playing right field for most of his career is a good example.

    And again (as I mentioned in comment 6), does the pitcher himself receive no credit (or blame) for defense?

    I ignored pitchers in my analysis because, kind of like catchers, I don’t think we have the tools to really quantify their relative value yet. That’s not to say there’s no difference, but we’re not at a point where we know what it is.

  42. Sec 108 on October 2nd, 2007 10:49 am

    This ownership group does not seem to grasp that the game is played by athletes. Not everyone can be a powerful hitting machine into their late 30′s and they definitely cannot play good defense when their legs are shot.

    We have Vidro, Sexson, Ibanez, Johjima, Broussard and Guillen who all cannot run. Johjima gets a pass because all catchers lose their legs eventually. However, unless we roll the dice on some unproven young hitters who have some athletic ability we will continue to see crappy defense and base running for years to come.

  43. Safeco Hobo on October 2nd, 2007 10:57 am

    Was Lopez’s 2007 bad enough to warrant a change?

    It seems his stock is at an all-time low with the organization, but given the other needs for the offseason I’m not sure 2nd is going to be that high of a priority?

  44. ndevale on October 2nd, 2007 10:58 am

    This analysis is, i guess, a results-based analysis, which is great for determining last year’s performance. Do you have any guesses, or metrics, to project future defensive performance? I realize that Sexson and Ibañez are candidates to get even worse if they are left on the field, but whan about Betancourt and Lopez? Or Ichiro for that matter, could it be argued that he might improve defensively with another year at center?
    Thanks

  45. Rick L on October 2nd, 2007 10:59 am

    How do errors factor in to the defensive analysis? How do our players compare to other teams in number of errors?

  46. gwangung on October 2nd, 2007 11:00 am

    However, unless we roll the dice on some unproven young hitters who have some athletic ability we will continue to see crappy defense

    Heh.

    The thing is….It’s NOT rolling the dice to bring in more mobile outfielders. You WILL improve the defense. The ONLY question is in their offense. And I think the improvement in defense is going to be larger than what the fans and front office think…and the “gamble” on offense is not going to be so risky as they think, either…

  47. Russ on October 2nd, 2007 11:01 am

    Another contributing factor though not defined by this great work is the impact on pitch counts.

    Each time a foul ball was not caught for an out or the routine ball that slipped past a diving Raul meant an additional batter faced with a higher leverage base-running situation.

    I know this is implied in the work but I believe that the average writer we have locally doesn’t see this big picture impact of having a poor defense.

    Any M’s fan should be able to look to 2001 and see that the stellar defense that year made guys like Paul Abbot a 17 game winner.

  48. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 11:02 am

    re: catcher defense.

    There’s basically 5 components to it
    1. fielding bunts/slow rollers
    2. fielding popups
    3. calling/framing pitches
    4. preventing stolen bases
    5. preventing PB/WP

    #1) there’s some room for distinction here, but your spread is going to be very small compared to the variance. You’d get a lot of +2 runs +/- 8 type of ratings.

    #2) there’s such a small sample of popups per season for each catcher, and since a gigantic proportion of those popups are ones with a high hangtime, any catcher has no problem getting to it and there’s pretty much nothing to be gleaned from this.

    #3) so called, “Catcher’s ERA”, never really be teased out. Like number 1, there’s probably some difference, but it’s likely small and there’s so much noise that it’s likely impossible to quantify to any meaningful range.

    #4) likely the biggest impact and one that’s pretty well easily quantified. In general, the best catchers are about 5 runs above average, the worst 5-10 runs below. About 80% of catchers fall within a stdDev of 0 though.

    #5) A couple people have done a good job this front, and IIRC, it’s about the same scale as steals. The best are a few runs above average, the worst a few below and the vast majority are essentially 0.

  49. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 11:04 am

    See, this is the sort of thing I really hope the Mariners are looking at.

    While pitching is over-valued league-wide (i.e. you have to pay more for even mediocre pitching, witness Gil Meche making $11 million a year), defense is under-valued league-wide.

    So if you can put a relatively cheap kickass defense behind pitchers of lesser quality, you can significantly improve your run prevention in a very cost-effective way.

    It’s one of the best ways to make your team better without a significant outlay of money or talent, and I’m really surprised MLB teams aren’t better at taking advantage of it.

  50. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 11:08 am

    How do errors factor in to the defensive analysis? How do our players compare to other teams in number of errors?

    Errors are scoring decisions, and if you’ve ever seen the SafeCo scorer do his/her “job” you’ll know that looking at errors is foolhardy at best unless you’re talking about the extremes (never flubs a play or flubs 1/3 of his chances) and nobody on the Ms qualifies under that.

  51. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 11:10 am

    in continuation of what I said in 48.

    Kenji was one of the better catchers this year at both 4 and 5. I can certainly understand why Dave would want to avoid using a defensive value for Kenji, but I would be pretty comfortable calling him about +5 runs to average in 2007.

  52. tangotiger on October 2nd, 2007 11:10 am

    I’ll be publishing the Scouting Report this week, but I’ll give you a headsup for the Mariners. The rating is centered on 50, with most players in the 30-70 range (all position-neutral). In parens, however, I’ll give you his translated +/- value in runs relative to position.

    91 Ichiro (+20)
    83 Beltre (+20)
    69 Betancourt (+5)
    58 Lopez (0)
    50 Guillen (0)
    50 Johjima (0)
    27 Sexson (-10)
    26 Ibanez (-15)

    Total of +20 runs.

    The relative rankings of the above (which comes from all you fans) is pretty much a dead-on match to Dave’s list. Any if you drop about 5-10 runs from each player, you get exactly the numbers Dave gets.

    The question therefore is if the actual results as Dave argues (some 60-70 fewer actual plays made than expected… and that’s hard to argue with) is more believable than what your rose-colored glasses tell you.

    The mid-season UZR argues for something in-between the two (thereby attributing the extra runs to how hard the pitchers were hit). The plus players were Lopez and Ichiro. The minus players were Guillen and Ibanez. Three of the four are believable.

    Very tough call here. Let’s hope MGL can give us the end-of-season UZR for more insight.

  53. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 11:14 am

    #52

    Tom,

    I’d bet taking the scouting and dropping ~5 runs per player (which, as you say ends up right about in line with Dave) is likely the best method. I have no evidence to back it up, but my hunch is that pretty much everyone (including us) overrates how good a defender a player is.

    Though in this case, I think Ichiro and Beltre’s position neutral ratings look about right to me, I think it’s the lower 2/3s that need a drop of like ~7 runs per.

  54. azruavatar on October 2nd, 2007 11:16 am

    Now, because the premium positions do see more opportunities than the corner positions

    Has there been any studies that quantify the difference between a play missed in RF versus a play missed at SS?

    It seems, intuitively, that those extra 30 plays that Everett may make a year are a hard hit groundball/linedrive being converted to an out (i.e. a single -> out). On the other hand, a missed play in the OF is more likely the difference between extra bases and a flyout with the best players ranging back or laterally to prevent gappers/over-the-head shots (i.e. a double -> out).

    So while the SS has more opportunities than a corner outfielder, do/should defensive metrics value an extra play as an extra play or are they weighted in some fashion relative to the average outcome of a play?

  55. Evan on October 2nd, 2007 11:17 am

    I certainly don’t want to suggest that the Mariners don’t need to improve the rotation – they obviously do. Jeff Weaver and Horacio Ramirez suck, bad defense or no bad defense.

    I just got my end of season stat package from Lee Sinins. We have 3 pitchers in the bottom 10 by RSAA.

    1. Horacio Ramirez -30
    3. Jeff Weaver -28
    10.Ryan Feierabend -20

  56. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 11:20 am

    Has there been any studies that quantify the difference between a play missed in RF versus a play missed at SS?

    Yep – click the link on the word “Tango” in the post. It’s a link to a blog entry posted the other day that talks about the run value of a missed play and includes discussion of infield vs outfield missed plays.

  57. joealb1 on October 2nd, 2007 11:31 am

    Great post as usual Dave. So it seems to me that the M’s could upgrade 2 positions, LF (Jones!) and 1st (A Broussard, Vidro platoon?). Stay one more year with Lopez and assuming he improves with the bat just a little they would be a better team. Improve the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation (One of T.B’s young arms and Morrow or Baek) and viola, a real contender.

  58. azruavatar on October 2nd, 2007 11:34 am

    Yep – click the link on the word “Tango” in the post.

    I read that the other day and MGL quote some coefficients he applies to errors. While I certainly don’t expect him to lay open UZR for everyone, I’m just wondering about the statistics behind those coefficients (and I’m not sure those coefficients are for all extra plays but rather just errors). Can we say that an above average RF prevents 15 singles, 10 doubles and 5 triples while an above average shortstop’s composition would be closer to 25 singles and 5 doubles? Also, is there consistency on those compositions from year to year. If so, then I can see where and why different coefficients would be derived.

    (I might be getting overly technical here — I don’t disagree with anything you stated directly about the Mariners individual fielders. If so, apologies.)

  59. Spanky on October 2nd, 2007 11:42 am

    Dave…YOU’RE ROCKING MY WORLD!!! AAARRGGHH!!

    First: I was most shocked to see Yuni rated as below average. That was the one item that really took me by surprise. This year, Yuni had terrible throwing problems in the first half and got better in the second. How does he rate just on the 2nd half of the season?

    Second: What really baffles me is that the M’s management kept telling us last winter they were looking for pitchers who could pitch to contact and play into the M’s “Strength” in their defense. Was it just a cover or are they just really that clueless?

    Finally: From your analysis, I see no improvement coming in the defense next year without different names in the lineup. The two exceptions being with Yuni and Lopez. They could potentially make improvements and because they have the skills to work with, could make an improvement. Do you agree?

  60. Sec 108 on October 2nd, 2007 11:44 am

    #46 – I agree completely. My point was that the gamble only relates to offensive production. Quality defense is something that can be known fairly well in A ball.

    I have always held the belief that a 2 hour 1-0 game with stellar defense is way more enjoyable to watch than a 4 hour 8-6 game with no defense and nine million pitching changes. Maybe I am in the minority there, but most of the season ticket holders who have sat around me for the past 15 years feel the same way.

    I used to wish Mike Cameron was a better hitter, but I sure didn’t want to see him go either. His defense was worth the price of admission every night.

  61. marc w on October 2nd, 2007 11:45 am

    Dave,

    What do you make of the fact that Sexson was middle-of-the-pack to not bad in 2005 and 2006 according to the same THT/BIS data?
    In 2007, there’s simply no argument. To post an RZR of below .700 just shouldn’t happen in this day and age. But where did his .807 come from in 2006? And how the heck can you make a forecast with this level of volatility?

  62. rsrobinson on October 2nd, 2007 11:47 am

    No arguments from me with the rankings which look about right based on watching almost every M’s game this year. As far as Betancourt and Lopez are concerned I still see a lot of potential upside. Most of Yuni’s errors were in the first half of the season on throwing errors and he seemed to have mostly fixed that by the second half of the season. He still occasionally has lapses of concentration on routine plays but that’s also fixable.

    This is the second year in a row that Lopez has had second half swoons at the plate and that’s obviously a concern. If it happens again I think it’ll be time to think about looking for another second basemen. I still think he’s got the potential to be a solid second baseman but his work ethic might be an issue.

    No argument at all that Sexson and Ibanez need to be replaced in the field. Sexson should be dealt for whatever they can get, even if it means eating part of his contract. And using Ibanez at DH and Jones in LF would serve the dual purpose of upgrading the power and productivity of the DH while significantly upgrading LF defensively. So LF is very fixable if McLaren will just do the obvious, but 1B still looks like a problem defensively no matter who they put there.

  63. John in L.A. on October 2nd, 2007 11:50 am

    Fantastic post, great thread.

    I’d think that the good news is that defensive ability is undervalued by much of the league and we could fix it relatively easily for 2008.

    Then I remember that we didn’t fire Bavasi and Hargrove and I change that to “We can fix this pretty easily for 2009.”

  64. terry on October 2nd, 2007 11:50 am

    Dave,

    Does this analysis change your mind about the wisdom of the Ms giving Guillen a 3 year extension in the $8-10M/per range?

    Another question- looking at the rotation, it appears that the defense effected starters differently. Felix’s ERA and FIP are pretty much identical but I think that might be expected since the better a pitcher is less the defense would be expected to influence runs scored on his watch. HoRam and, to a lesser extent, Weaver were awful and we know FIP is a poor metric for awful pitchers so maybe the dramatic differences in their ERA and FIP can’t speak to the quality of the defense (or can it since they put a bigger burden upon the defense in theory ?). However, both and Batista and Washburn had FIPs that were higher than their ERAs suggesting the defense helped them out. How can the same defense not effect one guy, help two guys and hurt two guys?

  65. tangotiger on October 2nd, 2007 12:03 pm

    Matt/53: yes, every team was overrated by the fans. I normalize them all to the same degree. So, it seems that Mariner fans are way overoptimistic according to Dave’s analysis and somewhat optimisitc using the mid-season UZR.

    ***

    As for the run value of a play in the IF/OF, obviously they’d have to be different. Something like 0.75 runs and 0.85 runs, respectively. So, if you’ve got someone at being +20 plays,it’s the difference between being +15 and +17 runs. I think we can safely stick wih the .80 / +16 runs values, since no one will argue the precision to +/- 1 run.

  66. Bender on October 2nd, 2007 12:07 pm

    What I don’t get is that the organization as a whole seems numb to this problem. We constantly hear the propaganda about how pitching and defense wins, and how that was what the 2001 team was built on and how that’s what they’re trying to rebuild. We constantly hear about the great plays Rauuuuuul is making and how Sexson’s height makes him a great fielder at first.

    I know a part of this is the announcers toeing the party line and trying to keep fans interested, but it really seems like there’s a pervasive dishonest, or at least a huge blind spot, in the organization as a whole when it comes to actual defensive performance.

    Is it that they don’t see the problem or that they don’t think that it’s the problem it obviously is?

  67. eponymous coward on October 2nd, 2007 12:08 pm

    While pitching is over-valued league-wide (i.e. you have to pay more for even mediocre pitching, witness Gil Meche making $11 million a year), defense is under-valued league-wide.

    And so is hitting, to some extent. This is why I’m vehemently against Barry Bonds as a FA signing for the Mariners- aside from his baggage, he’s going to cost 15 million to add 50 runs of offense to the team at DH… but we wouldn’t have to spend 15 million to add 50 runs of defense to the team, or offense at weak positions (2B, 1B).

  68. azruavatar on October 2nd, 2007 12:13 pm

    65 – thanks tango.

    re: degree of precision — the coefficient difference really is marginal considering precision. I’m not sure why it seemed like a big deal to me initially.

  69. gwangung on October 2nd, 2007 12:17 pm

    #46 – I agree completely. My point was that the gamble only relates to offensive production. Quality defense is something that can be known fairly well in A ball.

    Yeah. You know this, and I know this….and, actually, fans and management know this intellectually, but when push comes to shove, far too many people consider ONLY the offensive production. They NEVER think to consider the tradeoff between offense and defense.

    Hm. That might be a better way to argue with people. Tell them to consider the ENTIRE package.

  70. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 12:22 pm

    We’ve had the Bonds conversation before. I think we pretty much agreed to disagree. :)

    The main point is that smart teams are looking at where they can find undervalued talent to improve their teams.

    The trick is determining what’s undervalued, and that’s where you and I disagree.

    But it’s probably not the right discussion to have in this thread; I’m sure we’ll get an offseason plan post at some point and it will probably be appropriate to resurface then.

  71. Paul B on October 2nd, 2007 12:22 pm

    It’s one of the best ways to make your team better without a significant outlay of money or talent, and I’m really surprised MLB teams aren’t better at taking advantage of it.

    Just because the M’s put a rotting corpse out in LF or at 1B for an entire season, doesn’t mean that every major league team would do that.

  72. skyking162 on October 2nd, 2007 12:25 pm

    My understanding of UZR is that it uses the results of every ball-in-play to find out how often each type of batted ball becomes an out, single, double, whatever. (There are probably parameters such as pitcher handedness and batter handedness. Maybe ballpark, base-out state, etc.) But then, for every batted ball, the appropriate fielder is given or docked credit equal to the difference between the expected run-value of the batted ball and the actual result. Making routine plays earns the fielder very little credit, making difficult plays earns them lots of credit, missing routine plays costs the fielder lots of credit, and missing difficult plays costs the fielder just a bit of credit.

  73. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 12:27 pm

    Well, the M’s PARTICULARLY suck at valuing and taking advantage of defense.

    But MLB in general isn’t good at it, either. Some teams get it (Toronto to use Dave’s example, but there are others) and some don’t (Texas routinely runs out bad defenses), but by and large the league in general undervalues defense.

    So if the M’s were smarter, they could exploit it for a cheap competitive advantage.

  74. Colm on October 2nd, 2007 12:28 pm

    Would we just be better off with a (bloody expensive) platoon of Ibanez and Sexson at DH, and, lord love us, Vidro at 1st?

    That at least takes the two worst defensive players out of the field.

    But can Vidro even handle playing first base?

  75. Paul B on October 2nd, 2007 12:30 pm

    Would we just be better off with a (bloody expensive) platoon of Ibanez and Sexson at DH, and, lord love us, Vidro at 1st?

    A team with Ibanez, Sexson and Vidro is a problem since none of them can field well anywhere. Really limits what the manager can do during a game or during the season.

  76. 6-4-3 on October 2nd, 2007 12:33 pm

    A defense that has trouble converting balls in play into outs coupled with a pitching staff that strikes out relatively few batters (10th in the AL) = not a great combination for run prevention.

  77. shortbus on October 2nd, 2007 12:40 pm

    Who is up for kidnapping Bill Bavasi and not releasing him until he can repeat, word for word, both of the Wrap Up articles? Or at least memorize the mantra “Ibanez and Sexson can’t catch or throw, both of them have got to go!”

  78. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 12:40 pm

    I don’t think Vidro could play any defensive position on a regular basis. His knees just can’t take it, at this point.

    Personally, I’d like to see a platoon involving Broussard and someone else at first base; he’s somewhat less of a butcher than Sexson and can hit right handed pitching pretty well.

    Ibanez at first base would be no better than average as a defender even after a whole offseason to prepare, and honestly I think, based on his recent comments to the media, that he’d complain about it endlessly.

  79. julian on October 2nd, 2007 12:49 pm

    Two thoughts re: catchers

    1. At a recent (stat) conference, I saw someone present their Masters’ work about the relative influence of pitchers and catchers on base stealing. Looks like there’s a lot more variability in pitchers’ abilities to prevent SBs than catchers’, echoing what some previous posters have said.

    2. This confuses me: If there is little difference between “good” and “bad” catchers in terms of a measure where you think such a difference would be most pronounced (base stealing), then why is catcher considered to be such a “skilled” position that only a small number of people can play? In other words, should teams be looking at training poor fielders to be below-average catchers? Granted, you can’t stick old guys with bad knees back there the same way you can trot them out to 1B, but the question remains.

  80. Rusty on October 2nd, 2007 12:52 pm

    I’m still don’t understand why we didn’t give Sexson and his contract to Detroit when they claimed him off waivers. Yeah, we were locked in a battle with Detroit for the wildcard, but how does subtracting Sexson from the M’s and adding him to the Tigers not equal a net positive for the Mariners in their drive to the playoffs?

    It’s a mystery wrapped in a conundrum.

  81. msb on October 2nd, 2007 12:53 pm

    I don’t think Vidro could play any defensive position on a regular basis.

    it appears Mac agrees with you.

  82. msb on October 2nd, 2007 12:58 pm

    sigh. at KJR they are wondering if it is time to “end the Beltre or Sexson experiments” … this after vowing to send Jones, Clement and anyone else they want for Santana.

  83. tangotiger on October 2nd, 2007 1:03 pm

    julian/79: http://www.tangotiger.net/catchers.html

    (I’ll be updating that for 1957-2006 in this year’s THT Annual, and also some leaderboards for pitchers.)

  84. scraps on October 2nd, 2007 1:03 pm

    There may not be great variation in defensive effect among major league catchers, but I suspect the penalty for having a sub-professional catcher is much more severe than at other positions. The fact that terrible hitters get regular play at catcher by itself testifies to the idea that reaching the minimal defensive qualifications to play major league catcher is very difficult. (Although it also testifies to the likelihood of great hitters moving to other positions rather than wrecking themselves prematurely at catcher.)

  85. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 1:04 pm

    I can’t believe that people can be that upset with Beltre. I suppose too many were expecting another 48 homeruns with a .330+ average or something.

  86. msb on October 2nd, 2007 1:04 pm

    #80– another mystery is why Larry Larue keeps insisting no one claimed him.

  87. djw on October 2nd, 2007 1:06 pm

    So is there still a slick, brilliant defender inside Betancourt, waiting to (re?)emerge, or were we just wrong about him a few years ago?

  88. gwangung on October 2nd, 2007 1:07 pm

    I suppose too many were expecting another 48 homeruns with a .330+ average or something.

    Exactly that. And totally ignoring his defensive contributions. (Um, hello? They count as well, for the bottom line!)

  89. scraps on October 2nd, 2007 1:09 pm

    Wow, Tango, that’s amazing work. It’s interesting that it lines up well with reputations, with a few exceptions (Bob Boone not being as far up the list as one might expect, for example).

  90. nathaniel dawson on October 2nd, 2007 1:16 pm

    No argument at all that Sexson and Ibanez need to be replaced in the field. Sexson should be dealt for whatever they can get, even if it means eating part of his contract. And using Ibanez at DH and Jones in LF would serve the dual purpose of upgrading the power and productivity of the DH while significantly upgrading LF defensively.

    If you’re going to move one of Ibanez or Sexson to DH and trade the other, It seems wisest to trade the guy (Ibanez) who’s likely to be the easier to trade for value in return, instead of the guy (Sexson) who’s likely going to be the better hitter next year.

    Without a doubt, both of them have to get off the field to be of any help winning games. But that’s just not an option at this point, unless the M’s bring in a firstbaseman that can both field and hit, because they sure don’t have one in the organization that can do that.

    Somebody has to be moved, somehow. They have got to do something about the Sexson/Ibanez/Brousard/Vidro/Clement logjam they have right now.

  91. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 1:17 pm

    I’m obviously not real comfortable with advanced metrics yet, but I do think I’ve got a pretty good eye for baseball. The question I have in regards to defense is (and I’m not fishing for an answer one way or another here): Do these stats measure up with what someone with a trained eye would see? I should say, a trained ‘objective’ eye? Not that I’m that trained eye, not even close, but is it possible? Or is there just too much built in subjectiveness? If you could find someone who really knew what they were looking at and didn’t have a horse in any race would it jive? That’s probably asking too much of anyone.

  92. julian on October 2nd, 2007 1:22 pm

    Tango, I like your idea since it attempts to adjust for the pitcher effect. I’m not *completely* convinced by your argument that the meshing you do creates a comparison pool of roughly “average” catchers for each catcher under comparison, but it’s probably not a terrible thing to do (it’s a little complicated to think about since the strengths of those comparison catchers are all relative to each other, and to the current catcher you’re interested in as well… a little complicated to explain, I guess, but you probably see what I mean).

  93. julian on October 2nd, 2007 1:24 pm

    Tango, I like your idea since it attempts to adjust for the pitcher effect. I’m not *completely* convinced by your argument that the meshing you do creates a comparison pool of roughly “average” catchers for each catcher under comparison, but it’s probably not a terrible thing to do (it’s a little complicated to think about since the strengths of those comparison catchers are all relative to each other, and to the current catcher you’re interested in as well… a little complicated to explain, I guess, but you probably see what I mean).

    But I like your analysis overall, not only because it’s motivated by former Expos (still mourning their loss) but because I grew up watching Benito Santiago and being amazed at him throwing out baserunners from his knees. I guess it really *was* an effective strategy.

  94. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 1:29 pm

    galaxieboi:

    I think most people agree that we’re still in the very early stages of defensive metrics, no matter which particular metric you use.

    So the best way to evaluate defense is a combination of metrics AND scouting. And the way to approach it, at this point, is to use the metric to support your scouting; i.e. “Ibanez looks to my eye to be a terrible fielder; and here’s two metrics to support that assertion”.

    Even the best current defensive metrics don’t tell you enough that you can form a complete picture of a player’s defense without also scouting them.

    I hope that answers your question, albeit in a roundabout way.

  95. Steve Nelson on October 2nd, 2007 1:29 pm

    With catchers there must be some minimum to receive the ball and throw out runners to effectively screen out guys. As Dave mentions, at the -20 Runs level for other positions teams a guy’s defensive work is clearly so bad that teams just don’t put the player out at the position any longer. The same thing must apply at catcher.

    Even if a currently active catcher is horrible compared with his peers at throwing out runners or preventing passed balls, he still has to pass a minimum competence level. You can’t afford to have a guy catching who can’t throw out a single runner at second base. If the catcher contributes offensively, you can live with him throwing out 20% of runners as long as he limits the damage to proficient base stealers. But if you’re so bad that teams can steal with impunity with almost any player who gets on base, the catcher isn’t going to reamain one for long.

    A recent example is Matt LeCroy. He nominally has the tools of a catcher, but no team in baseball will play him at catcher except in an emergency.

  96. djw on October 2nd, 2007 1:31 pm

    Yeah, we were locked in a battle with Detroit for the wildcard, but how does subtracting Sexson from the M’s and adding him to the Tigers not equal a net positive for the Mariners in their drive to the playoffs?

    I think it’s radical risk aversion, a stance that only gets applied to risks that would cause bad PR. You can minimize his harm to the M’s by not playing him, and if he does well and the Tigers make the playoffs over us, well, it’ll look bad. Of course, as we see here running Ibanez out in left everyday is a huge risk, but not one that anyone will actually get held accountable for in any way.

  97. kraken on October 2nd, 2007 1:32 pm

    As much as I like Lopez, if we are serious about getting beter, the team should serously look at upgrading that position. One of the advantages of having a big payroll is that you can go out an fill a hole.

    Dave: What does the free agent market look like for second basemen?

  98. galaxieboi on October 2nd, 2007 1:34 pm

    Jeff- Yeah, Jeff that makes sense. Your example of Ibanez spot on. ‘Hey look, he sucks a** in the field AND I can prove it’.

    Thanks a lot. I suppose there’s no helping fans/announcers/coaches/ownership who can’t SEE that a particular player is terrible, much less understand the numbers.

  99. The Decider on October 2nd, 2007 1:36 pm

    So if the Mariners pay part of Sexson’s salary and take a couple of minor league nobodies to make him go away, give Jones the everyday left field job, and let Raul split time at 1B and DH, how much improvement are we talking about?

    My guess is that Jones would be a +5 or so. I would also guess that Vidro/Ibanez would be a bit better than Sexson, maybe -10?

    That would mean (Let me know if I’m off track here) picking up 30-35 on our differential? Nice. That, plus getting a couple of average dudes at the back of the rotation seems like a pretty easy way to improve the team a bunch next year.

  100. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 1:39 pm

    I think it’s way too early to give up on Lopez, myself. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the TEAM hasn’t given up on Lopez (I strongly suspect they have), but I don’t think it’s merited.

    There’s a lot of evidence to support his decline being based on poor coaching from last year/early part of this year (Hargrove trying to turn him into a opposite field spray hitter rather than his natural pull hitting tendencies) and non-baseball circumstances (the death of his brother).

    He’s way, way too young for anyone to decide that he isn’t going to be a solid contributor at second base for years to come; and if that isn’t with the Mariners, it’ll be with another, smarter team.

  101. SequimRealEstate on October 2nd, 2007 1:40 pm

    VJ Just wanted to say good job for your estimates of the final out come by Dave.

    vj Says:

    My wild ass guess at the end result after tomorrows adjustment for defense:

    Ichiro: +29 runs plus 10 (very good defender) = +39 runs (Dave+30-40)
    Beltre: +10 runs plus 10 (very good defender) = +20 runs (Dave+10-20)
    Guillen: +11 runs +/- 0 (average defender) = +11 runs(Dave +5-5)
    Johjima: +11 runs +/- 0 (average defender) = +11 runs(Dave +10)
    Ibanez: +14 runs minus 10 (very bad defender) = +4 runs(Dave 0-10)
    Betancourt: +0 runs plus 3 (above average defender) = +3 runs(Dave 0- -10)
    Vidro: -3 runs +/- 0 (did not play defense) = -3 runs(Dave-3)
    Lopez: -22 runs plus 3 (above average defender) = -19 runs(Dave-15-25)
    Sexson: -19 runs minus 10 (very bad defender) = -29 runs (Dave -30-40)

  102. vj on October 2nd, 2007 2:01 pm

    Thanks. Overall, I estimated the team to be better (my numbers add up to +6 runs on defense) than it was, as Dave showed convincingly. Hope Dave didn’t mind my guessing.

  103. rrose on October 2nd, 2007 2:25 pm

    #100

    I couldn’t agree more. While Lopez had what can most charitably be described as a very disappointing season, it’s too early to close the book on him, especially given both the circumstances surrounding his decline, and the fact that the club doesn’t have a player in the pipeline to fill the void his departure would create. (It might be different if we still had Asdrubal Cabrera, but we don’t. Although… we do have the cherished memories of Eduardo Perez leading us to the…. uh… never mind). Then again, perhaps we could interest Detroit in a Lopez for Ramon Santiago trade and recapture the magic of a previous deal.

  104. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 2:30 pm

    Yup. I really don’t see any opportunity either internally or externally to replace Lopez, even if the team is currently down on him. Of course, who knows what they’ll do.

    Atlanta just announced they aren’t going to resign Andruw Jones; maybe they’ll cut ties with Guillen, throw a lot of money at Andruw Jones…and then we can have a Jones-Ichiro!-Jones outfield next year!

  105. Mr. Egaas on October 2nd, 2007 2:52 pm

    M’s move Ibanez to 1B, play Jones in left. What do they gain?

  106. Mr. Egaas on October 2nd, 2007 2:53 pm

    Atlanta just announced they aren’t going to resign Andruw Jones; maybe they’ll cut ties with Guillen, throw a lot of money at Andruw Jones…and then we can have a Jones-Ichiro!-Jones outfield next year!

    Something tells me Jones won’t sign to play left field anywhere. Not to mention, he’s going to cost a large, large salary. Pipedream.

  107. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 2:57 pm

    It wasn’t intended as serious rosterbation, I just liked the idea of multiple Joneses at the corners.

    I don’t like the concept of moving Ibanez to 1B, at all. I don’t see him being very good at the position even after an offseason to work at it, and despite him being the “face of the franchise” there’s pretty good indication he’d pout about the move as much as he pouted about the potential of being shifted to DH.

    Ibanez to DH (let him pout but at least not be a defensive liability), do a Broussard/somebody platoon at 1B, Jones in LF.

  108. Bearman on October 2nd, 2007 3:02 pm

    Dave I can see your arguement and may conceded to you on Sexson/Vidro and to a point on both Lopez/Ibanez.

    However where I strongly differ if not just flat out disagree is your assetment that it’s all these players fault that the M’s were outscored etc……

    You don’t take into consideration at all the following:
    The prior to ASB and second half performances of Betancourt as a example.

    What for all purposes became a 2 SP rotation with the struggles of Washburn,total Jekyell/Hyde that Weaver was,and how totally useless that Ramirez was.

    The collapse of what was the strongest part of the ’07 M’s the BULLPEN when it was needed most during the August meltdown overall.

    Had the FO been more dilergent in aquiring solid SP help in the offseason prior to the ’07 ST.
    That pen meltdown and the number of runs scored AGAINIST the M’s would not have been so glaring a hole.

    Add in the lack of patience at the plate and tendency to free swinging at the plate while the finish of the M’s team batting avg was only second to NYYs.
    Could have been more a factor in delivering the postseason had the rotation been more solid and pen rested and performing at the level or near it that last week in August.

    Just a matter of what I believe was no more 6 games had been wins instead of losses the M’s are in the postseason hands down.

  109. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 3:08 pm

    I’ve reread that post three times now and I still can’t understand the point you’re trying to make.

  110. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 3:09 pm

    Bearman – your posts are totally unreadable.

  111. elsid on October 2nd, 2007 3:13 pm

    And there is a good chance that they might not have the other Jones (the one they already have that is) either.

    As for the above…I don’t plan to even remotely understand defensive metrics, so forgive me if I sound out in left field (no pun intended). I do need to take the time to study it a little, but if someone wouldn’t mind giving a general overview of how things are figured that would be great. I somewhat understand the main post, but some of it is just numbers to me too.

    To me, it would seem that pitching does correlate into it a little more than we think. There is a statement above at in the main topic about thinking that pitchers didn’t just lose their ability to prevent hits on balls in play. Sean Green was mentioned above (and nothing against him by any stretch of the means), but I know of at least 20+ balls that were hard hit, just not to somebody. I don’t even think the best defender makes some of those plays. That is just one example that comes to mind.

    Also, on Ichiro (again nothing against him — at all!!), there were several bad routes taken on fly balls, and he doesn’t dive, so that allows balls in play to be hits. Yes, I know better routes would make a better defender, but if he does dive to make some catches does that make him a superior CF from where he is? Again just trying to understand the metric, overall.

    Sorry for the lengthy post…

  112. djw on October 2nd, 2007 3:13 pm

    Bearman, the most coherent points I can plausibly glean from your post is a) the front office should have done a better job of putting together a starting rotation (which I’m quite certain noone would disagree with) and b) different parts of the team performed better or worse during different parts of the season is some sort of devastating criticism of Dave’s post. You’ve got some dots to connect before this is even plausible, let alone convincing.

  113. pdb on October 2nd, 2007 3:22 pm

    I have a question about defense. Can routes be taught? People always mention, and it’s easy to see, when an outfielder takes a bad route to a fly ball. But is that really something that instruction can prevent?

    A route in football is a static thing that can be drilled over and over until a receiver gets it right, but it seems like a fly ball that a fielder must run to is a unique event, and can’t really be planned for. Am I missing something?

  114. Doc Baseball on October 2nd, 2007 3:26 pm

    Routes can definitely be taught; balls to right and left fields off RH and LH hitters have predictable spins, trajectories can be assessed leading to better and worse angles, and first steps can be coached to enable superior starts to routes. Training makes a big difference. Of course, some people are more instinctive than others, and faster, and better athletes — but outfield route taking can definitely be improved with coaching and fly balls have understandable patterns.

  115. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 3:28 pm

    I think instruction can help, but a certain amount of it is instinctual.

    I have no experience coaching baseball, so I don’t know how much of each component there is, though.

  116. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 3:30 pm

    pdb, 113

    you can learn, or be taught, how to be a better judge of fly ball trajectory and thus, run a better route to where the ball will land.

  117. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 3:30 pm

    I do need to take the time to study it a little, but if someone wouldn’t mind giving a general overview of how things are figured that would be great. I somewhat understand the main post, but some of it is just numbers to me too.

    Basic concept of the advanced defensive metrics, though all use slightly different methods to get to the goal:

    For a ball in play, figure out the likelyhood that an average defensive player turns the opportunity into an out. Then, look at the actual result of that ball in play. If it was converted into an out, credit the fielder with 1 minus the probability of that play being converted by an average fielder. Multiply by average run value of that play being converted into an out.

    An example should help. Batter hits fly ball to left field, down the line, into an area that historical data says is caught 63 percent of the time. Adam Jones makes the catch. He is credited with +0.37 plays. That ball, when not caught, goes for a double 96% of the time, a single 2% of the time, and a triple 2% of the time, so using what we know about the run values of those plays, we come up with a .84 run value for that particular out. So, for that play, Adam Jones get credited with .84 runs * .37 plays, or 0.32 runs. If the play isn’t made, then you just do the reverse – penalize Jones .84 runs * .63 plays, or .53 runs, for failing to make a play that an average defender would have made 63% of the time.

    Repeat for every play, all year long, and sum the total. This is a very basic explanation – there’s also park factors and other adjustments that go into the mix, but that’s the basic idea.

    I don’t even think the best defender makes some of those plays.

    Sure – we’re not advocating looking at any one player and saying “see, the fact that he’s giving up a lot of hits proves the defense is bad”. It’s totally within reason that the batter is hitting the ball into holes, and even Ozzie Smith wouldn’t help him.

    However, that stuff tends to even out over time. And, when you have an entire team demonstrating a similar pattern over an entire season, well, that’s a pretty big sample size, and a lot of those random things will get filtered out. Sean Green’s hit rate doesn’t prove that the Mariners have a bad defense, but when you combine his data with the rest of the pitchers on the staff, plus comparisons of hit rates of the Mariners starters versus their backups (for instance, Ibanez gets destroyed by Jones/Ellison/Bloomquist in left field, behind the same pitching staff, this year), and subjective measures of defense based on watching guys play, and all the evidence points to clear conclusions (such as Raul Ibanez has the range of a tree stump), you can be pretty confidant that it’s not the pitcher.

  118. Matthew Carruth on October 2nd, 2007 3:32 pm

    What does the free agent market look like for second basemen? #97

    answer: shit.

    see Cot’s

  119. msb on October 2nd, 2007 3:46 pm

    me reading about defensive and offensive valuation.

  120. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 3:51 pm

    That free agent list in general looks scary, not just for second basemen. Lots and lots of potential landmines there.

    Any GM considering free agency as a primary way to build their team needs to just stare at that webpage for a while.

  121. mln on October 2nd, 2007 4:00 pm

    So I guess it’s fair to say that the Mariners should not sign Brady Clark as a backup centerfielder anytime soon.

  122. Russ on October 2nd, 2007 4:15 pm

    Ashamed to admit it but I think I got Bearman’s gist. Be that as it may, Bearman is off track with his hypothesis.

    While he is essentially correct to infer that the FO gave us a poor mix of players, he uses that same logic to excuse the poor defensive play of the players we chose to field.

    In the end, the only thing that is measurable is the actual play of the players. So Bearman, while you right, you are also wrong.

    Hope this helps…

  123. Red Apple on October 2nd, 2007 4:16 pm

    Single: +65
    Double: +23
    Triple: +3
    Home Run: -15
    Walk: +10
    Strikeout: -52
    Hit Batter: +3

    Awesome! Most of these numbers strongly correlate with what you’d expect intuitively when you take into consideration the poor defense (extra hits falling in), the park effects (lowered HR rate), and the starting rotation that (with one notable exception) can’t miss bats (low strikeout rate).

  124. marc w on October 2nd, 2007 4:44 pm

    These numbers strongly correlate with a GB-oriented staff, too.
    I think the team got what it paid for – they’ve got one amazing GB-pitcher who also gets K’s, and one FB pitcher who doesn’t. They added two GB-oriented starters and essentially planned to trade singles for HRs.

    A nice idea when you start with the premise that the M’s infield defense was among the league’s best (to be fair, basically everyone here thought that too back in april). Unfortunately, Ramirez isn’t a major league pitcher, Batista isn’t a real GB-guy, Weaver isn’t either, etc.
    I know the team as a whole is fairly average in terms of GB orientation, but that’s at least partially due to the fact that Batista and Weaver posted career lows in GB percentage, and to the fact that Cha Baek (GB%: 33.9) had to step in and stop the bleeding a bit.

  125. rick m on October 2nd, 2007 5:06 pm

    Replacing Lopez – I’m for it. I think Lopez is a .700 lifetime OPS player. He has these great half seasons that excite people, but I think what we see is what we’re going to get. Who to replace him with? I would look and see whether Kansas City would be interested in parting with Esteban German.

  126. DMZ on October 2nd, 2007 5:11 pm

    Can we not start rosterbation here? We’ll have plenty of time to discuss possible trades etc elsewhere.

  127. Red Apple on October 2nd, 2007 5:20 pm

    [Can we not start rosterbation here? We’ll have plenty of time to discuss possible trades etc elsewhere.]

  128. Steve T on October 2nd, 2007 5:22 pm

    Seeing as how we’ve got three “second basemen” — Lopez, Bloomquist, and Vidro — none of whom can really play there, I doubt the F.O. thinks it’s a priority. We already know they think using Vidro there is an adequate alternative in a pinch to just jamming a broomstick in the ground and sticking a glove on top, which is probably not true.

    I think a lot of analysis-shy GMs, like Bavasi, are going to look at that free agent list and drool over the bounty contained within. Look at all those veteran name brands! Graffanino’s gotta be worth, what, $10 mil? Jeff Conine, veteran leadership!

    Since Betancourt isn’t quite the wizard at short, I wonder if he can play second. Didn’t he used to, in Cuba?

    I don’t think Lopez is our biggest problem. He’s still young, unlike the Sexson/Ibanez/Vidro/Guillen crowd.

  129. Red Apple on October 2nd, 2007 5:31 pm

    Fair enough. But my main intent was to stress that we value Lopez as a defender. If I was sucked into something else…my bad.

  130. Tuomas on October 2nd, 2007 5:37 pm

    His brother isn’t going to die every year, so I think we can expect something a bit better next year offensively. Defensively, he’s not the sucking void of ineptitude of terrible that Vidro would be, or that Ibanez and Sexson are. I’d rather spend time and money replacing Sexson than I would Lopez.

  131. terry on October 2nd, 2007 5:54 pm

    It’s hard to wrap my head round the notion that the Ms paid $14M to give away 3.5 wins. Maybe it’s even harder to understand why it was ever allowed to get to the point of 3.5 wins….

  132. Sports on a Schtick on October 2nd, 2007 5:55 pm

    #130

    Exactly. 2B needs to improve but it’s way down on the list of things this organization needs to address.

  133. scraps on October 2nd, 2007 6:36 pm

    Seeing as how we’ve got three “second basemen” — Lopez, Bloomquist, and Vidro — none of whom can really play there

    What? Lopez is an average second baseman defensively.

    Replacing Lopez – I’m for it. I think Lopez is a .700 lifetime OPS player. He has these great half seasons that excite people, but I think what we see is what we’re going to get.

    Rik M, can you tell us Lopez’s age?

  134. Kingfelix34 on October 2nd, 2007 7:12 pm

    I’m sure everyone and their brothers are going to disagree with me here, but I don’t care. I watched just about 130 M’s games this year. I’ll be the first to say I’m not a die hard statistician or SABR guy. Regardless I’m a die hard baseball fan and M’s fan like you all.

    I read this site b/c I can’t get enough M’s….some things I disagree with a lot I agree with, but more over I don’t post that often. I think that it’s a great point to say Sexson and Ibanez are bad defensively. I think Lopez could do a better job as well, and that Guillen isn’t that quickest RF in baseball and his range could be better.

    But Betancourt being a “below average” SS is a comment I disagree with completely. Yes he made 23 errors, and if you break down all the statistics possible there could be an argument that he should have done a better job. But watching him play on a nightly basis was incredible.

    I played SS for 13 years of my life so maybe it kinds hits home a bit watching him. But he gets to balls that no one should get to. He turned some of the most amazing double plays this season that I have ever seen. He is a web gem machine. That double play he made on Ordonez in Sept, the turns he made against the Yankees on Labor Day, and there was one almost turn where he took a bad Felix throw and almost got the runner out when he was literally sitting on the ground, just to cite a few.

    To me, the errors came at a time when a routine grounder was hit to him. If he makes an error on a play like that (which he did at times) I’d say the error is more of a lack of focus as opposed to him being a below average SS. If he was below average the routine grounders would be among the only balls he’d be able to get to. He has very good range at SS that most of us take for granted. I think with some more maturity his errors will drop significantly. I mean heck, we’re arguing Jeter is among the best SS in the league and he made 18 errors this season. People are human and Betancourt will make errors but he’ll also make a lot of incredible plays that most other SS cannot make. Betancourt and Beltre are very good in the field and both make our team a hell of a lot better defensively.

    You guys can argue what the stats say, but some things can’t be entirely measured by stats. I know most will disagree but it doesn’t matter and I hope you all respect a different opinion on the issue. I’ve played a lot of SS and watched a ton of SS throughout my life and Betancourt is very good at the position.

  135. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 7:19 pm

    Who is arguing that Derek Jeter is among the best SS in the league?

  136. Kingfelix34 on October 2nd, 2007 7:23 pm

    Upon further looking…..Jeter played in 3 more games then Yuni….and had 390 attempts….Yuni had 435 attempts.

    To me that says it all, that Yuni is getting to more balls and sometimes (NOT ALL TIMES) is at the merci of the official scorer. Pettitte and Wang are big time GB pitchers so it’s not likely that the M’s just have a ton more grounders hit to the left side then the Yanks.

  137. joser on October 2nd, 2007 7:28 pm

    It wasn’t intended as serious rosterbation, I just liked the idea of multiple Joneses at the corners.

    Serious rosterbation leaves everybody blind.

    A team with Ibanez, Sexson and Vidro is a problem since none of them can field well anywhere. Really limits what the manager can do during a game or during the season.

    It’s only a problem if the team recognizes what a liability they actually are in the field. There’s no evidence anyone on the M’s is aware of this. Ignorance is bliss.

    A couple of people have commented on the team seemingly speaking out of both sides of its mouth — talking up defense when picking up contact pitchers and lauding the defense of players who aren’t defensive assets, while simultaneously weakening that defense when putting together the roster. But I think it’s exactly that: talk. Or rather spin. Because there aren’t any defense statistics that the average fan is going to to read (or even know about), “defense” becomes this convenient rug to pull over any other liability. Unable to acquire a TOR, high-K starter? Make an appeal to “defense” and claim contact guys were what you wanted all along. Have a guy you picked up for his bat and he’s not delivering? Claim his defensive abilities still make him a bargain. Who’s going to refute you? Certainly not the fans; as Scraps says in #29, not even the media shows any awareness of defensive stats. Who cares what gets written by a few nutcases with a website?

    The trouble is, Bavasi has been trying to have it both ways: in the great quest to improve offense over the past few years he’s been trading off defense, while at the same time building a pitching staff that depends on it more than ever. He’s a bit like the guy who has $20K in the bank: he doesn’t save anything extra for retirement, because hey, he’s got that money in the bank; but he also doesn’t bother with routine maintenance on his car because, hey, when its engine inevitably explodes he’s got $20K to buy a new car.

    It’s not even clear Bavasi is conscious that he’s doing this. I mean, I’m sure he’s aware of the tradeoff but I don’t know that he has any sense of where he’s actually drawing the line. Defense is always underestimated — from the comments I can tell I’m not the only one amazed at the total run numbers Dave has computed in this post — and you can probably distinguish the bad organizations from the good ones based on how much the underestimate it. The good organizations consciously avoid acquiring players who take away more with their glove than they give with their bat; the bad ones just hope to get lucky.

    The trouble is, as others have said, defense doesn’t have the high-profile stats that make it easy for the casual fan — or the media, or the non-stat-minded GM — to even notice when the team is practicing subtraction by addition.

  138. Tuomas on October 2nd, 2007 7:30 pm

    Yuni Betancourt: .802 RZR and 46 OOZ plays

    Both numbers are bottom-third.

    Jeter is one of the worst SSes in the league, period. Compare Yuni to someone like Tulowitzki, who is one of the best, and see how that fares.

  139. Dave on October 2nd, 2007 7:48 pm

    To me, the errors came at a time when a routine grounder was hit to him. If he makes an error on a play like that (which he did at times) I’d say the error is more of a lack of focus as opposed to him being a below average SS.

    The why literally doesn’t matter. If you go back and read the post again, you’ll see that this is clearly stated as a past-tense reflection on what actually happened, and not a true talent level projection of ability going forward. Your entire point is irrelevant.

    You guys can argue what the stats say, but some things can’t be entirely measured by stats. I know most will disagree but it doesn’t matter and I hope you all respect a different opinion on the issue. I’ve played a lot of SS and watched a ton of SS throughout my life and Betancourt is very good at the position.

    Chipper Jones is a great player, but in 2004, he was not particularly valuable – a slightly above average bat who couldn’t field either third base or left field.

    Yuniesky Betancourt may or may not be a highly talented defensive shortstop with multiple gold gloves in his future, but for a post-season retrospective on value added to the 2007 Mariners, that doesn’t matter any more than the color of your hair.

  140. Kingfelix34 on October 2nd, 2007 7:55 pm

    Lack of focus at times translates into why he may have been below average in your terms in 07 (or why he made the errors he did). That was my point, maybe I didn’t explain it that well.

  141. msb on October 2nd, 2007 8:06 pm

    Dave, apparently you need to point out to Groz that Guillen didn’t play stellar defense in RF this season.

  142. joser on October 2nd, 2007 8:10 pm

    Here’s the defensive rankings list from July ’06, when Yuni’s rep as a defensive whiz was probably at its highest, and here they are for July of this year (and kudos to Tango for making them available). Note that Jeter is down in Ibanez territory, way below Yuni.

    Yes Yuni is slick (and Jeter is deceptively graceful) and he gets to balls Jeter can only dream of, but he makes mistakes. Given that we’re talking about players relative to their peers at that position, going by your eyes is only valuable if your eyes have seen a lot of every shortstop in the majors. Assuming you have a job and aren’t fastforwarding through feeds of every game every night, that’s hard to do.

    Of course, Betancourt is still young and still making adjustments. And some have already decided, based on watching one game with their eyes, he’s the next Jeter.

  143. Jeff Nye on October 2nd, 2007 8:26 pm

    I think, eventually, Betancourt will be fine. He is still significantly better than Jeter defensively, even with his bad year in ’07, and his offense looks like it might be better than we were projecting.

  144. John in L.A. on October 2nd, 2007 10:48 pm

    142- Since I took a break from the Mariners sometime last year, not really coming back until Hargrove left, the thing that disoriented me the most when I came back was the general consensus on Yuni’s defense. Total reversal.

    134 – “I mean heck, we’re arguing Jeter is among the best SS in the league…”

    Which : bad choice of pronoun or biggest strawman ever?

  145. jlc on October 2nd, 2007 11:10 pm

    Wow, what a treat to come home to. Excellent analysis and discussion about defense, my favorite part of baseball. I’ll be really interested as the metrics on catchers come into focus.

    I have no doubt about Yuni’s future. He’s got the talent, and I would guess the legal problems of his agent(?) in the first half of the season were part of the reason for his lack of focus. He got subpoenaed, but ultimately didn’t have to testify. He largely settled down just about the time the sentencing was done, I believe.

    As far as Lopez, his potential upside and his age make it a simple decision to me to keep him around and help him.

    The most frustrating part of this whole thread, though, is imagining the reaction of the casual and traditional fans. I lost count of the number of times during the season I heard about how great a defender Sexson was. Even in the media wrap-ups and other fan sites I’ve been to, there is a near consensus that our offense and defense are solid and above average. All we need is a pitcher or two, and we’re there, baby.

    I don’t expect a casual fan to understand the importance of defense, especially since it’s more difficult to follow on TV than is hitting. But I also have little expectation that the Mariners organization understands its importance or is willing to try to educate anyone on its importance. I guess I should be happy the ads this year and both the double play twins and Ichiro! throwing.

  146. sad_loyal_fan on October 2nd, 2007 11:53 pm

    Fantastic stuff as always. Looking forward to how this information plays into Dave’s off season plan.

  147. Steve T on October 3rd, 2007 5:44 am

    By including Lopez in “none of whom can really play there”, I was referring to his overall value, defense plus offense, which — so far — has been inadequate. Not just his defense, which is OK. My sentence was confusing.

  148. tangotiger on October 3rd, 2007 6:16 am

    You guys are not going to like how UZR sees your outfielders:
    http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/best_and_worst_of_2007_uzr/

    Wait for MGL to respond…

  149. marc w on October 3rd, 2007 9:06 am

    148-
    Uh, WOW. I’ll buy that Ibanez has sunk to Ramirez-level performance, and I’d agree that Guillen is below average.

    But Ichiro as the league’s worst CF? No, and it’s not close.
    Again, I’d like to know more about why certain PBP metrics love the guy and others hate him. Same with Ian Kinsler, and, at least last year, Richie Sexson. How can STATS and BIS be so different?

  150. Dave on October 3rd, 2007 9:35 am

    Every year, we see huge outliers with a couple of guys, where one system just diverges so greatly from all the others and the scouting reports that that result is just best ignored.

    This year, that divergence is apparently on Ichiro and Grady Sizemore.

    I’ll fly to the moon without a space ship before I believe that Ichiro was 15 runs worse than an average CF this year.

  151. marc w on October 3rd, 2007 9:47 am

    Yeah.
    Is it just me, or are these ‘outliers’ getting more and more divergent, and more frequent? Used to be that one metric had Andruw Jones as totally awesome, and another as average. Now we’ve got Ichiro as either the BEST or WORST in the league. Same deal with Kinsler. And, to a much lower degree, Richie Sexson in 2006. And Gathright, and Magglio, etc.

    Weird.

  152. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 10:17 am

    I think stuff like that is just more proof that defensive stats are still very much in their infancy.

    I can buy that Ichiro isn’t the absolute best CF in the league at this point (Grady Sizemore is pretty awesome from what little I’ve watched of him), but I just can’t believe that he cost the team 15 runs over an average center fielder, and I really have to question how that could’ve happened in what is presumably an otherwise sound system.

    We of course probably somewhat overrate Ichiro here because we’re Mariners fans (yes, we really are), but not THAT much.

  153. marc w on October 3rd, 2007 10:20 am

    Well, it’s not JUST m’s fans, Jeff.

    Tango had a link to another study that’s based off of THT’s RZR data and that had Ichiro as a truly elite CF, 2nd in the league behind Granderson (and something like 30 runs above average). So yes, they’re in their infancy, and yes, differences will always be a part of studies like this. But again, you’ve got two sophisticated metrics, each relying on proprietary PBP data, and one says Ichiro’s the best (or close to it), and the other the worst. HOW????

  154. Dave on October 3rd, 2007 10:30 am

    I really have to question how that could’ve happened in what is presumably an otherwise sound system.

    This is the kind of reaction we need to be careful to stay away from. The fact that the system doesn’t work in every single situation does not makt it completely unreliable.

    OPS doesn’t work in every situation either.

  155. galaxieboi on October 3rd, 2007 10:31 am

    And this is the point I was trying to make a couple days ago in a few posts about how out of all the measurables, individual defense has the furthest to go. It’s certainly come a long way, but still…

  156. galaxieboi on October 3rd, 2007 10:38 am

    I see what you’re getting at Dave. By no means do I think the system is completely flawed, it’s just weird when something like this outlier happens. Why? you have to ask does this happen.

  157. Evan on October 3rd, 2007 10:40 am

    This is the kind of reaction we need to be careful to stay away from. The fact that the system doesn’t work in every single situation does not makt it completely unreliable.

    There could be some sort of confounding factor in the data that for some reason applies almst exclusively to Ichiro this season. A few years ago PMR showed Orlando Hudson as +60 runs with his glove because Hudson had broken the metric by being a huge ball hog and catching something like 100 extra pop ups – infield, outfield, everywhere.

    I’m sure MGL will spend some time with the data trying to figure out why UZR hates Ichiro this year, and if the reason is sufficiently interesting he’ll probably let us know.

  158. Dave on October 3rd, 2007 10:42 am

    We all know that individual defense has the farthest to go. That’s why I gave run values in ranges with a built in margin of error for defense, but not for offense. We’re totally aware of the the fact that individual defensive ratings aren’t completely trustworthy yet.

    But, keep in mind, this is one rating. Not all defensive metrics agree that Ichiro is horrible. This isn’t stats vs scouts.

    Maybe MGL has a typo in the spreadsheet? I don’t know. I’m sure he’ll give us an explanation, and we’ll work out why UZR thinks he’s lousy. Until then, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  159. Doc Baseball on October 3rd, 2007 10:43 am

    Dave,

    With respect, what’s the analysis for how this result can/does occur?

    And what are the implications here of you saying your eyes and some of your data/analysis put Ichiro near the top of the list — but other people’s eyes telling them that Betancourt is awesome just have it all wrong because the data say otherwise?

  160. Doc Baseball on October 3rd, 2007 10:46 am

    It also seems to me that the same player moves up and down the list year-to-year, which seems counter-intuitive. Any work out there on the correlation of defensive ratings year-to-year?

  161. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 10:56 am

    Oh, Dave, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that because of that outlier, UZR is useless, or anything like that.

    It just struck me as the only really unreasonable result in the list as I was skimming it, so I have to wonder what quirk caused it to happen.

    Is there something unique about the way Ichiro plays defense that causes UZR to hate him? Or is this maybe a one-year evaluation weirdness, and it’s liked him just fine in the past?

  162. Evan on October 3rd, 2007 11:07 am

    Is there something unique about the way Ichiro plays defense that causes UZR to hate him?

    While this is a reasonable question, only MGL could really have an answer, and he might not know it yet.

  163. Evan on October 3rd, 2007 11:15 am

    I do like that the advanced metrics seem to say Jeter is getting worse.

    UZR has him at -27 runs.
    Dewan has him at -35 runs.
    THT has him at -28 runs.

    Those are incredible. I knew Jeter was a very bad shortstop (possibly the worst shortstop or all time), but now he’s approaching Manny levels of incompetence. I hope he wins another gold glove.

  164. galaxieboi on October 3rd, 2007 11:23 am

    Is there a site that has mostly reliable defensive metrics for 20-30 years ago? Say I wanna look up Ozzie Smith’s UZR numbers, how would I go about doing that? Or, my favorite Mariner, Spike Owen…

  165. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 11:24 am

    Yeah, fair enough, and I’m not at MGL’s doorstep with a torch-wielding mob or anything like that. I just wonder what it is, and am looking forward to the explanation of what happened, even if it ends up being “I have no idea what is going on.”

  166. hoser on October 3rd, 2007 11:32 am

    As said before, great work Dave (and tango)!

    Why the gnashing of teeth about Lopez replacements if he doesn’t show improvement?

    It seems that we wouldn’t know whether he will improve until late next year anyway. Could AJ then fill in (I seem to recall him coming up at SS) in the short term? In the longer term, maybe we re-sign Beltre and Triunfel moves to 2nd rather than 3rd? Wouldn’t that also help with the outfield logjam and maybe give Wlad a chance to show something?

  167. timc on October 3rd, 2007 11:38 am

    And what are the implications here of you saying your eyes and some of your data/analysis put Ichiro near the top of the list — but other people’s eyes telling them that Betancourt is awesome just have it all wrong because the data say otherwise?

    I think the people who say Betancourt is awesome tend to be throwing out the errors/mental gaffes in their analysis, whereas in this post Dave is merely evaluating his 2007 performance, warts and all. Kingfelix34 in 134 says: “I’d say the error is more of a lack of focus as opposed to him being a below average SS” – but from a past performance point of view, that lack of focus is precisely what makes him a below average SS. However, from a projection standpoint, you probably want to have Yuni instead of a below average SS who is that way due to his natural ability. So I think the people who say Yuni is awesome are really saying that Yuni CAN BE awesome if he cuts down on the mistakes.

  168. terry on October 3rd, 2007 11:44 am

    Could AJ then fill in (I seem to recall him coming up at SS)

    I’m pretty sure AJ is earmarked as Johjima’s backup next season….

  169. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 12:00 pm

    We’ve had the Adam Jones at SS discussion before.

    I won’t rehash it here, other than to say that you shouldn’t read too much into the fact that he played shortstop in the minors, as that is often the default place you put your best athlete at lower levels of play.

    You keep them there until they play their way out of the position, and Adam Jones did so.

    He’ll be a fine defensive left fielder, but he cannot play MLB-caliber shortstop.

  170. Alaskan on October 3rd, 2007 12:13 pm

    166 says:
    “It seems that we wouldn’t know whether he will improve until late next year anyway. Could AJ then fill in (I seem to recall him coming up at SS) in the short term? In the longer term, maybe we re-sign Beltre and Triunfel moves to 2nd rather than 3rd? Wouldn’t that also help with the outfield logjam and maybe give Wlad a chance to show something?

    Let’s pretend for a minute that Jones COULD move back to 2B…

    What outfield logjam? Ichiro, Jones, Guillen. If you want Wlad in there, move Guillen, who’s clearly hurting us in the field anyway. I don’t see how moving your 2nd-best outfielder into the infield is a good idea. Lopez is a fine fielder, yes? So the complaint is his offense, which was clearly better his first year and a half. Meanwhile, the outfield borders on a disaster. And overall, I’m reminding myself that offensively, we had a pretty good year. As long as we address the other offensive issues (Sexson, #1), can’t we live with less-than-stellar offensive numbers from Lopez? Especially if AJ is the boon we all hope he will be.

    Summary: unless Lopez puts up offensive numbers like 2007 through the ’08 ASB, I think we should leave him where he is.

  171. zugzwang on October 3rd, 2007 12:40 pm

    Given that the individual defensive ratings are still problematic, would it make sense to try to break things down to compare the performance of the entire infield vs. the entire outfield?

  172. hoser on October 3rd, 2007 12:48 pm

    I understand (from being told, not because I know anything!) that although AJ is not necessarily an SS, he is still a pretty good athlete (who could maybe even play center field if it weren’t nailed down) and he has experience in the infield.

    If I have been paying attention, LF and RF are where I should put the guys who are better fielders only than the 1B and DH. As such, placing AJ as my “second best outfielder” is damning him with faint praise, and possibly wasting a valuable asset. Assuming he could play 2B, I think his value would be even greater there than as a “second best outfielder”.

    Jeff, did I miss something? I don’t remember suggesting AJ playing shortstop. I want Jose Lopez to have another chance or even two, if he shows some improvement. I just don’t want mgmt to go out and sign a “proven, gritty” (over the hill) 2B for 6M/yr as a backup in case there is another 2nd 1/2 swoon at 2B.

  173. terry on October 3rd, 2007 12:52 pm

    It’s been argued on USSM that left field is a premium defensive position at Safeco….

  174. hoser on October 3rd, 2007 1:15 pm

    173, That is what I read from those more knowledgeable than I. However, that is not what I read in “Wrap up, part one”, and I definitely know that I don’t know better than Dave.

    What is your plan then? Do you think that we should sign the “proven, gritty, veteran” 2B? When I read the “Future Forty”, the only 2008 “good prospects” I see are Wlad and Clement and I haven’t heard anybody nominating them for 2B.

    It seems to me that mgmt has enough on it’s plate w/starting pitching, 1B and DH.

  175. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 1:20 pm

    Oh, I apologize, I misread your post as if you were referring to Jones as a replacement for Lopez rather than at SS.

    He probably would be okay at second, but there really isn’t any reason to throw Lopez under the bus just yet.

    And yeah, to sum up what’s been said before about defensive positions at Safeco, the spectrum from hardest to easiest to play goes something like this:

    CF -> SS – > LF -> 3B -> RF -> 2B -> 1B

    With catcher and pitcher both deliberately omitted, and maybe swap 2B and RF.

  176. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 1:21 pm

    Argh, my apology still didn’t make sense. I thought that you were referring to Jones as a potential SS, not as a potential 2B. My bad, twice.

  177. Doc Baseball on October 3rd, 2007 1:39 pm

    I think the people who say Betancourt is awesome tend to be throwing out the errors/mental gaffes in their analysis, whereas … Dave is merely evaluating his 2007 performance, warts and all… from a past performance point of view, lack of focus is precisely what makes him a below average SS… So I think the people who say Yuni is awesome are really saying that Yuni CAN BE awesome if he cuts down on the mistakes.

    I think this UZR anomaly is something different than overlooking errors. Errors really have nothing to do with these defensive ratings, other than an error being a play not made. These defensive rating/analysis systems are based on the question of making plays. Making an error is equal to NOT getting to a ball — so a Yuni error is equal to a past-a-diving-Jeter single. So, those who think Yuni is awesome might argue that sure he had some errors (and sure he lost focus, and sure he’ll get better), but regardless, his great range and incredible arm made more plays than most other shortstops — so this year he was an above average shortstop. Dave is saying Yuni cost his team runs this year compared to average shortstops — based on an analysis derived from these defensive rating systems — but others are saying Yuni was good this year — despite the errors, his range and number of plays made translate into being above average. Why don’t these rating systems square with our subjective evaluation of his range, talent, and value? However, when it comes to Ichiro, a defensive analysis system says Ichiro sucks — but Dave (and others) say, no way, system must be screwed up because we just know Ichiro is awesome. I am just trying to understand how analytic systems are believed/endorsed when they say an awesome Betancourt is below average, but results from them get tossed out when they say an awesome Ichiro sucks. Why does Dave (wisely I am presuming) trust the data for Betancourt, but not for Ichiro? (I am of course not saying anything about Dave or others here, I am simply trying to know how, when, why to trust the results from these analytic systems.)

    And this is all in service of the real issue, which is trying to make sense of these analyses of past value for planning for next year. Dave said in his summary of assessing this past year’s value that this team has holes and needs upgrades. Should we get a new centerfielder because we can be confident based on a sophisticated defensive analytic system that we have the worst one in baseball? Beat on Betancourt all spring until he gets better focus because the systems say he cost us runs? How can we trust the systems, and use the systems to guide who we keep and who we get rid of and what kind of players we go after, etc.?

  178. hoser on October 3rd, 2007 1:47 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. I know that my communications could be clearer, but I didn’t think I had done that poorly.

    So I think that we are in violent agreement that we want Jose Lopez to have 2B at the start of next year.

    The two questions I am left with are:
    1. if mgmt is concerned about 2B (which doesn’t seem unreasonable), what do you think their backup plan should be?
    2. if LF in Safeco is harder to play than 2B or 3B, then why doesn’t Dave indicate that in either of the two wrap-ups?

  179. Jurgen on October 3rd, 2007 2:00 pm

    Can we thus draw the conclusion given his xFIP but the team’s porous defense that King Felix’s “breakthrough” we’ve all been waiting for will only come when the Mariners learn to catch the ball? Or is that too facile? (I’m thinking of Toronto again, and the breakout of long-hyped McGowan this year, or even Verlander’s success right out of the gates with defensively solid Detroit teams.)

  180. jlc on October 3rd, 2007 2:45 pm

    I don’t understand why it’s OK for Sexson to have a slow first half every year and management is OK when he’s hot the second half, but Lopez has a good first half and a slow second half, and he has to sit and think about his problems. Is there a fundamental difference between the two situations?

  181. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 2:48 pm

    I don’t think there really needs to be a backup plan for Jose Lopez at this point, and if his problems really are confidence-related, putting one in place would just make the problems worse, not better.

    If he just completely explodes again next year, you put Princess Willie in at 2nd, or pick up someone cheap on the FA market until you can figure out something better. It’s just not worth making a big part of the offseason plan.

    I think the reason that the unique defensive spectrum for Safeco doesn’t come up in these wrapups is that the positional adjustments for offense represent the position league-wide, rather than just for the Mariners.

    i.e. This is the level of offense that you can reasonably expect across potential candidates for LF, rather than just who the Mariners put in LF.

    Dave or Derek have addressed the defensive spectrum for Safeco in past posts, and I think I reproduced it faithfully, but I’m sure one of them will step in to correct me if I got it wrong.

    As far as your communications go, they were fine, I just read the post a bit too quickly while eating my lunch. No harm, no foul.

  182. terry on October 3rd, 2007 2:49 pm

    What is your plan then?

    If I were GM, I’d trade HoRam, Sexson, Bloomquist and Vidro for Chase Utley.

    Either that or play Lopez at second while embroidering this haiku on a really fancy handkerchief to be given to him as a Christmas gift:

    Ground balls are way cool,
    If you’re catching them that is,
    Hit more line drives please.

  183. Alaskan on October 3rd, 2007 3:05 pm

    180:

    Sexson is a veteran. Lopez is practically still a rookie, and therefore doesn’t know how to work it out on the field, like a veteran would. He must be admonished, and sit in the corner and think about what he’s done. Thanks for your question. – The Management

  184. Alaskan on October 3rd, 2007 3:11 pm

    172:

    I don’t think saying AJ’s next best after Ichiro is necessarily faint praise.

    While he may be even more valuable a 2B, my point was more that Lopez’s fielding is not the problem, so moving Jones there doesn’t seem like the logical solution. His offense is the problem, and I just think that unless it’s really this bad from now on, we have bigger problems to worry about than this.

  185. Evan on October 3rd, 2007 3:40 pm

    I don’t think saying AJ’s next best after Ichiro is necessarily faint praise.

    I’m not sure that sort of remark is particularly informative.

    If you pointed to a member of the Giants and said “he’s the next best hitter on the team after Barry Bonds”, I don’t think you’ve given me much information. The rest of the team sucks, and Barry’s amazing, so that gap is pretty wide.

  186. hoser on October 3rd, 2007 4:11 pm

    184, I think we agree more than we disagree, except that I’m mostly parroting what people who know better have said (at best; in the worst case, I’m misquoting), whereas your judgement is likely more informed.

    That said, arguing that second best OUTFIELDER is the best use for AJ sounds different than saying he is the “next best after Ichiro”. If you’re going to demolish my pathetic argument, at least pillory what I’m really saying, not a distortion.

    What I think we agree on is that there are bigger fish to fry this winter than giving up on Jose Lopez and replacing him or acquiring a plan B, even though his ratings were not impressive.

    I was reacting to some comments I saw in response to the ratings that suggested that we should look for a free agent or trade for a 2B, except that the pool didn’t look so good and that Mariner mgmt had given up on Jose.

    I would love to see and cheer for Jose Lopez for many years.

    The sick little problem solving part of my mind is intrigued by the question of what mgmt should do if they do give up on Jose or cut back on his playing time.

    Would the team be better off moving AJ to second and putting Wlad or Jose Guillen in left?

    Or should Bloomquist play second and AJ stay in left field (assuming that he is with the team, playing left, etc)?

    Or, as Jeff suggested, should we do option A for away games and option B for home games?

    And I’m curious what Dave would say, unless of course his response made me look really stupid.

  187. Steve T on October 3rd, 2007 4:28 pm

    AJ is not moving to second base. We’ll see Ichiro pitch a complete game shutout before that happens.

    Bloomquist is not going to be a permanent choice at second base. He’d be a step down, or a flight of them, from Lopez, and even M’s management knows it.

    What SHOULD happen and what will happen are always two very different things, but what should happen is leave Lopez alone at second, continue to look at options in the minor leagues and in the prospect trade market, and fix the more important holes first — especially first base, and the other geriatric positions that are going to be be invoking the use of phrases involving cliffs next year. Jones in left, duh.

    What is LIKELY to happen, in my nightmares, is another trip to the veteran free agent store (is Bobby Grich still alive?), or a fulltime shot for Vidro, in which case I stop watching baseball altogether.

  188. Teej on October 3rd, 2007 4:42 pm

    If I were GM, I’d trade HoRam, Sexson, Bloomquist and Vidro for Chase Utley.

    I don’t see how Pat Gillick could turn down such an enticing offer.

  189. bat guano on October 3rd, 2007 4:43 pm

    The Dodgers may want to rid themselves of Kent. Does he fit your criteria????

  190. Jeff Nye on October 3rd, 2007 4:47 pm

    Jeff Kent is going to want:

    a) a lot of money
    b) to play every day.

    I’m not really sure why people want so desperately to look at other options at second base; Sexson sucked far worse for far more money (Lopez is still young and cheap, don’t forget) and we’re not in panic mode suggesting trading for every first baseman in the league.

  191. bat guano on October 3rd, 2007 4:52 pm

    I don’t want Jeff Kent. Far from it. I’m just suggesting that he fits Steve T’s nightmare that the M’s will look for Bobby Grich reincarnate.

  192. tangotiger on October 3rd, 2007 5:00 pm

    Correlation of UZR is r=.50, when BIP=400 (100 games). That compares to component pitching ERA of r=.300 when PA=300, and RC or LWTS of r=.50 when PA=200 (50 games).

    In short, you need 2 years of UZR or other fielding metric to be as reliable as 1 year of hitting stats. How reliable is Andruw Jones’ hitting stats this year? Right, so you’d at least like to have 2 years of hitting stats, if not 3. So, you’d like to have 4 years of fielding stats, if not more.

    That’s just the nature of the beast though.

  193. tangotiger on October 3rd, 2007 5:00 pm

    The pitching should have shown r=.50

  194. Doc Baseball on October 3rd, 2007 5:11 pm

    Correlation of UZR is r=.50…

    Thanks for this.

    Is this correlation year to year (or correlation of UZR and what)?

    Assuming year-to-year, then what you are saying is 4 years of fielding data is what you would want to make judgments about a player’s talent level?

    What accounts for the (huge) variability — streakiness (like hitting), or hiccups in the data or data collection, or…?

  195. terry on October 3rd, 2007 6:27 pm

    Some might scoff at the suggestion that a correlation of .5 is meaningful. Given the complex array of factors that influence player performance is it even possible or at least reasonable to expect correlations greater than .5 (personally .5 impresses me)?

  196. tangotiger on October 3rd, 2007 7:24 pm

    Yes, the higher the BIP, the higher the correlation. r=BIP/(BIP+400) for fielders (change 400 to 300 for pitchers and to 200 for batters… change BIP to PA for pitchers/fielders).

    So, a SS (5 BIP per game) over 2 full 162 games seasons is 1600 BIP. That’ll give you an r=.80.

  197. Doc Baseball on October 3rd, 2007 7:51 pm

    You are saying the same player’s UZR in year 1 will be correlated with their year 2 UZR at r=.80 ? The formula you just gave is an approximation, it is not the actual calculational formula of the correlation coefficient, right?

  198. gwangung on October 3rd, 2007 8:53 pm

    Some might scoff at the suggestion that a correlation of .5 is meaningful.

    Given the complex array of factors, a correlation of .5 is pretty damn impressive in the real world…

  199. Alaskan on October 4th, 2007 8:17 am

    185,186:
    True, my description of AJ leaves a lot to the imagination. If they were playing him in center, I’m guessing (and have heard), he’s pretty excellent. My main point was just that whatever he is, he’s a big improvement over what we’re currently running out to the corners.

    186:
    I think only now do I really follow exactly where you were going with the AJ to 2B idea (ie, the worst case scenario with Lopez). I think for Safeco, I’d like to have high quality in outfield, so even if I brought in Wlad, I’d still keep Jones out there. Can we make a A Cabrera move of our own? If I were running the club, I think I’d rather bring some AAA player who looks ready to go. I don’t know what that would cost us talent-wise, but we should be able to clean up the Vidro/Sexson/Ibanez/Broussard logjam, right?

    re 189:
    I understand that was a joke/nightmare, but can you imagine just how bad Kent would be? Kent and Guillen together, bitching about how the kids don’t respect the game (ie, defer to them), etc. We got lucky with Guillen. I can only imagine what happens when he’s joined by another a-hole in the clubhouse.

  200. Alaskan on October 4th, 2007 8:19 am

    A Cabrera = Asdrubal, if that wasn’t clear.

  201. Steve T on October 4th, 2007 9:46 am

    I think Bavasi’s going to sit tight on Kent — the market’s too hot for him this year. He’ll be a good pickup for, say, 2010 to play second every day and bat cleanup, after his price has come down a little. Then we can be sure of getting our bid of $120 mil for five years accepted for sure. His veteran leadership has only one direction to go at his age: to the moon, baby, to the moon.

    It’s the canny insider’s thing to do.

  202. zugzwang on October 4th, 2007 10:01 am

    No bites on this idea the first time, but I am very curious about it, so I’ll try again:

    Dave says that we have a pretty good handle on how well a team played on defense as a whole.

    Tango says that we need 4 years of individual stats before we can gain confidence in individual defensive metrics.

    I’m wondering if it would make sense to do something in between, and try to evaluate the respective contributions of the infield and the outfield to a team’s overall defensive performance. One metric I think should be clear would be to compare across the league the percentage of groundballs each team converts into outs. That performance would be entirely the work of the infield.

    Another metric–somewhat less clear, but maybe still useful–would be to compare the number of flyballs converted into outs. While the infield has some responsibility there, my uninformed guess is that flyball out percentage would primarily reflect the performance of the outfield. Certainly, flyballs resulting in doubles and triples would be balls that the infielders should have no chance at.

    So, is this a viable project? Would it advance the ball?

  203. marc w on October 4th, 2007 11:09 am

    202 – The Harball Times does that using their RZR/BIS data. Go here and take a look.

  204. tangotiger on October 4th, 2007 12:43 pm

    Doc/197: no. I’m saying you need two samples, each of 1600 balls in play (there’s 5 balls in play per game), to get a correlation of r=.80.

    The correlation equation is what it is. The equation I posted is an approximation.

    I’m also saying that a hitter need 800 PA in each of two samples to get a correlation of r=.80.

    So, choose your personal threshhold relevance, and that’ll tell you how much data you need to believe whatever the metric is telling you. Obviously, you know Beltre/2004, so you’re not going to believe some 600 PA for a hitter. Your personal threshhold might require a hitter have a total of 1200 PA perhaps. If that’s you, then your correlation of r=1200/(1200+200) for hitters, or r=.833.

    If that’s you, then for a fielder, you need .833=x/(x+400), which means you need 2400 balls in play. For a SS, that’s the equivalent of 480 full games (3 seasons). For a corner OF, that’s 800 full games (5 seasons).

    On the other hand, maybe you are happy with an r=.50.

    So, decide your tolerance level, and that’ll tell you how much data you need.

  205. zugzwang on October 4th, 2007 1:39 pm

    Thanks for the link, MarcW. I can’t quite tell from the link if THT’s RZR and OOZ numbers are aggregated from individual estimates, or if they are truly derived at a team level. It does appear that THT has done some interesting team-level comparisons of outs made on groundballs vs. flyballs/line drives, but I don’t see that those numbers are up for 2007.

    What strikes me from the RZR/OOZ numbers is that the Seattle infield and outfield were both below average, but the infield was worse than the outfield. In fact, while the outfield’s RZR was below average, its OOZ was above average. Again, I don’t know if that’s just Ichiro stealing from the other outfielders, or if that’s the outfield as a whole showing greater range, but either way, these numbers seem to throw cold water on the UZR numbers suggesting that Ibanez, Guillen AND Ichiro! were each the worst at their position. Their collective performance wasn’t that bad, and the infield was somewhat worse.

  206. marc w on October 4th, 2007 5:03 pm

    Well, yes, Ichiro is a stud according to RZR/OOZ.
    But the IF is rather troubling. Now we’ve got both PBP data sources indicating that perhaps Yuniesky’s range really isn’t that great.

    THT’s +/- is a pretty cool system using park effects to weight DER. Another good thing to look at along with UZR or whatever; it’s nice to track back to the team-level stats, which was the point of your post, so forget I said anything….

  207. Evan on October 5th, 2007 3:38 pm

    If I were GM, I’d trade HoRam, Sexson, Bloomquist and Vidro for Chase Utley.

    That’s a pitcher who has no business being on a major-league roster, a below-replacement-level first baseman, a 25th man, and a broken-down DH with an empty batting average, all for a legitimate MVP candidate.

    Just so we’re clear.

  208. tangotiger on October 15th, 2007 10:25 am

    Fans’ Scouting Report – Results

    http://www.tangotiger.net/scouting/scoutResults2007.html

    Thanks to all who participated.

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