Let me be a little more specific about Ibanez’s suckiness

DMZ · December 18, 2008 at 3:55 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ibanez is essentially making an argument that for a set of reasons, the systems are stacked against him. That it’s based on probability, doesn’t consider defensive positioning, that people doing the stats are evaluating it off TV, and that they don’t do enough on how hard balls are hit.

All of which is fine. These are flaws in the system that we can consider.

How is it, though, that these flaws have conspired year after year to show Ibanez as an increasingly crappy fielder? Wild coincidence? Horrible luck?

Ibanez mentions the ballpark factor. But as Dave’s alluded to, if there’s any bias in measurements of outfielders at Safeco Field it’s in their favor, as the wind hangs up balls for easy outs. And again, there’s no reason why this factor makes Ibanez particularly look bad and didn’t make (say) Randy Winn equally bad.

He mentions that people are prejudiced about him. This is — frankly — bunk. If there’s going to be a strong perception bias, what you’d see is that defensive stats wouldn’t disagree so vehemently with Gold Glove voting (which Ibanez thinks suck too). Defensive stats showed that a number of guys who have media perceptions as good defenders stink. Michael Young is awful out there, for instance — but if there was a bias in the measurement of stats based on how he was perceived, you’d see the defensive stats agree.

Or if you want to argue there’s some bias effect, then it wouldn’t explain how Ibanez, who is not the marquee name other fielders carry and is certainly not well known as a defensive butcher in the Manny mode, has been so consistently rated poor and gotten worse over the years.

That’s the big thing. Also,

But if you go around the game, and you ask the players, you ask quality major league scouts, you ask managers, they’ll tell you I’m the type of player they want on their team.

Ibanez never says he’s good defensively, we should note. Or, to be snarky, why they want him on their team or in what role. He’s taking offense at the suggestion that he’s one of the worst fielders in baseball, which he is. And I don’t blame the other players and managers and whoever he’s talked to for not breaking the news to him. It’s not polite.

But if Ibanez seriously believes that if I went out and asked a couple of quality major league scouts who’d seen him play left field for a couple of games what they thought of his defense that they would rave about it, well, he’s delusional. Remember Peter Gammons quoting someone describing Ibanez’s routes in the outfield as someone being chased by a swarm of bees? That was years ago. He hasn’t gotten faster, or better. He’s older, slower, and worse.

I like Ibanez as a guy, and he’s been one of the few offensive threats on this team over the last few years except when he wasn’t pretending he was healthy but actually injured. I don’t blame him for wanting to try and maintain some dignity about taking a huge deal to play the outfield every day. But I really think that he might have been better off looking for a DH job, because he wipes out so much of his contributions by being worthless with the glove that it’s going to become a big deal at some point, and all the animated GIFs and whatever other mockery he’s endured so far will pale in comparison to what they’ll dish out in Philly.


62 Responses to “Let me be a little more specific about Ibanez’s suckiness”

  1. bunk_medal on December 19th, 2008 9:30 am

    I’m still not buying this. You’re now arguing that there can be bias in individual scoring decisions because they’re difficult to evaluate. Sure. But that doesn’t explain at all why that would systematically discriminate against Raul.

    Apologies for the late reply (I was asleep), but I’d hoped I’d made it clear that I wasn’t trying to argue there is a systematic bias against Raul Ibanez, I was speaking generally about the potential for bias to skew defensive statistics. That’s what I’m interested in: the potential flaws in baseball statistics and how you go about improving their accuracy.

    Then on the stathead bias, there’s a nebulous set of qualities that statheads might value/be biased in favor of (I’m not quite sure what this is, exactly, but never mind that for a second). But again, I don’t see how this is meaningful. If a player is slow and sure-handed and gets to a pop-up at location x,y to make an out, that’s evaluated the same way as a player who gets to a pop-up at location x,y much faster as long as the out is recorded.

    You would have to believe that scorers systematically favored non-Raul-type players (presumably fast players who took good routes) by awarding them with outs they didn’t make, or by adjusting the ball data so it turns into a low-percentage play that doesn’t penalize their rating so much.

    When you think about how this supposed bias would have to work in practice, and how it would have to work in order to unfairly discriminate against Raul, it quickly unravels.

    On stathead bias, my point was initially that it would differ from media bias, if it existed at all. What you’re arguing here is essentially that there isn’t any real potential for stathead bias in defensive statistics (though presumably you would accept that there is a great deal of bias present in the media camp towards certain types of players/plays).

    I disagree with this. For a start, it doesn’t have to function as bias towards a single player, where every play is systematically altered to present that player in a worse light. That’s what Ibanez was wrongly arguing and is merely the point taken to its most extreme. What I’m saying isn’t that Ibanez is correct, but that there are many smallscale biases which can enter defensive metrics and skew the results.

    It is almost impossible, as Dewan (to stick with plus/minus) accepts, to come up with a flawless system for determining the difficulty of a play. They’ve gone into a huge amount of detail trying to involve the location of the ball, the speed, the type of hit and numerous other factors to try and draw up a typology of similar plays; yet there’s still no easy answer to the problem. Is a slow moving ball hit into a location futher away harder to field than a fast moving ball hit into a location closer to the fielder? One requires foot speed and the other requires quick reactions. How similar do two separate plays have to be before they can be meaningfully compared in the plus/minus system?

    All of these problems raise the potential for bias, even if it’s not a systematic bias that makes Raul Ibanez look like a terrible fielder. The case against Ibanez is clear cut—everyone who takes defensive analysis seriously agrees he can’t field—but that doesn’t mean bias never enters defensive metrics.

  2. Evan on December 19th, 2008 9:33 am

    …all the animated GIFs and whatever other mockery he’s endured so far will pale in comparison to what they’ll dish out in Philly.

    This is a really good point. Philly fans are like the howling winds of Tarterus. Nothing can withstand their wrath.

  3. The Ancient Mariner on December 19th, 2008 10:13 am

    Re: players being capable of realistic self-appraisal, here’s this from Bill James (it’s in the Historical Baseball Abstracts):

    In 1888 the Detroit franchise in the National League went out of business, and sold its players around the league. Deacon White and Jack Rowe were sold to Pittsburgh, but instead of reporting to their new team, that December the two of them purchased a team in Buffalo, New York, in the International League, intending to play for themselves. They weren’t too happy about the fact that they had been sold for $7,000 and were being asked to report to Pittsburgh for a fraction of that. Things didn’t go well in Buffalo, and eventually they capitulated and reported to Pittsburgh, but were paid $1,250 each plus good salaries, $500 a month.

    White told a Buffalo reporter, “We are satisfied with the money, but we ain’t worth it. Rowe’s arm is gone. I’m over 40 and my fielding ain’t so good, though I can still hit some. But I will say this. No man is going to sell my carcass unless I get half.”

    Maybe it was different in the 1880s . . .

  4. msb on December 19th, 2008 11:53 am

    if the park in Philly makes his offense look even better, will the PhillyPhans overlook his defense?

  5. pgreyy on December 19th, 2008 12:06 pm

    terry wrote:

    If even Saint Edgar would have played third base throughout his glory years, there’d have been a resounding chorus of “But he’d be so much better as our DH” here on USSM.–pgreyy

    I’m not sure if this was meant as criticism or offered as proof that the site authors have a flaw in their analysis due to a bias toward plus defenders.

    It was meant as a compliment to (and an unnecessary defense of) the writers on this site and the majority of USSM commenters who champion clear headed analysis…

    Players beloved here tend to be those with undeniable skills–but even they (be it Saint Edgar in my fantasy example above or even He-Who-Cannot-Be-Called-King Felix over the past couple of years) are not above clear headed analysis of how their skills might better help the team.

    Players who take heat on this site have earned that heat–perhaps not always by virtue of their own lack of abilities but sometimes by how they are being utilized.

    My point in saying what I did above, I thought was clear… Raul hasn’t been unfairly disrespected on USSM. He just hasn’t been unconditionally loved. What respect he has here he earned…same with the criticisms that he’s received–he earned those.

    Simple as that…and, like Raul in Philly, we should be moving on…

  6. terry on December 19th, 2008 12:22 pm

    Clearly no one can reliably estimate the value of Raul’s glove because, well, Gillick has hardware. I guess that’s why they play the games.

    Seriously I don’t get the notion that the existence of opposing opinions makes it impossible to reach a conclusion on an issue.

    Good God, imagine a juror defaulting to the lawyer with “hardware” because both the prosecution and defense constructed opposing arguments (which I’d imagine encompasses about 99.9% of all trials in the USA).

    Not all arguments are created of equal strength.

    Professional scouts think Raul’s defense sucks. The fans think Raul’s defense sucks. Advanced defensive metrics think Raul’s defense sucks. One side of that argument is clearly carrying the day (and it’s not Raul’s).

    Really, about the only individuals claiming Raul’s contract is a good one is those who don’t think defense matters much. That of course is a different argument altogether. As for Gillick, I’m not sure what he has to do with the series of decisions that the Philly FO has made this month……

  7. Beniitec on December 19th, 2008 3:06 pm

    Not really Paul. Especially with the four letter response I got from the site author. I’ve read enough here to know better. Regular stats aren’t good enough here. Anyone here can mosy over to the mlb.com website and do sortable statistics to see what I meant. But hey, why say anything? I’m not a stats major, or a “sabermetric guru for fun”. So there’s no way I’m going to win a “discussion” here. But thanks. 🙂

  8. DMZ on December 19th, 2008 3:22 pm

    HA HA HA it’s funny because you made up some stuff and then I got mad about it. Yeah! We’re at fault there! Yup!

  9. Beniitec on December 19th, 2008 6:08 pm

    HA! You’re hilarious. Lets see how this sounds… “Let me be more specific about Zumsteg’s suckiness.” Now, that sounds bad. It really does. And I wouldn’t go there. Yes, it’s a blog where opinions abound. But that’s disrespectful. I was just saying, give the man some respect. That’s all. That was my point. Sorry if it came across rudely. That wasn’t my intent.

  10. DMZ on December 19th, 2008 6:41 pm

    I can’t imagine you find USSM an enjoyable experience if you can read that post and come away with that impression.

  11. ima-zeliever on December 20th, 2008 1:41 pm

    DMZ USSM is awesome. I think you have a reader with a man-crush on Ibanez…

  12. Beniitec on December 20th, 2008 2:54 pm

    I’m a baseball fan. 😉 I read because I enjoy baseball.

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