M’s Defense And The Fielding Bible

Dave · March 13, 2009 at 8:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

You may have already seen Baker’s post about John Dewan ranking the Mariners as an above average defense in 2008, according to his Defensive Runs Saved metric introduced in the newly published Fielding Bible II.

I don’t have tons of time to walk everyone through why Dewan is wrong – and, I should point out that The Fielding Bible is a really good read with lots of great stuff, and that BIS has been instrumental in bringing advanced defensive measures to the forefront of baseball, so this isn’t in any way an attack on him or the the book – but there’s some problems with his Defensive Runs Saved metric.

If you want to read some more in depth conversations about some of the issues, here and here are good places to start.

But, for those of you who would prefer a short summary, here’s the basic problem – Dewan/James calculated that each play made in the OF is worth about .56 runs, while play made in the infield is about +.75 runs (numbers are from memory, I don’t have the book in front of me right now, but they’re close). I think that’s just demonstrably wrong. We know, thanks to linear weights, that the value of an out is about -0.27 runs, and the value of a single is +0.47 runs, so making a save on a play that would have otherwise gone for a single is worth ~+.71 runs. However, the run values of doubles and triples are .77 and 1.04, respectively, so turning potential extra base hits into outs is more valuable than turning singles into outs.

Obviously, a great majority of doubles and triples come on fly balls to the outfield, and because of that, there’s almost no way to realistically conclude that a play saved on the infield is worth more than a play saved in the outfield. But that’s the conclusion that Dewan/James came to, and part of why they have the Mariners rated as above average – infield defense is significantly more important in their system than outfield defense, and so by reducing the the value of the M’s weakest link (OF defense), it serves to make the M’s look better than they were.

There’s also positioning issues in how Dewan ended up calculating his +/- ratings, as can be seen best in his Chase Utley numbers. Because Utley shifts towards the first base bag to make up for Ryan Howard’s ridiculous lack of range, he gets to far more balls in the 1B/2B hole than most second baseman. Dewan doesn’t adjust for this, and gives Utley credit for a +32 rating to his left (compared to +6 straight on and +8 to his right). Because of how Dewan is measuring plays saved (based on normal positioning for all players across the league), Utley would look worse defensively by his system if the Phillies just got a better defensive first baseman and Utley shaded back towards the 2B bag to play a more normal second base. Giving Utley credit for Howard being awful isn’t really what we are trying to do.

There are some other issues (he’s not using context neutral numbers, James’ new Defensive Misplays is pretty subjective and all plays are weighted evenly), but those two are the big reasons why Dewan’s Defensive Runs Saved doesn’t line up with the other advanced defensive metrics. And, to me, they’re problems, not enhancements.

The UZR data that we publish at FanGraphs is based on the play by play data collected by Baseball Info Solutions. It’s the same data, but a somewhat different (in my opinion, better) methodology for converting that data into runs saved. As you know, UZR had the Mariners at -21.6 runs for 2008, thanks mostly to a -16.8 rating from their outfielders. This is, honestly, the more reliable number to use. It’s based on exactly the same data, and the discrepancies between the two systems lie mostly in some assumptions made by Dewan that I would consider fairly questionable.

So, don’t make too big a deal out of this, and don’t buy into the rhetoric of the M’s defensive upgrades only getting them from a 62 to 64 win team. Right now, this is a ~79 win team, and an improved outfield defense is a significant part of why the team will be a lot better this year than last.

Comments

69 Responses to “M’s Defense And The Fielding Bible”

  1. Mike Snow on March 13th, 2009 9:29 am

    My personal reaction is that Baker is right that only improving the defense can only get you so far. But this wasn’t a 61-win true talent team any more than it was an 88-win true talent team in 2007, so they’re a lot closer to average. In a division of four mediocre teams, that’s almost contending by definition, although it still depends on how various things break, both for us and the competition.

    It was a good post in terms of getting Dewan’s views and incorporating some data and analysis. I thought more recognition was needed of several important points on the limitations of defensive statistics. Specifically, that you’re better off comparing multiple metrics before drawing conclusions, and that you can’t get a reliable sense of a player’s skills from only one season of data. Hopefully Baker will get into that, since he promises future exploration of the topic.

    I’m also not sure I agree with his thesis that if the defense was decent, it shouldn’t be the first place we look to improve. It still depends on what kind of value you’re getting (in free agency, trade, whatever), and a run prevented remains the same as a run scored. If your analysis is that defense is undervalued, that’s where you’ll end up focusing your efforts.

  2. bakomariner on March 13th, 2009 9:32 am

    I just got finished reading the article, and my first thought was what Dave would think of it…

    I literally laughed when I read that the Ms would only win two more games this year…

  3. CCW on March 13th, 2009 9:32 am

    Isn’t the best way to look at team defense as a whole simply park adjusted defensive efficiency? The Mariners turned balls in play into outs at one of the worst rates in baseball in 2008…

  4. Dave on March 13th, 2009 9:40 am

    No, because not all balls in play are equally catchable or equally valuable.

  5. bakomariner on March 13th, 2009 9:41 am

    I will give Baker this, he asks in his article if these metrics are accurate, so he’s not trying to force this down our throats that this is 100% correct…

  6. jro on March 13th, 2009 9:59 am

    If there’s any person in the world that I want to understand and assess this data, it’s JackZ.

    Based on Z’s moves in the off-season, it’s obvious that he materially disagrees with Dewan’s ranking of the Mariners defense.

  7. Dobbs on March 13th, 2009 10:06 am

    Ya know Dave, it must get tiring being right about the Mariners all the time and to still your insight questioned/ignored.

    It’s great Baker is going down the defense path, but he seems to only be doing it to say you’re wrong.

  8. Dave on March 13th, 2009 10:09 am

    I think Baker’s genuinely interested in understanding the game better. We hammered him on his defensive evaluations a few years ago, and so he’s made a concerted effort to look at things like UZR, +/-, and try to understand where they’re coming from.

    That his conclusions and my conclusions aren’t the same doesn’t mean he’s got an alternate agenda. We’ve just got more work to do to convince him that some questionable work doesn’t invalidate the good work that’s been done on the issue.

  9. ThundaPC on March 13th, 2009 10:24 am

    I had a feeling some things didn’t add up when I read Baker’s interaction with Dewan. Well, besides the obvious “going from 62 to 64 wins” with defensive upgrades. Dewan only has Raul Ibanez at -6 and he believes he’s actually better than that. All I could think of is that there was another metric and about 10-15 animated GIFs that would disagree with that assessment.

    While we’re on the subject, this article by Larry LaRue posted a few days ago about outfield defense kinda flew under the radar. This one quote by Jack Zduriencik is particularly money:

    “We wanted to improve the defense for our pitching,” Zduriencik said, “and finding a true center fielder isn’t the easiest thing to do. I saw firsthand in Milwaukee what a great center fielder can do for a team when we acquired Mike Cameron. What a difference he made.”

    Once again, it’s nice to finally have an organization that gets it.

    I wouldn’t mind Baker presenting his findings to the Mariners staff to get their input on things. If it’s one thing we have is an organization that now accepts different views.

  10. eponymous coward on March 13th, 2009 10:25 am

    So, don’t make too big a deal out of this, and don’t buy into the rhetoric of the M’s defensive upgrades only getting them from a 62 to 64 win team.

    Well, actually, that’s not what Dewan is saying- that’s what Baker applies from what Dewan actually is saying (that the M’s defensive changes in the OF are worth about 2-3 wins to their bottom line). That’s not ridiculously out of whack with reality, given that Griffey and Wlad will probably spend time in the OF dragging Endy Chavez’s contribution down…

    Someone might want to remind Geoff Baker that the problems on the team did NOT just stem from bad OF defense:

    C: .674 OPS
    1B: .680 OPS
    CF: .699 OPS
    SS: .680 OPS
    RF: .705 OPS
    DH: .608 OPS

    Keep in mind that CF and RF are bloated by Ichiro’s .747 OPS- so what this basically means is over half the lineup spent the year hitting like Jeremy Reed’s career line (.680 OPS) or worse.

    Losing Raul hurts that, but Griffey is pretty close to what Raul can do offensively, Shelton and Branyan are considerable upgrades for 1B and DH, and the M’s have a number of young players who as a composite should outperform last year (Balentien, Cedeno, Clement, Gutierrez). So Baker’s missing the forest for the trees here: the defensive upgrades were PART of why this team is better than last year’s model.

  11. Doug Taylor on March 13th, 2009 10:30 am

    Someone might want to remind Geoff Baker that the problems on the team did NOT just stem from bad OF defense.

    Actually, he very much made that argument, but to say that the Mariners should have done more to upgrade their lineup. He’s missing the forest the other way.

  12. bakomariner on March 13th, 2009 10:31 am

    In defense of Baker again, he mentions OPS and other factors…

    And Dewan specifically answers Baker’s question saying the Ms will only win two more games…

    Read the whole article…

  13. tangotiger on March 13th, 2009 10:37 am

    Dewan is giving out .77 runs per regular play, and .58 runs per “enhanced” play. That .58 is a mix of .77 runs per regular play and .25 (or whatever) runs per extra base. So, if Ichiro saves say 20 plays, and 10 extra bases, that’s “+30″ enhanced plays. Whether you do .77*20 + .25*10 or you do 30*.58, you get the same thing (or, you would if you used a better set of illustrations than I did… and this also presumes I understand this correctly).

  14. discojock on March 13th, 2009 10:54 am

    M’s infield defense is stronger than outfield defense? Are we assuming that Griffey plays OF a lot?

  15. philosofool on March 13th, 2009 11:02 am

    Baker suggests on his blog that one gets decreasing marginal benefit from improving defense. As he puts it ” logic would seem to dictate that there’s probably a lot less room for tangible impact on the Mariners as a whole by upgrading this particular area.”

    Is that right? Is there any reason to think that one’s returns from improving defense diminish as one improves defense? I can’t see any reason to think that there is. A run is a run whether you score it or save.

  16. Alex on March 13th, 2009 11:11 am

    Thanks Tangotiger for the clarification.

    Does this then make Dewar’s analysis reasonable?

    It would be so nice if there was a defensive statistic we could trust to accurately measure runs saved, like we have in wOBA for offense. But they all seem to vary significantly. Maybe for now a weighting of UZR and a couple others is the best we can do?

  17. jzalman on March 13th, 2009 11:20 am

    Even if the metrics and analysis are correct, and it’s only a 2-3 win improvement we get from the OF defensive upgrade, that’s still impressive given the $$$ cuts. A huge part of the reason for the focus on improving defense over offense is the fact that it comes at a good value. It’s not like they didn’t want to upgrade the offense. They know it was one of the worst in the league, and considering upgrades like Swisher/Abreu/Dunn and even Griffey shows they wanted to upgrade. Thing is, it’s expensive to buy home runs. They come at a premium. Defensive is cheap right now. So whether or not we think it was the area that most needed improvement, we get the most improvement at the best value there, which is necessary in salary roll backs and rebuilding times.

    Anyway, as I was reading, I wish Baker had mentioned that. Not necessarily the most needed improvement, but certainly the one that comes at the best value.

  18. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 11:23 am

    It’s not difficult to find faults, flaws, or inconsistencies in any mathematical evaluation of a sports franchise and it’s on-field productivity. No single measuring system accurately measures everything, therefore expectations and predictions must be made and taken at face value.

    Who here, back in February and March of last year, thought the Rays would win the AL pennant in 2008?

    I rest my case.

  19. terry on March 13th, 2009 11:24 am

    We’ve just got more work to do to convince him that some questionable work doesn’t invalidate the good work that’s been done on the issue.

    This is “the rub” with sabermetrics. Just as not all opinions are equal (even if two have been built on much effort), all metrics aren’t created equal. Lots of consideration has to be given to flaws and limitations.

    But it’s significant progress to get someone to embrace a saber approach and it must be frustrating when after getting hammered for not using metrics, they get hammered for their use of metrics.

    BTW, Dave, that’s one reason I have a great deal of respect for what you do at fangraphs regarding the educational component of your writing.

    Dewan’s +/- system is fine-they’ve just always had issues with how they go from plays to runs and it looks like they still do.

    I basically take the enhanced +/- score and multiply it by .8 to get to runs. That would suggest that Raul was a -14 run defender last season based upon Dewan’s data. UZR suggests he was a -12 defender. PMR suggests he was a -8 defender (RAA/4000).

    In any event, we’re not seeing gross disagreement here. Even with the screwy James/Dewan calculation of run values, the conclusion that Raul was roughly a -10 defender last season isn’t changed based upon the above survey

    He’s probably something of a -10 to -15 run true talent defender in the corner. That’s a problem when he’s healthy IMHO.

    Now consider Chavez…he’s probably conservatively a +15 defender in left. Just switching his glove for Raul’s could be 3 wins.

    Sometimes James gets in the way of himself and Dewan’s statement simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

  20. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 11:34 am

    “Now consider Chavez…he’s probably conservatively a +15 defender in left. Just switching his glove for Raul’s could be 3 wins.”

    There’s a neat idea – think the Phillies would be willing to let us borrow his bat a few times a week?

    Chavez plays better defense than Ibanez. This is a no-brainer.

    Ibanez hits better than Chavez. This is another no-brainer.

    Itchy and Gutierrez are probably capable of combining for roughly 25-30 dingers (and maybe 100-110 total XBH). Throwing Chavez into left pretty much turns our fantastic outfield defense into an offensive liability.

    That is, unless the M’s can get Raul on loan from Philly on his off days.

  21. tangotiger on March 13th, 2009 11:36 am

    Who here, back in February and March of last year, thought the Rays would win the AL pennant in 2008?

    Rally/Chone was awfully close.

    I rest my (sabermetric) case.

  22. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 11:41 am

    tango,

    Suggesting the Rays could compete with the big dogs in the east is one thing (and the prediction of 89 wins gives them a competetive lean), but to flat-out say they’d win their division and the AL pennant is more than just a longshot – it would be absurd, and Chone didn’t

    That’s the same prediciton that shows Seattle winning 83 games, the Angels winning just 91, and the Diamondbacks taking the NL West.

    By the by… PECOTA predicted the Rays would finish 4th in their division and win just 82 contests.

    I re-rest MY case… HA!

    =oP

  23. tangotiger on March 13th, 2009 11:43 am

    I basically take the enhanced +/- score and multiply it by .8 to get to runs.

    See my 10:37 post to see why you should not do that.

  24. tangotiger on March 13th, 2009 11:46 am

    I re-rest MY case… HA!

    It is of course the height of absurdity to cherry pick each one to say whether it was a good or bad forecast. Indeed, just because Chone/Rally says that the Rays would average 89 wins does not mean that they had no chance to win the division. They probably had a 25% chance based on his numbers.

    In any case, for a comprehensive view as to what forecasting means, and why you should not forecast and instead watch games, then read this. In short, presume everyone will finish at 81-81, and you will beat all the talking-head experts, and be very close to objective systems.

  25. Alex on March 13th, 2009 12:10 pm

    @rmac: These systems cant predict which teams will get lucky, by having their players perform much better than their career stats would indicate, they cant guess which teams will outperform their pythagorean win%.

    Also, baseball playoffs are not nearly long enough to average out all the randomness and have the better team always win. (After all, the 2001 Mariners did not even make it to the world series, even though they were clearly the best team).

  26. joser on March 13th, 2009 1:04 pm

    But the prediction systems like CHONE have been consistently better at predictions than the talking heads and commentators (many of whom also denigrate statistical approaches in general). I recall a lot of “experts” predicting the M’s to challenge for the pennant and cosigning the Rays — when they mentioned them at all — to the cellar of the AL East.

    Defensive is cheap right now.

    Unfortunately it’s not as cheap as it was in past years, as the depressed market for all-bat-no-glove outfielders (post-Raul) shows. But you’re right, and you make a good point: we can look at just the performance numbers, but Zduriencik (like any GM outside the Bronx) has to balance them against another set of numbers with dollar signs attached.

    Is there any reason to think that one’s returns from improving defense diminish as one improves defense?

    Well, in extremis we can certainly see that: if you had sufficiently fast/good outfielders, the only balls hit to the outfield that didn’t result in outs would be home runs. At that point, finding an outfielder who was even faster wouldn’t improve your defense at all. (Conversely, if your outfielders were legless torsos, putting even a little-leaguer out there instead would result in an upgrade.) So we can hypothesize there’s some amount of diminishing returns where the only balls not getting caught are balls no outfielder alive could get to, or (ratcheting back a step further) balls only one or two outfielders in baseball could get to, etc. If you’ve already got one of the best outfields in baseball, you can’t upgrade unless you get one of those one or two guys who are actually better, and they probably don’t come cheap. At that point you should be trying to upgrade something else because you can almost certainly create/save more runs for your money somewhere else on the roster.

  27. Ike Clanton on March 13th, 2009 1:08 pm

    Dewan needs to spend more time checking his numbers and logic and less time trying to play scout.

    “But Dewan fears that Johjima’s communication problems with pitchers and struggles with the English language will continue to keep him below average.”

    “But Dewan actually feels that Ibanez is a better defender than he’s made out to be, saying he goes back for balls very well.”

  28. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 1:25 pm

    It’s important that we be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far the other way, and consider run prevention to be the be-all and end-all.

    I think run scoring will always tend to be slightly more highly valued than run prevention, for two reasons:

    1) You always have to score at least one run to win a baseball game, regardless of how good your run prevention is;

    2) Run scoring has a higher appeal to the average fan. Look at the sports with the higher market penetration in this country; the sports with more scoring (football, basketball) have a better foothold than those with lower amounts of scoring (soccer, hockey). So from a revenue standpoint, run scoring puts more butts in the seats than run prevention, except at the extremes (highlight-reel catches and absolutely dominant pitching).

    But I think we’re beginning to see a swing back towards run scoring being the undervalued commodity (witness how the market for all-bat no-glove guys virtually disappeared this offseason).

    What separates the good organizations from the bad is recognizing changes in market conditions, identifying what type of assets are currently undervalued, and obtaining those assets to take the best advantage of available resources.

    I trust Zduriencik and company to be smart enough to do that, and we might be looking at a Mariners team in a few years that evokes memories of the Kingdome days, but this time it’ll be for the right reasons.

  29. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 1:41 pm

    tangotiger,

    First of all, I guess I didn’t add enough sarcasm or humor to my post to aptly reflect the tongue-in-cheek attitude. I apologize for the smiley and the “HA!” not being quite enough for you. In other words… my bad.

    The height of absurdity is not using examples of a metric/measurement system to prove or disprove that system’s merits or validity. Were that the case, you surely would not have pointed out the Chone prediction for the Rays in an act of premeditated hypocrisy, right?

    The point is that using just one metrics/measurement system will leave any user or measurer without all the appropriate information.

    I therefore submit to you, good sir, that the height of hypocrisy is actually a bunch of underemployed accountants using their collegiate degrees to determine the outcomes of nearly 5,000 baseball contests being played by 30 teams over a 162-game/7-month schedule.

    This is why Endy Chavez, while he may be a +3 wins defender over Raul Ibanez, the latter is a +5 offensive player over the former.

    Which guy would you rather have on your team?

  30. Mike Snow on March 13th, 2009 1:45 pm

    But I think we’re beginning to see a swing back towards run scoring being the undervalued commodity (witness how the market for all-bat no-glove guys virtually disappeared this offseason).

    Well, when the all-glove no-bat guys are getting the megacontracts, then we’ll know the pendulum has really swung. I mean, I can remember Ozzie Smith getting paid big money, but it’s been a while since that’s been the situation.

  31. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 1:47 pm

    Underemployed accountants? What in the world are you talking about?

    As to your final question; if they’re both playing in the outfield, I’d rather have Endy Chavez, and it’s not particularly close.

  32. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 1:52 pm

    Jeff Nye,

    In run production, Raul bests Chavez by far more than the +3 (according to a previous poster) Chavez can boast over Raul defensively. I can understand the desire for improved defense, but at what cost to the overall team record?

    If a team has plus defenders all over the field but couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a friggin’ boat, what good does it do to field that team?

    As for the “underemployed accountants”, a vast majority of the metrics geeks I know are underemployed or unemployed accountants. That’s where that comments is coming from. No insult intended. Sorry.

  33. Teej on March 13th, 2009 1:56 pm

    This is why Endy Chavez, while he may be a +3 wins defender over Raul Ibanez, the latter is a +5 offensive player over the former.

    Raul isn’t five wins better than anyone at anything.

  34. Dave on March 13th, 2009 1:57 pm

    Ibanez, 2008: +16.4 runs per 600 PA
    Chavez, 2008: -19.9 runs per 600 PA

    Chavez just had his worst year as a hitter in his entire career, and the offensive gap was 36 runs over a full season. You just can’t make any real argument that Ibanez is +5 wins better than Chavez offensively.

    But, hey, feel free to make more ridiculous arguments and stereotypes. It’s a great way to gain respect.

  35. djw on March 13th, 2009 2:01 pm

    rmac, I may be reading the projections wrong, but I don’t see any projection system that has that kind of difference. It looks more like a 2-3 win difference between Ibanez and Chavez. How are you calculating the five win difference?

  36. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 2:06 pm

    But, hey, feel free to make more ridiculous arguments and stereotypes. It’s a great way to gain respect.

    In addition, posting insulting things and then saying “sorry!” after the fact gets old after…well, to be frank it starts out old.

    Stick to the facts and don’t say silly things that edge closely towards “parents’ basement” territory, and you’ll be fine.

  37. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:10 pm

    Teej — that statement might be taken by someone less tolerant than I am as bitter. What gives?

    djw — That +5 idea was taken from another blog, one that I follow about as much as this one. I just found it laughable that Ibanez was being scorned so severely for having weak defensive skills. The author made a fair argument that Ibanez is anywhere between +2 and +5 over Chavez offensively, and that while Chavez has offensive liabilities, his defensive capabilities would all but counter them in place of Ibanez and his heavy stick and light glove. It’s a matter of looking at things more than one way, which the author did in a rather reasonable manner. The biggest difference he pointed out was the money Seattle will save by not paying Raul $30+ million to be a butcher in LF – such savings will allow them to retain the FAs they want to keep and possibly make a run at one or two others. In a long-term view, Chavez is a better option, yes, but that’s due in large part to the salary differential between him and Ibanez.

    Dave — Thanks for the kind and thoughtful response. I’ll take that idea under advisement, but also at face value.

  38. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:12 pm

    Jeff Nye,

    I did not insult anyone. Unless you seriously took offense to my comment about “underemployed accountants”, that is. If so, let me apologize once more… I am sorry you found yourself offended.

    Back to the topic – using one measurement system shortchanges the entire ideal of using that system in the first place. Any statistician, accountant, financier or business development/management person will tell you so.

  39. hoponpop01 on March 13th, 2009 2:14 pm

    I love the IF/OF analysis, but how about C? I’m at the game in Mesa right now and point blank Clement looks like a liability behind the plate. I love the kid’s upside and his left-handed bat, but he’s slow-footed behind the plate both getting to balls in the dirt and getting the ball to second. Given one extra steal attempt per game at an 80% success rate and an average of .5 extra based per game on passed balls/wild pitches (including PB and WP’s w/ more than one runner on), how does that offset the improvements through the rest of the defense?

  40. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:19 pm

    Dave,

    You said that Endy Chavez just had the worst offensive year of his career, but he’s 31 years old now and hasn’t seen consistent playing time since 2004 (he was a backup OF for the Mets in ’07 and ’08).

    What legitimately shows he’s capable of reproducing his 2004 season? If he can, then right on. But, does anyone really expect him to steal 30+ bases and start 140 games in left? As a backup, he’s fine. He plays excellent D and he can probably still churnn out a .315-ish OBP with a handful of swipes in 30-40 starts with some late-inning substitutions for Junior (if he ever plays left, that is) and Wlad. But, to suggest he’s starting material over Raul Ibanez makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.

  41. Teej on March 13th, 2009 2:20 pm

    Teej — that statement might be taken by someone less tolerant than I am as bitter. What gives?

    Hardly bitter. But there is a very small list of players who are five wins better than Endy with the bat, and Raul isn’t on that list. Five wins is a ton.

    He’s probably something like three wins better, which would be roughly canceled out by the defense. If Ibanez is a better player than Endy, it’s not by much.

  42. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:26 pm

    Teej,

    Fair enough – the +5 comes from another site/blog, and the author suggested Raul is anywhere from +2 to +5 over Chavez offensively, and that Chavez is roughly the same over Raul defensively.

    I just don’t get how a guy who is 31 years old and hasn’t seen consistent playing time in five years is somehow a better option than a legit .290-25-100 hitter, regardless of the defensive liability that comes with such offensive improvements.

    Considering how bad the M’s offense was in 2008, from top to bottom, I look at what Jose Lopez and Raul Ibanez acccomplished as rather remarkable.

    IMHO, you cannot win any baseball game by a score of 0-0: great defense only gets you so far – boasting the league’s best UZR doesn’t push runs across the plate.

  43. Dave on March 13th, 2009 2:27 pm

    But, to suggest he’s starting material over Raul Ibanez makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever.

    Seriously, you just need to stop saying stuff like this. You’re wrong.

    If you think that Ibanez won’t age at all, and Chavez is going to continue to hit worse than he has over his entire career, then you can think that the offensive difference between the two is something like 35 runs over a full season. In reality, Ibanez is likely to decline more than Chavez is, and Chavez is likely to have a better year offensively in ’09 than he did in ’08, so the projected offensive difference between the two is closer to 25 to 30 runs.

    You’ve already accepted that the defensive gap is 30 runs.

    Notice how your statements don’t match reality?

  44. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:32 pm

    Dave,

    I don’t understand your hostility – all I said what that the logic isn’t, well, logical.

    Did I say Raul wouldn’t age? I don’t remember saying that. I did, however, say that Chavez is 31 and hasn’t played regularly since 2004.

    You suggested that Chavez is “likely to have a better year offensively in ’09 than he did in ’08″ – great… but by what measure and by whose estimation? What tells you – or anyone – that Endy Chavez will be better at the plate in 2009 than he wwas in 2008?

    I didn’t accept that the defensive gap is ANYTHING – I pointed out that Chavez is a defensive improvement over Ibanez, but that he’s a downgrade at the plate.

    What team ever won a baseball game 0-0?

  45. Mike Snow on March 13th, 2009 2:33 pm

    the +5 comes from another site/blog

    Link?

  46. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:34 pm

    Wait a moment… out of my entire post, you take ONE short statement and try to indict my entire position, and you do so based upon an arguably flawed defensive rating/measurement system?

    That makes no sense….

  47. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 2:34 pm

    Wait wait wait.

    How do you say this:
    “and the author suggested Raul is anywhere from +2 to +5 over Chavez offensively, and that Chavez is roughly the same over Raul defensively.”

    And then, in the very next line, say this:
    “I just don’t get how a guy who is 31 years old and hasn’t seen consistent playing time in five years is somehow a better option than a legit .290-25-100 hitter, regardless of the defensive liability that comes with such offensive improvements.”

    If you, in your own comment, admit that (even with the ludicrous +5 win number from this mysterious other blog) Raul’s offense and Chavez’s defense “roughly” offset each other…how is Ibanez so clearly the superior player in your mind, again?

  48. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:35 pm

    Mike Snow… let me find it – I discovered the blog by accident through baseball-reference.com about six or seven months ago, FYI, so you might also look for yourself.

  49. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 2:38 pm

    If you’re the one trying to make us believe that Ibanez is a five win player over anyone, it’s incumbent on you to provide proof of that, and not tell people to “look for yourself.”

    Seriously; stop posting for a few minutes and go read the comment guidelines and USSM orientation.

    You’re digging yourself into a hole posting ridiculous things and you’re about to hit the bottom of said hole.

  50. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:38 pm

    Jeff Nye,

    I never said Raul is “the superior player” once. I questioned, openly and fairly, how Endy Chavez somehow become a better option/superior player simply because he plays good defense, especially when he hasn’t played consistently since the Expos were still the friggin’ Expos.

    I also pointed out that the author of the site suggested that Chavez has value to the Mariners not related to his on-field capabilities – his salary is greatly reduced from the take Ibanez will roll in during the next three seasons, which then frees up room for both retaining and obtaining FAs.

  51. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 2:43 pm

    I never said Raul is “the superior player” once.

    In run production, Raul bests Chavez by far more than the +3 (according to a previous poster) Chavez can boast over Raul defensively.

  52. rmac1973 on March 13th, 2009 2:43 pm

    [you've derailed this comment thread enough]

  53. Mike Snow on March 13th, 2009 2:45 pm

    Actually, I have looked, not that it’s my responsibility to find support for a position I disagree with. And I’ve come up empty for people arguing such a position outside of this comment thread. If you want to continue making arguments based on it, show your work.

  54. Alex on March 13th, 2009 3:11 pm

    If you want to use 2008 offensive stats, Ibanez is 3-4 wins over Chavez (36 runs that Dave mentioned) and Chavez is 2-3 wins over Ibanez defensively (I’d say 3).

    Overall: Ibanez is at most 1 win better overall (this is if you project their 2009 offense to be equal to 2008).

    This doesnt make up for the fact that we dont have to pay Ibanez’ contract, and we also get TWO early draft picks for ‘losing’ Ibanez.

    Replacing Ibanez with Chavez gives us new talent (draft picks) and saves a lot of money (allowing the team to improve in other areas in the future), while giving up almost nothing. (or if you use slightly different numbers, then we’re actually giving up nothing or possibly improving slightly)

  55. Tuomas on March 13th, 2009 3:14 pm

    So, um.

    Plus, using Chavez instead of Ibanez might make Washburn look decent enough that he can be flipped for a C- prospect. That’s definitely phenomenal upside.

  56. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 3:38 pm

    Honestly, I’d take used Big League Chew for Washburn just to get some salary relief.

  57. joser on March 13th, 2009 3:46 pm

    And it’s not just Washburn. Improving the defense makes all the pitchers look better, and improving the outfield defense certainly makes the flyball pitchers look better (like, as you say, Washburn). So even if no one is willing to take Washnurn, the team may be able to trade high on someone else. I’d hate to see RRS go have a good career elsewhere, for example, but I certainly could live with it if he was part of a package that brought some plus talent in return.

    I think run scoring will always tend to be slightly more highly valued than run prevention, for two reasons…

    This may be true, but there’s no reason the run scoring has to come from the LF position. Replacing Raul’s run production with equivalent run prevention in the outfield, and then upgrading from Sexson and Vidro’s non-production, is a significant net improvement. And that’s even before you get to contracts and draft picks.

  58. Jeff Nye on March 13th, 2009 3:49 pm

    Oh, absolutely. Run scoring doesn’t have to come from anywhere in particular.

    Well, it helps when your DH is a positive run producer, I guess. We miss you, Turbo!

  59. DMZ on March 13th, 2009 4:27 pm

    six or seven months ago, FYI, so you might also look for yourself.

    Yeah Mike, go figure out what blog he discovered via baseball-reference six or seven months ago.

  60. Kunkoh on March 13th, 2009 5:26 pm

    I’m confused, why is a 31yr old expected to age worse than a 36/7 yr old?

    I think the upgrades at defense LF, CF, and even 1b should be a nice improvement compared to last year. I’m more excited about this year than I’ve been in years. No, we may not be a great team, but we are a heck of a lot better than last year and that should make things a lot more interesting.

  61. Sidi on March 13th, 2009 11:38 pm

    IMHO, you cannot win any baseball game by a score of 0-0: great defense only gets you so far – boasting the league’s best UZR doesn’t push runs across the plate.

    But even a team of pitchers is going to score some runs. Hell, you could throw nine/ten of me into the game, and I think I would have better than even odds of scoring a run in 162 games. Especially considering that, for even $400k, I would be diving into pitches like crazy.

    The whole “0-0″ crap misses a huge point, the difference between a “good” hitter and “terrible” hitter in MLB really isn’t as large as people think. You get a hit 1/3 of the time, you’re good, but a hit 1/4 of the time you suck. You get on base 40% of the time, you’re amazing, but at 30% you’re worse than Willie Boom Boom.

  62. anchorjim on March 14th, 2009 12:53 am

    Dave,

    After seeing tangotiger’s explanation of Dewan’s 0.77 for infield plays vs. outfield plays, do you still feel that Dewan’s numbers are demonstrably wrong?

  63. Osfan on March 14th, 2009 3:18 am

    But even a team of pitchers is going to score some runs.

    Especially if they were all Felix’s.

  64. studes on March 14th, 2009 4:02 am

    Dave, I haven’t red the entire thread, but what you’re saying isn’t true. Dewan’s system isn’t based on outs saved, it’s based on bases saved. Outfielders save more bases per out saved, so the value per base is less than then value per out (comparing outfield to infield).

  65. Breadbaker on March 14th, 2009 4:06 am

    This Utley-Howard thing reminds me of the Phillie-related debate James described in an earlier abstract, where he debunked Larry Bowa’s fielding prowess. People were saying things like “well, look at all the balls Mike Schmidt fields which Bowa might have gotten to” and James basically said “if there are two players who can get to the ball, then one of them ought to move over.”

    This is, effectively, the flipside of it. Utley is getting balls that someone else ought to get but isn’t. So how do you properly credit him with them (after all, he really does field them)? More importantly, how do you rate him when he’s essentially playing a different position from all the other second basemen?

  66. studes on March 14th, 2009 4:07 am

    Plus, he doesn’t use the defensive misplays to calculate runs saved per team. That’s an entirely different system.

    I humbly suggest that you post a correction to this post.

  67. coasty141 on March 14th, 2009 8:41 am

    I think its kind of interesting that Utley/Howard is being discussed so much in this post. Why aren’t we talking about Beltre/Betancourt? It seems as though the relationship between those two fielders is more pertinent to the topic of discussion.

  68. qwerty on March 14th, 2009 10:26 am

    your reasoning made 1.73 more sense than theirs.

  69. msb on March 15th, 2009 11:40 am

    from Bakers blog:

    So, what does Zduriencik really think about the 2008 team’s defense? Was it as good as Dewan says? This is important because the team has based a lot of its off-season strategy on upgrading an aspect of the team that — if Dewan is correct — might have needed the least amount of tinkering.

    “I didn’t see it, but from everything I’ve been hearing, there were holes, no question about it,” Zduriencik said.

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