Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Weekly Cup Of Joe: Gold Glove Edition

I prefer to think of this as more of a tribute to Fire Joe Morgan than a blatant ripoff. But who are we really kidding here?

Look at me, I actually remembered that 1) it's Tuesday and 2) there's a Joe Chat over at the Four Letter. I've been watching soccer for what feels like the past three months. The conclusion I've come to is that their rules are more confusing than Joe Morgan in a broadcast booth. Today's nugget of wisdom forced me to do some actually research so excuse me if I get a little grumpy...
conshymatt (philly)

Who is the best defensive player in baseball?

Joe Morgan (11:18 AM)

That's a tough question. I think there are a lot of good defensive players. You have to rate them by position. One demands more than another. Catcher demands more than, say, second base. I think they've done a good job the last few years, if you look at the gold glove winners. There might be one or two exceptions, but I think they've done a good job.
Gold Gloves might be one of the most worthless awards in all of sports. Once you win a couple, you're pretty much locked in for a good stretch. Just go ask Ichiro, Jeter and Torii Hunter. I'm not saying the voters are lazy but, oh no, that was what I was saying.

The other problem is that defensive metrics are still being improved upon. Big strides have been made though and we don't have to rely on Fielding Percentage anymore. So I accept your challenge, Joe. I will find more than a couple of exceptions in Gold Glove winners.

*Warning* It's about to get pretty nerdy. So if you don't like numbers, you might want to go work out like you've been talking about or go get a Double Whopper like we both know you're going to and then come back in a little while. *Warning*

I'm just going to look at 2009 so I can get back to writing nonsense at some point today. I think most of us are fairly comfortable with UZR. Since UZR is a counting stat we'll use UZR/150 to equal out playing time. I couldn't get my hands on 2009 Dewan +/- stats but I will sprinkle in some of last year's Fielding Bible winners.

NL 2B Winner: Orlando Hudson -3.4 UZR/150

Hudson was perceived as a great fielding second baseman but 2009 was the fourth straight year he posted a negative UZR/150. The more deserving second baseman was, of course, Chase Utley and his 12.2 UZR/150. Utley has been the best fielding second baseman for three years now. I still can't figure out how he doesn't get more MVP love.

NL SS Winner: Jimmy Rollins 5.0 UZR/150

Rollins wasn't a bad choice and he was really good in 2008. But in 2009 J.J. Hardy was better with a 9.2 UZR/150. I was actually surprised to see how well UZR has rated Hardy over the years.

NL OF Winners: Michael Bourn 9.9, Matt Kemp 3.7, Shane Victorino -5.7

Bourn was at least sixth in NL in UZR/150. The top three though were Nyjer Morgan 34.7, Randy Winn 17.6 and Colby Rasmus 14.0. Morgan and Rasmus are a little skewed because they only played around 1000 innings so you could plug Mike Cameron, Hunter Pence or Bourn in for those guys.

AL 1B Winner: Mark Teixeira 0.5 UZR/150

Justin Morneau 7.6 and Kendry Morales 7.4 simply had much better seasons. The Fielding Bible had Albert Pujols as the top fielding first baseman in the league. UZR wasn't quite so high on Pujols.

AL SS Winner: Derek Jeter 8.0 UZR/150

This was Jeter's best season by far since UZR data has been recorded since 2002. But who didn't see this coming? If you've ever met me, you'd know I'm one of those guys who harps on about how overrated Jeter is at short. Jeter has a career UZR of -38.0. But hey, he dove into the stands. Elvis Andus played a much better short with a 13.5 UZR/150. The Fielding Bible had Jack Wilson as the best short in the league and UZR agrees if you combine his AL and NL stats.

AL OF Winners: Ichiro 8.8, Torii Hunter -2.0, Adam Jones -8.2

The top three UZR/150 in the AL were Franklin Gutierrez 28.9, Ryan Sweeney 23.8 and Carl Crawford 18.6. The big loser here Gutierrez who was sensational in center for the Mariners and was great in right before that in Cleveland. The Fielding Bible had Gutierrez, Crawford and Ichiro as the best outfielders in the league.

Recap: By my count, Gold Gloves went to 8 wrong fielders out of 14 (excluding pitchers and catchers) in 2009. That's not very good, Joe.

I know UZR isn't the perfect defensive metric and that it is best used over the course of several seasons. But it's better than a lot of other ways to judge fielding. Plus I couldn't get Dewan's 2009 +/- stats, Bill James' DER and I was to lazy go through all of B-R's advanced stats.

I'll try to make up for this post with something mind numbing later. Sorry.

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