Highs and Lows of UZR 2007-9: Overview

It is often quoted that a single year of UZR data is equivalent to about a 1/3 of a year of hitting data as far as representative sample size is concerned. With that in mind, I recently combed through our database and compiled the UZRs of every player from the past three seasons along with their rank in each of the past seasons individually.

Upon seeing the finished product, I immediately came to the conclusion that UZR alone wasn’t good enough. After all, what was I trying to rank? My hope was to compile a list of the relative fielding performances of each player. The issue standing in the way is that UZR is position-adjusted. Yuniesky Betancourt has been a horrible, horrible shortstop the past few years, but he’s still a better defender than David Ortiz. So I added the positional adjustments back in and arrived at a result that I think does a good job at capturing the best and worst fielders overall.

Over the next week and change, I will be detailing the individuals that stand out on the list. For now, here’s a few who just didn’t quite make the cut.

On the good side was a flurry of infielders, as you might expect. Pedro Feliz, Jack Wilson, Brandon Phillips, Nick Punto and Jimmy Rollins all just fell outside the top five. Nyjer Morgan finished 12th overall and was one of only three outfielders to make it into the top 20. Carlos Gomez finished exactly 20th and the other (can you guess who?) cracked the top five.

On the negative side, we find a whole bunch of outfielders who really should not be playing anywhere. Congratulations to Bobby Abreu, Delmon Young, Jack Cust, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. You all narrowly avoided being singled out as one of the five worst fielders of the past three seasons. Manny Ramirez, Jason Kubel, Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Guillen and Mike Jacobs round out the next worst five and mark the edge of players that totaled more than 50 runs of negative value with their UZR and position.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

37 Responses to “Highs and Lows of UZR 2007-9: Overview”

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  1. yugert says:

    Well Dunn, Hawpe, Bay, and Dye and pretty awful. Maybe Vernon Wells rounds out that disasterous group. Not sure if Griffey has played enough in the field to make it.

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    • The Nicker says:

      Vernon Wells is playing in the age of the defensive CF, his positional adjustment should get him out of this list.

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  2. everett says:

    i’m assuming franklin gutierrez made the top 5

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  3. lookatthosetwins says:

    Thank you so much for this.

    You took the two things that drive me crazy about people talking about UZR, and fixed them. If more people did analases using multiple years of UZR, less people would be turned off by the year to year discrepencies.

    The one thing you could do to improve this slightly, would be to weight more recent data more heavily. This would only slightly improve the data, and a 3 year total is incredibly better than a 1 year total. I’m excited to see if there are any surprises…

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  4. Kevin S. says:

    Is there any chance three-year UZR data shows up on the leader boards? Easy enough to calculate it for any given player, much tougher to make comparisons.

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    • Kincaid says:

      There is a drop down box at the top of the leaderboards labeled “Month” that is for splits by month for most stats. There is also an option there to show the past 3 calendar years. The monthly splits aren’t there for fielding stats, but the multi-year options are. Also, for UZR, it is not the past 3 calendar years, just the last 3 seasons combined (which at this point is the same thing anyway).

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  5. The Iron_Throne says:

    Any chance this can be done as UZR/150 (min XXX innings)? I’d hate to see Manny avoid infamy by being suspended for 50 games.

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  6. uhhhh says:

    Top 5? Utley and Zimmerman have to be there. Maybe Pedroia and Polanco. Or perhaps Beltre knocks one of those guys off.

    Ichiro is probably the outfielder, though Winn or Crawford may have a shot.

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  7. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Congrats to Ibanez beating out Werth for best fielding outfielder on the Phillies this year. I heart you UZR.

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  8. jlong says:

    Theres zero chance Utley is on there. He tries hard, but is not close to the level that Jroll and Pedro play the field, and those two just missed the top 5.

    I would also be very surprised if Gutierrez was not the OF as well.

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    • Kincaid says:

      Except that Utley’s UZR over the past 3 years is way higher than either Rollins’ or Feliz’ (and in Rollins’ case, by plenty to cover the difference in positional adjustment).

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      • Bill says:

        Yep, Utley is definitely going to be on there, considering he was 12th this year, 1st last year, and 11th the year before. Easily one of the 10 best fielders in baseball.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        In fact I wouldn’t we surprised if he were the number one fielder. ; )

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  9. Rick says:

    Jayson Werth has had a few ridiculous UZR/150 seasons in RF, even though this year was less impressive. Could it be him?

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  10. The A Team says:

    A lot of Phillies love here…

    My guess for the outfielder question is CARL CRAWFORD.

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    • walkoffblast says:

      I would have guessed Crawford but based on the guys he listed from OF in the top 20 I think it will be Gutierrez.

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      • The A Team says:

        Maybe Gutierrez just slipped under my radar in past seasons, but did he get enough playing time in ’07 to find his way to a top 5 ranking? Maybe I’m not understanding the format because I thought the same thing when he mentioned Morgan.

        I also didn’t know about Crawford’s -1.2 UZR in ’07 so Gutierrez is probably right. UZR can be frustrating, how does a guy have seven seasons above 9.3 UZR/150 and five seasons above 11.8 and still manage to put up an empty -1.2 in ’07?

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      • Paul Thomas says:

        How did Jason Bay hit at a league-average level for a whole season?

        Fluctuations happen.

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  11. LeeTro says:

    Being the person I am, I had to look this up myself. I promise no spoiler alerts. The bottom 5 have been covered fairly well, but one of the top 5 players hasn’t even been mentioned yet, probably because of his lack of playing time this year. I personally didn’t think of him, though everyone thinks of him as all-defense.

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  12. neuter_your_dogma says:

    No Bourn or Beltran love?

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  13. Steve Sommer says:

    A couple of other names to mention that would probably rank highly… Omar Vizquel and Jack Wilson. I did some stuff over at my place on shortstops (albeit using UZR/150), so I’m fairly certain that these two would rank pretty high

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  14. BlackOps says:


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  15. Cesar says:

    It’s Jayson Werth, 07 and 08 were awesome seasons for him. CFs get punished in UZR. At least that’s what I found out after going over every outfield in the majors. Maybe, just maybe I should get a life.

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    • LeeTro says:

      Werth is actually 43rd on the list, or 32nd if you do not include the catchers, since they have no UZR. As much as CFs get punished in their UZR, corner OFs get punished even more by the positional adjustment.

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  16. Cesar says:

    Actually Gutierrez also scored higher than Gomez, so maybe there’s a mistake by Mr. Carruth. I stand by my findings.

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  17. Bryan says:

    Noting that Braun is a near miss for this list points out one other thing that needs to be tweaked in this analysis. I realize that you took into account position in the analysis, but much of what is dragging Braun down is the time he spent at third 3 years ago and those data must have been included. Over the last two years when he only played LF he hasnt posted a great UZR, but it doesnt approach the time he spent at thrid.

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