Player’s View: Should Defensive Metrics Factor into the Gold Glove?

I recently posed a question to 11 players and three coaches. It was based on the new selection process for awarding Gold Gloves. Beginning this year, defensive metrics will comprise 25 percent of the “vote,” with 75 percent remaining in the hands of managers and coaches.

How much should defensive metrics factor into the Gold Glove award?

Their responses are listed below in alphabetical order.

——

Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox infielder: “I don’t know exactly how all that stuff works, but I will say this: There are some people who go after a ball and not quite get to it, but they traveled a long way to come close. Do they get credit for that range? How you’re positioned also impacts whether you get to a ball. Is that factored in?

“Overall, I guess it’s just another tool. I don’t know how that stuff is measured, so I can‘t really offer much of an opinion as to whether it‘s a good thing or not.”

Tom Brookens, Detroit Tigers third base coach: “It should be factored in, although 25 percent would be as much as I’d like to see. My eyes tell me who makes good plays and who doesn’t. But honestly, a lot of times we don’t see certain players a lot. It’s sometimes hard to judge how good a guy is compared to another guy. We seen one guy play six games and another play 16. We’re inevitably going to see a lot of nice plays by the guy we saw 16 times, and it will stick in our mind. I’d be in favor of looking at the stats and evaluating them myself.”

Brian Butterfield, Boston Red Sox third base coach: “I’m still learning about the different methods of measuring range. When I vote… I think the majority should be the eyeballs of the coaches, but I also want to see the numbers. If a guy has a high error total, I certainly have to consider that.

“Before all the sabermetrics came in, I would tell our people upstairs that I want a numbers sheet before voting. I want to see things like errors and total chances. Sometimes total chances might better define a player. A guy positions himself better or has more range, and is he playing behind a strikeout pitching staff or a ground ball pitching staff? A lot factors in. Defining a good defensive player is an inexact science.

“You also only see guys a certain amount of times over the course of the season. I consider that and would hope other voters consider that too. I think the coaches need to take some time when they fill out their ballots. This is an important award for a young man. I don’t take it lightly, so if numbers make our choices better, that’s a good thing.”

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins infielder: “This is the first I’ve heard of it. I think they should [play a role]. In the past, a lot of who wins a defensive award has had to do with offensive stats. Guys I felt were the best at their position defensively didn’t win because they got out-hit. As much as I don’t like sabermetrics — you don’t play the game on paper — it could be a good thing as far as defensive awards.”

J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles infielder: “I think that’s fair, and I think it’s good the coaches get a chance to look at those statistics. Obviously, statistics mean a lot. I think defensive stats are starting to hold more weight. They’ve started coming up with some new ones and if they show who the better defensive players are, I’m all for it.”

Torii Hunter, Detroit Tigers outfielder: “I don’t have no say about that, because I don’t really care for it. I’m not a big fan of sabermetrics.”

Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers outfielder: “How much? All of it, really. It’s the Gold Glove, right? That’s what it should be based on. It will be interesting to see how it goes and I think it’s fine they’re doing that.”

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “The numbers should play a big role, because they let you know… but that’s not up to me. I just go out and play my best. But I do wonder how they measure. You have to look at how the outfielders are shifting. You’ll see certain balls drop because an outfielder is playing more to one side. A certain pitcher has higher velocity so you might play oppo, but he hits the ball where you’d have been for a pitcher with less velocity.

“But hey, however they feel like making it. One of the best centerfielders out there is Austin Jackson. He was my pick the last three years for the Gold Glove. I want to win it myself, but all I can do is go out there and play the best defense for my team.”

Mick Kelleher, New York Yankees first base coach: “For a starting point, 25 percent is good and we’ll see how it goes. I like the idea of incorporating that, because it will help us get away from it being a popularity contest where a guy with a good bat is always winning a Gold Glove. I’ve seen a lot of guys I felt were the best at their position not get the Gold Glove. That was happening when I was a player back in the 1970s. This could help correct that.

“If you have a great defensive year and lead the league in fielding, you should win it. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest. And defense is just like offense. You don’t lead the league in hitting six years in a row, and you don’t lead in defense every year either. But we’ve had guys win the Gold Glove 10 years in a row, just because of his reputation. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good fielders, but you couldn’t tell me there wasn’t somebody along the line who didn’t deserve it more. So in my opinion, 25 percent is a good starting point, and if we like how it’s working out, maybe we can increase it.”

John McDonald, Boston Red Sox infielder: “Ideally, you judge off of watching guys day in and day out, rather than highlights and offensive numbers. I think there’s a place for the metric side of it, although numbers, like anything, can be skewed. I think having 25 percent metrics is a good thing. When you put managers and coaches in front of a ballot, offensive numbers factor into their Gold Glove awards. I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it. ’He didn’t hit well enough for me to vote for him.’ That blows me away.”

Lyle Overbay, New York Yankees infielder; “If I knew what all the defensive metrics were, I’d be able to offer a good opinion. I can’t really comment on things I’m not educated on. But I do think there should be something else that goes into it as a deciding factor. The coaches have a lot on their minds and sometimes maybe don’t do all their homework.

“As far as the process, I guess I’m glad they’re doing something. I can’t sit here and bash [the metrics] because they might be doing a good job with that. I know at times, if you haven’t played for a big-market team or hit well enough, you never got a Gold Glove.”

Brendan Ryan, New York Yankees infielder: “I think it should be part of it. I don’t know to what extent, but I like the idea of a panel devoting its time to getting it right. You have a nice blend of black-and-white numbers and a panel paying attention to what’s going on.

“It’s hard for the AL East to pay attention to the AL Central and have an accurate reading on what, say, a third baseman is bringing to the table defensively on an everyday basis. I don’t think it’s fair to the players in the league. Take me for example. I haven’t played against the Orioles hardly at all. Not saying I deserve to win, but they haven’t seen me play, so how would they know?

“We shouldn’t just keep repeating what we do. We should continue to get better when it comes to getting things right. The game is evolving.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox catcher: “A lot, I guess, but it depends on which defensive metrics. What are they going off of? I do know that in the past, the guy who wins the Gold Glove is the guy who hits the best. Brendan Ryan is one of the best gloves in baseball, but if he hits a buck-eighty, he’s not going to win one. If he hits .280, coaches will more likely look at him and say, ‘He does it day in and day out.’ That’s not right.”

Shane Victorino, Boston Red Sox outfielder: “Stats are used in every other aspect of the game. The game is judged by stats. Writers look at them when it comes to things like the MVP and the Cy Young. I think it’s good to implement them. But on the backside of that, what elements are they going to use? Do they account for the field you play on, the ground you cover? What metrics are going to be used?

“The coaches who are voting don’t get to see certain players very often. That makes it tough for them to judge. If you don’t see someone play every day, you can’t know how good he is. But you can look at metrics; you can line up all these pieces of paper and see, ’OK, this guy has five outfield assists and this guy has 10; this guy has one error and this guy has three.’ Numbers justify how good a player is defensively, just like offensive numbers. I’d like to be able to vote on my personal judgment, but I don’t see all of the players every day. I think it’s good to implement stats.”

——

Note: Thanks to Brandon Warne of ESPN Minnesota for procuring the quote from Brian Dozier.




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA

89 Responses to “Player’s View: Should Defensive Metrics Factor into the Gold Glove?”

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  1. Glen Perkins says:

    Hell yes.

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  2. Nathan Nathan says:

    One wonders if Austin Jackson is a bit tired of hearing what a great defender Torii Hunter is.

    It’s probably just that he’s younger and thus perhaps more open to advanced metrics.

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    • BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

      Austin Jackson = FireJoeMorgan generation.

      Torii Hunter = Joe Morgan.

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      • Snowman says:

        Torii Hunter = homophobic Joe Morgan

        Unless he backs off of it at some point, that should haunt every mention of his name from now until retirement.

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    • Billy says:

      He may also think they’re pretty nifty since he won a fielding bible award and it makes him feel appreciated. I know defensive metrics haven’t been as kind to him lately, but he’s young and probably is just having a down year.

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  3. Nathan says:

    Even for the guys that simply admitted they didn’t know much about the metrics, all these responses were pretty thoughtful and interesting (WTF Torii Hunter?).

    I really liked Adam Jones’s response in particular.

    Overall, I think most of these guys are seeing exactly what the geeks working on the measurements and analysis see — there’s a lot of value and improvements in how we can measure defensive value, to be sure, but there are still a lot of important factors that we haven’t been able to quantify effectively.

    Long story short, I hate to sound overly old school, but once in a while there are these cases where the metrics tell you one story, but your eyeballs tell you another, and you just can’t quite reconcile that difference in your head.

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    • David says:

      Yes but the big picture is that for most of the players, your eyes aren’t telling you nearly enough because you haven’t actually seen them enough. The problem isn’t that sometimes your eyes disagree with the stats, it’s that the stats cover 100% of plays and your eyes cover much, much less.

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      • Nathan says:

        Very true.

        But I wonder things like, how well does UZR adjust for park effects? Does adjusting based on historical norms implicitly cover issues like weather, turf/field quality, lighting? Or even if it doesn’t, are these factors too minor to be worth considering? (I think the answer is, they probably are too minor, it’s just food for thought.)

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        • David says:

          I acknowledge that UZR probably has a lot of flaws to work out but are they greater than the flaws inherent in trusting only your eyes? What about all the plays you don’t even watch? I hate it when old-school people try to argue that they shouldn’t use any sabermetrics because they aren’t perfect.

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    • TKDC says:

      Hunter won a lot of gold gloves he didn’t deserve because he got a reputation as some amazing over the wall catcher. He knows that the defensive metrics would have hurt him. It’s like Francouer saying if OBP were important, they’d put it on the scoreboard. These guys might know that these are their shortcomings, but why would they come out and say it?

      And, yes, kudos to Adam Jones for breaking the mold and being principled and honest – a pleasant surprise.

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      • Blasphemous says:

        This. It’s just human nature to remember (and place more value on) the incredible, highlight reel plays. The gold glove should be more about the guy who makes all the plays he should and has enough range to get to more than average for his position.

        Obviously (and thankfully the players interviewed all seem to get this..) what you do with the bat should play no part in the selection. Shouldn’t even be considered. There should be a qualifying amount of innings played, however. One thing that’s not discussed is whether it’s just the glove that’s being rewarded or is it the entire defensive package; glove, arm and legs (and head..)

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        • noseeum says:

          Range is the thing you need stats for. You can have two guys make the same play. The guy with great range makes it look routine. The guy with average range makes a highlight reel play. The eye test would give the nod to the second guy. Defensive metrics would make them equal for that particular play, and of course the increased range would bear out over the season to show who’s the better fielder.

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    • Dolemite says:

      Jones is lucky they dont use stats or Mike Trout would have his 2012 Gold Glove on his mantle….

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  4. Lakeside says:

    Really enjoyed Ryan’s comments, as he is someone who is an excellent defender but would never get the attention from managers across the league.

    I wonder if the man he replaced would agree with metrics being valued at 25%, :)

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  5. Thufir says:

    Good to see most of them are on board….

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  6. IZZY2112 says:

    I’m not sure of this column represents an accurate sample size of majors league baseball players, but it seems as if it does. On the whole, they seem more progressive on these issues than significant portions of the media.

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  7. Well Bearded Vogon says:

    Oh if only Jeter had been asked this question. It’s pretty brazen of his first base coach to turn on him and offer the opinion he gave, at least.

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  8. Bad Bill says:

    So are teams outside the AL East and Central not allowed to have opinions on this?

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  9. Chris says:

    So, this survey was conducted at a Yankees-Red Sox game, I take it?

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  10. Bryrob58 says:

    In other news, Brian Dozier has been placed on the DL with a fractured jaw, after reportedly being punched quite hard by David Laurila.

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  11. CJ says:

    Great comments from the players. I loved Adam Jones comments. Even he knows he didn’t deserve the Gold Glove last year. Michael Bourn was robbed last year. Brendan Ryan has been robbed for several years now.

    The best quote of all was from John McDonald, “When you put managers and coaches in front of a ballot, offensive numbers factor into their Gold Glove awards. I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it.” That is EXACTLY why defensive stats need to be utilized.

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    • David says:

      It’s no wonder fans think they can be an MLB manager when something like that makes them seem really stupid.

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    • Joebrady says:

      +1 for Jones. Hard to believe Ajax doesn’t win a GG. I love watching him play. Brett Gardner also. I hate the NYY, like the good RS fan I am, but I attend a lot of NYY, being from NY. And Gardner is near flawless.

      And Crisp, in 2007, had the single best season I have ever seen in CF, including Blair and Maddux, and two of the OF awards went to Hunter and Sizemore, who weren’t a fraction as good.

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      • Tigers Fan says:

        As a Tigers fan, it’s not surprising he hasn’t won a gold glove. He rarely, if ever, leaves his feet. He’s pretty good when the ball is over his head, but not great when the ball is hit in front of him.

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  12. Ian R. says:

    I love John McDonald’s quote:

    “I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it. ’He didn’t hit well enough for me to vote for him.’”

    We’ve known forever that offense matters in the Gold Glove voting, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a coach saying explicitly that he factored hitting in. Like McDonald himself, I’m blown away.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      Agreed. You can say what you want about fielding sabermetrics value, but MLB players and coach’s using hitting ability to judge who is the best fielder is just plain stupid.

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    • CJ says:

      I am like you, we all knew that this was happening but this is the first time that someone has actually said it.

      Allowing offense to factor in the Gold Glove award voting would be like allowing defense to factor in whether or not a player is deserving of the Silver Slugger award.

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  13. Evan says:

    It’s nice to hear some of them receptive to the idea, but I still don’t understand why anyone cares what players think.

    They’re merely subjects in a huge experiment. Doctors don’t ask patients in a drug trial how they should analyze the results, because the patients don’t know anything about running an experiment.

    Rat’s View: How’s Your Maze?

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    • David says:

      I think of it as not an experiment on the players but an experiment on baseball performance at the professional level, which makes the player’s opinions some of the most important in the whole experiment. They’re consciously affecting the results, unlike a subject’s immune system in a drug trial.

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    • Alex says:

      Terrible analogy. General Managers are not running experiments here.

      I think there is a fundamental difference in how older vs. newer fans view the game: older fans appreciate the story and appreciate watching the game. Newer ones view games as simulations, with variations. It is a generalization of course.

      The players know how to play the game. No matter the results, general managers cannot replicate the results of players by throwing anyone out there. They’re irreplaceable, unlike lab rats.

      You’re comment however, fits your analogy perfectly: if you are not employed to evaluate baseball, then why should anyone care what you have to say?

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    • Bip says:

      I am not interested in this article because it can be used to draw far-reaching conclusions about how to evaluate the game of baseball. I just think it’s interesting what players think, as does basically everyone else reading this article, I presume.

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      • Ron says:

        A post with 11 out of over 750(at any time) MLB players used to draw conclusions? This is fangraphs most people here know what sample size means. What conclusions this draws is that Tori Hunter doesn’t like sabermetrics, Adam Jones thinks there is a place for numbers, Ryan has an overall enlightened view of the game. It is nice to see players responses to these questions because it gives us a good idea about what the players think of their craft.

        Further it is important to know what they think because these guys are going to be the coaches and managers of the next generation. Interestingly I could see Brendan Ryan and Hunter both getting into coaching (although Hunter is hopefully going to be spending a bunch of time hanging out with David Robinson in South Bend on autumn Saturdays over the next three years).
        If these guys are going to be the future leaders of baseball it is important that we know what they think to better understand the game.

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        • Billy says:

          Evan, I hope you come back and check your comment and read this. I don’t think your a jerk, but I think you need to think about what you said.

          It’s that kind of talk that is causing any divide between people like us and the Brian Doziers and Torii Hunters of the world. Because some sabermetric types treat them like they’re stupid. That’s not really right. Maybe I understand statistical analysis better than Torii Hunter, but I’m sure there’s LOTS that I could learn from him about baseball too. His insight from the inside could probably help me understand the numbers in front of me better.

          I’m sure most people at some point have been really ticked off by a professional who assumes that the rest of us are stupid and talk down to us when we actually might know some things that they don’t occasionally. You mentioned doctors. In my experience, they’re often the worst culprits of this, often ignoring patients’ expressions of concern or telling them symptoms, and just assuming they know everything already. I’m not saying I should be prescribing stuff for myself, but I don’t make things up either.

          Don’t assume people’s opinions and experiences don’t matter. We don’t like it when “old school” baseball people treat us that way. We shouldn’t do it to the players.

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  14. rageon says:

    As much as I don’t like sabermetrics — you don’t play the game on paper — it could be a good thing as far as defensive awards.”

    This makes my head hurt for like 10 different reasons.

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  15. Joebrady says:

    There is nothing wrong with making the numbers available, but over the course of one season, things like UZR/150 are incredibly inconsistent.

    Looking at Ellsbury, he went from 14.3 in ’08, to (10.0) in ’09, to 20.7 in ’10. As a RS fan, he is a very good fielder, but he certainly doesn’t go from being very good, to bad, to very, very good over the course of 3 seasons. Barring injuries, most fielding is pretty consistent. Did Crisp really go from being 25.3 to (5.1) to 20.8?

    I think over 5+ years, your averages settle down, but the variance year-over-year is huge on some of these stats.

    But I guess it is still better than giving guys like Jeter and DH Palmeiro the GG.

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    • IZZY2112 says:

      Well, perhaps you’re partially right that the metrics are inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean they’re an accurate reflection of a player’s defensive performance. Look at James Loney. He hit .288 than .249 then .296. Does that mean that batting average is incorrect or something? No. I think people suffer from the expectation that fielding should always represent true talent levels, when it is likely that it does not.

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    • Consider This says:

      Players can be very inconsistent in their offensive performance year-to-year, so why is it so hard to think the same could happen with defense? Ellsbury is an extreme example, but look at someone like Aubrey Huff on offense as a parallel.

      Mick Kelleher basically said the same thing in this article, which I thought was very insightful.

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    • cass says:

      I’m totally with you. Same is true of offensive statistics – can’t believe em. There is no way that Adam Dunn fell of that much for one year only to come back the next. Your eyes tell you he’s the same player. Don’t trust stats like home runs.

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    • Toffer Peak says:

      There is nothing wrong with making the numbers available, but over the course of one season, things like offense (WRAA) are incredibly inconsistent.

      Looking at Ellsbury, he went from (5.9) in ’10, to 44.6 in ’11, to (1.1) in ’12. As a RS fan, he is a very good hitter, but he certainly doesn’t go from being bad, to very, very good, to poor over the course of 3 seasons. Barring injuries, most hitting is pretty consistent. Did Crisp really go from hitting 8 home runs to 32 and back to 4?

      I think over 5+ years, your averages settle down, but the variance year-over-year is huge on some of these stats.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      I partially disagree on the fielding year to year. You don’t suddenly become a great fielder or bad fielder in one year. (age makes a difference of course, but that usually happens slowly) The year to year deviation would be errors made, bad throws etc. Your range doesn’t vary year to year if you are healthy.

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  16. Cuddy says:

    The opinions of athletes are boring, I would rather listen to the chewing of dry toast.

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  17. AK7007 says:

    I don’t know why there is so much “yeah, but I have no idea how it works.” For people whom these kind of numbers actually influence how much they will be paid, and who supposedly spend their time dedicated to their craft, it’s crazy to be ignorant. If you wanted to simplify for them, then explaining BIS data as “scouting quantified” would put a lot of minds at ease.

    Ben Lindbergh’s recent take would explain it to them pretty well: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9603949/the-tragedy-derek-jeter-defense
    “As (Bill) James put it, ‘Watching Derek Jeter make 40 plays and then watching Adam Everett make 40 plays at the same position is sort of like watching video of Barbara Bush dancing at the White House, and then watching Demi Moore dancing in Striptease.’”

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    • TKDC says:

      I think their agents can take care of that. Knowing more about advanced defensive metrics doesn’t help you do better in the field, or at least it is not necessary to optimize your defensive potential.

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    • SCMF says:

      I disagree that these players professing to not know how defensive stats work are crazy or ignorant. A player not knowing how UZR (or whatever defensive stat) is quantified doesn’t really affect their professional capability. They need to know what they need to do to be better on the field and knowing how to calc UZR or DRS, or any other stat, don’t change that at all. For example, say Joe Schmo is a fantastic hitter, but he doesn’t know how wRC+ is calculated. But he continually puts up a 130 wRC+ because he knows how to recognize a breaking pitch. That is pratcial knowledge for his profession. His applied knowledge of the actual playing of hitting is the key knowledge for him, not the way to calc his wRC+. Take that same principle and apply it to defense. Sure, it could help a professional baseball player to know how some sabers evaluate defense, but it’s neither ignorant nor crazy not to know it.

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      • AK7007 says:

        Totally wrong. It can help to know how you are doing in relation to these metrics – look specifically at Jeter’s disconnect between his perceptions and reality in his fielding, and subsequent attempts to improve.

        I wasn’t specifically commenting on that however – if I’m being evaluated on something, it would be prudent of me to understand what that something is. I don’t see how that’s something you can argue with. I like Gabe Kapler’s take as well: http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2013/07/22/stats-101-time-to-re-educate-players-in-meaningful-statistics/

        “Times have changed, but substantially less among players. While progressive front offices have altered the way they evaluate us, we have lagged far behind in the way we grade ourselves. It’s akin to unhealthy communication in a relationship.”
        I don’t know why anybody would promote unhealthy communication with their bosses.

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        • TKDC says:

          There is a difference between optimizing your skills and understanding how metrics work. As a defensive player, you want to make as many plays as you can. You don’t need to understand metrics to do this. You just need to try to make as many plays as you can.

          Jeter never initiated an attempt to improve his game. A coach did. All he did was listen to the coach and learn. That failure is not Jeter’s fault. It is the Yankees coaching staff’s fault. There’s noting in how UZR is calculated, that if explained to a player, could allow that player to magically become a better defensive player.

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    • Billy says:

      Personally, I was happy to hear guys like Lyle Overbay admit they don’t know enough about it to give a good answer. It takes a wise man to know what they DON’T know. Better that than be like some other people who just say things are dumb because they haven’t bothered to try and understand it.

      Baseball players have been good at baseball long before we stat guys came about. They understand how to make it happen (well, the good ones). We simply observe it and see if we notice anything new and cool that might be interesting. That doesn’t make either of us ignorant until we start claiming to know better than we actually do.

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    • BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

      For people whom these kind of numbers actually influence how much they will be paid, and who supposedly spend their time dedicated to their craft, it’s crazy to be ignorant.

      This assumes that front offices use UZR. If they use a different defensive statistic that gets a different result than UZR, then there is no need for them to know about UZR.

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  18. Tim says:

    Thanks to Brandon Warne of ESPN Minnesota

    Does Brandon work for every media outlet in the known universe yet?

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  19. NateW says:

    brief summary: the guys with range are for it… the others are a little skeptical. shocking :)

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  20. Josh Herzenberg says:

    Just curious about some opinions here. It seems as though players are generally intrigued by the incorporation of more advanced stats (David’s interviews, much like this one in particular, help open up that line of communication between the players themselves and fans- many thanks as always, David), because they are aware of the importance and recognize that, well, the human eye can’t catch everything. However, as noted here especially, many of those players simply “can’t comment” because of a lack of knowledge on the subject.

    My question is this: do you feel as though an increased knowledge of advanced metrics would be beneficial to players? I believe that people should focus on solely what is needed for them to complete their jobs to the best of their abilities, but perhaps an advanced knowledge could help them do so? And if so, how much knowledge?

    I’m well aware of the sabermetrically-inclined nature of this website, as I peruse the posts here daily and would consider myself cut from the same cloth. I find it an interesting conversation to be had, however, and one that could fall within not only baseball operations, but spread into player development and throughout an organization as a whole.

    As per usual, someone has already articulated my opinion to a much better extent. I’d love to hear some thoughts here as well: http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2013/07/22/stats-101-time-to-re-educate-players-in-meaningful-statistics/

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    • pft says:

      In terms of defense and even offense teams are using much more advanced stats than are available to the public, in part because they have much better data to work with. Players and coaches are leery of using stuff like UZR to evaluate performance because UZR is just a gross estimate with wide error bands that does not take into account players position.

      Many of the founders of what we call the SABR movement are working for or have worked for one team or another. As such, we are probably entering the dark ages in the publicly available stats as much of the new ground breaking stuff is proprietary.

      Stuff like park adjustments and 1 yr UZR in the public domain are so crude, they make adjustments to advanced stats, and WAR in particular, pretty misleading at times. Some of the adjustments to offense stats, and the defensive stats in their entirety , are not very transparent. No splits or game logs for defensive stats make it impossible for anyone in the public to assess them.

      I mean, you can have DRS and UZR being far apart by as much as 10 runs defensively for the same player, and WAR for the same player off by 50% depending on if you use Fan Graphs or BRef.

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  21. anon23 says:

    You forgot the missing part of Victorino’s quote: “Should be 100% UZR/150.”

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  22. Hitler But Sadder says:

    I thought Tori Hunter’s quote was a joke. It is really disappointing that numbers has divided people in the baseball community. I am with Josh Herzenberg with this and think that more attention needs to be made to create a bridge between the players and these stats.

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    • steex says:

      I thought the same about Hunter. It doesn’t help that he said “I don’t have no say…” That’s a good way to make it sound like your opinion should be dismissed.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      I suspect that any statistic that doesn’t reflect positively on your play may be dismissed as unimportant. I think most players, at least initially, care about the quality of their play. Keep in mind these guys are the cream of the crop, most likely the best players on any team they ever played on as they grew up. Now a obscure statistic says you are not very good, I’m not surprised at Torri Hunter’s reaction.

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  23. Jordan says:

    Dave, did you suggest 25% to these players and coaches, or did they all come up with the same number on their own?

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    • steex says:

      It wasn’t a suggestion, this is gauging reaction to the announcement that defensive statistics will account for 25% of the determination of the Gold Glove Award this year.

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    • I prefaced the question by asking each player/coach if they were aware of the new process, and yes, I explained it would now be 25% metrics. None of the 14 — not even the three coaches — were aware of the change.

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  24. Razor says:

    I sense my baseball interest has gone too far when I read things like “I don’t like sabermetrics” and my feelings are a little hurt.

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  25. Scott Smith says:

    This was a good article that prompted good discussion. As far as the overall debate, like most things the true answer probably lies in a balance between stats and eyes. For every proponent of stats, there are players and coaches who will tell you the stats don’t always point to the best defenders. For every player and coach, there are stats that can and should factor into their voting to some degree.
    For example, my son and I have an ongoing debate about Jeter. He maintains that Jeter won five Gold Gloves on the basis of his offense, and that the defensive metrics never showed him as even a good defensive player let alone a Gold Glove winner. My counter-argument is that while Jeter may not have been the best defensive SS in baseball the five years he won it, the fact remains that enough players and coaches thought he was those years so he at least must have been among the best even if the stats don’t agree. It would be like arguing that the batting title should not be awarded to the player with the highest batting average because his OBP or Babit wasn’t high enough. If the Sabermetrics crowd really has their pride wounded then by all means go and find a sponsor and create a new award and make it entirely stat based. Until then, be content that the stats have a 25% seat at the table and stop offending the practiced and knowledgable eyes of those players and coaches who do take this award seriously and vote for who they believe are the best defenders.

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    • CJ says:

      “If the Sabermetrics crowd really has their pride wounded then by all means go and find a sponsor and create a new award and make it entirely stat based.”

      They have – the Fielding Bible awards are a MUCH more accurate representation of defense than the Gold Glove awards. http://www.fieldingbible.com/the-winners.asp

      Your son is correct. Jeter won Gold Gloves because he was a great hitter for a shortstop, played on the most well known sports team in the world, and was a great leader. He has never been a great defender.

      In my opinion, baseball scouts should be voting on the awards – not the coaches and managers. They probably see a good sample from ALL players, and not just a few of them. They are also less likely to be skewed by flawed stats like fielding %.

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      • Ron says:

        I would guess scouts might end up agreeing with the numbers a decent percent of the time, even without seeing the numbers. there might be a some disagreement but it would not end up completely stupid.

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    • CM52 says:

      Paragraphs are your friend.

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  26. Palmerio for GG! says:

    “stop offending the practiced and knowledgable eyes of those players and coaches who do take this award seriously and vote for who they believe are the best defenders.”

    John McDonald, Boston Red Sox infielder: “Ideally, you judge off of watching guys day in and day out, rather than highlights and offensive numbers. I think there’s a place for the metric side of it, although numbers, like anything, can be skewed. I think having 25 percent metrics is a good thing. When you put managers and coaches in front of a ballot, offensive numbers factor into their Gold Glove awards. I know that, because I’ve heard coaches talk about it. ’He didn’t hit well enough for me to vote for him.’ That blows me away.”

    Um, what?

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  27. BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

    “Do they account for the field you play on, the ground you cover?”

    Interesting tidbit for Victorino to bring up. Are there park adjustments for UZR or DRS? Should there be? We already know that batted balls play differently in different parks, but do we know how much of an affect it has on fielding?

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    • pft says:

      MGL had given a description on park adjustments they use for UZR and it seems just a very crude one like most park adjustments are. Ideally one would adjust the values of probability of outs in each grid for each park and not just adjust the overall cumulative number that comes from the generic values for each grid, since positioning at Fenway is much different than at other parks, especially LF and to a lesser extent RF.

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      • MGL says:

        Currently UZR uses a regressed PF for 9 portions of the OF (I think), L/R/C, short, medium, and deep and one PF for the IF which basically reflects how quick the IF is (affecting the time it takes balls to get through to the OF and also balls that die for IF hits).

        It is incredibly hard to do defensive PF’s, mostly because of sample size issues. Once you start breaking the data down into lots of grids or however you want to do it, you would be surprised at how much data (seasons) you need to get anything reliable. So you regress as much as you need to to make up for that.

        To be honest, I do some seat of the pants regression to reflect a kind of Bayesian approach that takes the characteristics of the park into consideration. For example, if you see a huge sample PF in deep LF at Fenway and in all the OF (and IF actually) positions at Coors, that means a lot more than the same thing in a more or less generic park. I.e., you would regress the data a lot less in those two parks because you know going in that there is going to be a significant park factor (that’s the Bayesian prior with it being a “number”).

        As I said, it ain’t easy doing defensive park factors so I do the best I can. They are not great but they are much better than nothing. What you really want to accomplish with things like this that are difficult and unreliable is to make sure that you do SOMETHING in the parks in which it is obvious that there should be a significant PF. For the more neutral and generic parks, it doesn’t really make much difference.

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        • MGL says:

          that’s the Bayesian prior with it being a “number”

          should be “without” it being a number. IOW, it is a poor man’s Bayesian approach. Rather than assign prior probabilities or a probability distribution, you do something like, “OK, I see a .7 PF in Fenway LF (Fenway LF’er only have 70% of the average catch rates among all fly balls and line drives to deep LF), normally I would regress that to .93 based on the sample size, but surely much if not most of that .73 is a true measure of the difficulty of catching fly balls that hit the wall, so I’ll make it .8 rather than .92.” The .8 is a stab in the dark.

          Deep fly balls are a bad example, BTW, since the data tells us when a ball hits a wall and whether a fielder could have caught it or not. Short fly balls to LF are a better example, as they are caught more often because the LF’er plays so shallow.

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  28. pft says:

    I think the key is which stats to use. You really have only 2 IMO, DRS and UZR for positions other than P (SSS) and C, and I would add 1B to that list too for reasons given below. For other positions, except perhaps at LF at Fenway, if both agree reasonably well for all players being considered, go with them.

    If UZR and DRS are not agreeing well, you have a couple of choices, average them or pick the one that seems most suitable based on your observation. The latter is difficult if you have not seen most of the games for the player, and you should weight them a bit less than if they agreed.

    Consider also the park, especially for OF. For example I don’t see any of them getting Fenway right. LF’ers always get killed there because of the wall although DRS seems to have the best methodology for handling it, and RF and CF’ers numbers are wildly volatile from Y2Y (look at JD and Ellsbury’s numbers for examples).

    I do wish we had H-A splits for UZR and DRS so we can see how park effects are impacting the overall numbers. As I recall these splits were promised for UZR a couple of years ago but never delivered for some reason.

    Not sure any of them get 1B right, probably because position strategy of a team skews the numbers so much at 1B, and also because scoops is not the true measure of how a 1B handles throws. A 1B who stretches well and has a long reach gets balls a guy like Napoli for example can only dream of even if Napoli is pretty good at scoops. A LH 1Bman also gives you a better chance at GIDP and picking runners off. Due to SSS issues, these can’t always be reflected in the yearly numbers.

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  29. dumb as rocks says:

    These guys are pretty dumb, sorry for being direct. Sabermetrics deals with their JOBS–they should know a lot about them. It reminds of the time I went to the car dealership to check out a Malibu and the Chevy representative knew less about the car than me. Pretty basic things, like knowing the different engine options, displacement of engines, number of air bags. :(

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      Mike Trout is a good player because he plays all aspects of the game very well. We don’t need stats to tell us that. The stats tell us that he is MUCH better than most players, so they add a quantity to a quality judgment. Baseball is a game where the statistical nuances have not caught up with the quality judgment.
      I don’t think that a statistical nuance can necessarily affect direct change on the field. Dunn will still strike out a lot no matter what the stats say. Look at Joey Votto being criticized for walking so much. I don’t think it makes you dumb becaause most of this could not make a difference in how you play.

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  30. Scott Smith says:

    “Um, what?”

    I am not clear on what Palmiero GG’s comment is supposed to mean, but in the case of John McDonald’s comment, which I thought was good, clearly the coaches he is referring to that are voting for offense in casting their ballot for a defensive award are not among those who I would consider are taking their responsibility seriously. I do like the idea of involving the scouts in the voting as well, since they may see all the players more often than anyone. However, I suspect that if a scout has an opinion that goes against the numbers, he will be as roundly criticized as the players and coaches who vote against the numbers.

    As for the Fielding Bible awards, I must confess I had never heard of them, but am glad they exist I suppose. Too bad they receive no press, however, maybe their existence helped in some way to bring the 25% into play.

    A very interesting poll would be to ask players for their votes (pick one position to keep it simple), then show them the numbers for a season, and ask them afterward if they would change their voting based on what the numbers told them.

    In the big picture, proponents of the value of Sabermetrics need to focus more on educating the players and coaches and showing them the value of paying attention to the numbers (Clint Hurdle is a good example, his radical infield shifts are a direct result of this influence this season), and showing them how understanding the numbers can help them as players and coaches. Instead, what I keep seeing are examples of looking down upon anyone who doesn’t “buy in” completely, and just throwing their hands up at the ignorance. Again, there has to be some balance and mutual respect in order to move forward. There will always be cases of players who are either too dumb or don’t want to know because their reputations might suffer (Tori Hunter is one or the other), but you cannot expect a player to adopt a new mindset about their profession by telling them they don’t get it when they are the ones playing the game and producing the very stats you are hitting them over the head with. If the Sabermetrics folks know they are absolutely right all the time (and most of them seem to), then just be a little humble and proceed with respect as a teacher might with a student.

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    • Jason B says:

      And yet you look down on the SABR crowd in your first post with “here’s what you should be content with” and “stop offending the practiced and knowledgeable eyes of the players and coaches”.

      Respect, she is a two-way street.

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    • Charles D says:

      Teachers often become frustrated when their students openly deride what they are being taught. Although I’ve seen the “your side is meaner” debate too many times to start it again today.

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  31. Scott Smith says:

    Actually, even though I am an old guy, I consider myself one of the Sabermetrics crowd (with some reservations) so there’s no looking down at anyone – at least not intentionally! I just think the new school of thinking would make better headway with the old school if it was’t an adversarial relationship. Of course people are always defensive about what they don’t understand, so I think it’s incumbent on the new school to proceed with patience and respect.

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