Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 All Defensive Teams

Major League Baseball announced the 2012 Gold Glove award winners last night. As a suggested prerequisite to the information below, please check out Joe Posnanski's brilliant juxtaposition of the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible award winners.

The flaws of defensive record keeping are well known and, so far, inevitable. In fact, the safest way to measure defensive metrics is with a sample size no smaller than three seasons.

Unfortunately, fans like to reward greatness one year at a time. It would be great if we gave out fielding awards for the bulk of the past three seasons each year, like the 2010-2012 winners this year, the 2011-2013 award after next, and so on.

Before we crunch numbers pertaining to the past three years THIS LINK has the custom 2010-2012 MLB All Defensive Teams, and below are MLB All-Defensive Teams for this season, based on a variety of 2012 fielding metrics.

Fewest Errors
An antiquated stat that is still one of the Big Three kept in all box scores, with tiebreakers as games played.
C: Brian McCann 2
Brian McCann throws accurately
1b: Mark Teixeira 1 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 2 (GG)
3b: Aramis Ramirez 7
SS: J.J. Hardy 6 (GG)
LF: Desmond Jennings 0
CF: Curtis Granderson 0
RF: Ichiro Suzuki 1
P: Zack Greinke 0

Fielding Percentage
Switching our focus from "fewest errors" to "highest fielding percentage", only the 3rd baseman changes.
C: Brian McCann .998
1b: Mark Teixeira .999 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney .997 (GG)
3b: Chase Headley .977 (GG)
SS: J.J. Hardy .992 (GG)
J.J. Hardy lead the upstart Orioles
LF: Desmond Jennings 1.000
CF: Curtis Granderson 1.000
RF: Ichiro Suzuki .996
P: Zack Greinke 1.000

A pleasant and thoughtful man, named Mitchel Lichtman, invented Ultimate Zone Rating about 10 years ago. As The Hardball Times' glossary notes:
Essentially, UZR looks at the trajectory and speed of every batted ball and, based on overall major league averages, assigns a probability that a certain position will field it. If a player at that position fields it, he gets credit above the overall major league average. If he doesn't, he gets negative credit.

Alex Gordon has a great arm
Ultimate Zone Rating
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 17.7
2b: Darwin Barney 13.1 (GG)
3b: Mike Moustakas 16.8
SS: Brendan Ryan 14.7
LF: Alex Gordon 14.1 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 22.4
RF: Jason Heyward 22.9 (GG)

We finally see a big difference in names from Henry Chadwick's traditional "Errors" and "Fielding %" Darwin Barney is the only player to appear on all three lists above.

UZR is a household name across the sabr community, but it often takes a backseat to its rate stat cousin...

Adrian Gonzalez is a favorite to win
the 2013 NL Gold Glove at 1st base 
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 16.6
2b: Mark Ellis 16.1
3b: David Wright 16.8
SS: Brendan Ryan 17.1
LF: Alex Gordon 11.7 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 22.5
RF: Jason Heyward 22.1 (GG)

The UZR team remains the same, except that Mark Ellis and David Wright joined the party.

Defensive Runs Saved
DRS is a personal favorite.
Yadier Molina's defense > All
C: Yadier Molina 16 (GG)
1b: Mark Teixeira 17 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 28 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie 20
SS: Brendan Ryan 27
LF: Alex Gordon 24 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 24
RF: Josh Reddick 22 (GG)
P: Mark Buehrle (GG)

Greetings to Molina, Lawrie, Reddick, and Buehrle. Darwin Barney regains his spot at the keystone from Mark Ellis.

Let's see Lawrie's numbers in 2 years
Brett Lawrie may have benefited from a statistical anomaly, Baseball-Reference's Sean Foreman alludes to in this comment. The Blue Jays would often position Lawrie defensively in an exaggerated shift. At times, he would make routine plays on balls hit right at him, while stationed well outside of his traditional zone. This could artificially inflate his Defensive Runs Saved and B-R dWAR.

David Wright was the second highest rated third baseman by DRS.

We converted Defensive Runs Saved to a per 9 inning rate...

Only Pitcher differs from raw Defensive Runs Saved, as Jake Westbrook scored a bit higher than Mark Buerhle.
C: Yadier Molina .12 (GG)
Brendan Ryan's DRS/9 was
the best for every position
1b: Mark Teixeira .15 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney .20 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie .17
SS: Brendan Ryan .21
LF: Alex Gordon .15 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn .17
RF: Josh Reddick .17 (GG)
P: Jake Westbrook .57

Baseball-Reference dWAR
The defensive composite score that accounts for a players defensive contribution to their Wins Above Replacement score on Baseball-Reference is actually based on Baseball Info Solutions' Defensive Runs Saved, so the carbon copy below makes sense.
C: Yadier Molina 2.6 (GG)
Jason Heyward is still improving.
1b: Mark Teixeira 1.0 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 3.6 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie 2.4
SS: Brendan Ryan 3.6
LF: Alex Gordon 1.9 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 3.0
RF: Jason Heyward 1.5 (GG)
P: 20 tied with 0.1

Fangraphs dWAR (Fld)
C: Yadier Molina 10.3 (GG)
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 13.8
2b: Danny Espinosa 13
3b: Mike Moustakas 16.8
SS: J.J. Hardy 11.4 (GG)
LF: Martin Prado 17.8
CF: Michael Bourn 22.4
RF:Jason Heyward 21.5 (GG)

Espinosa and Prado make it on the squad for the first time. J.J. Hardy surprisingly reappears for the first time since Fielding %.

Some of the finest sabr crowd sourcing around is readily available at Tom Tango's blog.

Results from the 2012 edition of his annual fans' scouting report bring up a few interesting new names...

Tango's Fans Scouting Report 2012
The Eye Test Lineup
C: Yadier Molina 77 (GG)
1b: Albert Pujols/Brandon Belt 65
2b: Brandon Phillips 81
3b: Adrian Beltre 82 (GG)
SS: Brendan Ryan 87
LF: Alex Gordon (GG)/Starling Marte 75
CF: Franklin Gutierrez/Peter Bourjos 78
RF: Jason Heyward (GG)/Ichiro Suzuki 77

Some of these players get votes due to their reputations, but personally, I like when young players are recognized. I've seen Starling Marte play on TV a little bit, but not yet in person.

Defense really needs to be seen in person.

If Starling Marte's game is as exciting as it sounds, Pirates fans are in for a treat the next half decade. In this article, Marte, through his interpreter, tells Tom Singer: "The player I've always looked up to was Vladimir Guerrero. I followed him, and he's the type of player I wanted to grow up to be."

Our next and final group, John Dewan's Fielding Bible Awards, are compiled from the thoughtful votes of a hand-picked panel of writers, fans, and statistical gurus like the aforementioned Joe Posnanski, Tango, John Dewan, Bill James, Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Doug Glanville, and more.

Posnanski calls Buehrle
"a defense savant"
Fielding Bible Awards
C: Yadier Molina (GG)
1b: Mark Teixeira (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney (GG)
3b: Adrian Beltre (GG)
SS: Brendan Ryan
LF: Alex Gordon (GG)
CF: Mike Trout
RF: Jason Heyward (GG)
P: Mark Buehrle (GG)

It took this long to get to Mike Trout, partially due to an April on the farm.

Mike Trout will be collecting a lot of hardware in the future

All stats from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. Rate stats only include "Qualified" fielders.

What is your All Defensive team? Tell us in a comment below!

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