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Jake

Statcast infield defense metrics preview — Sox not too bad!

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If you are a follower of the Statcast/Baseball Savant folks, then you know they've been teasing the release of their infield defense metrics for months now. They are very close to public release, I believe it will be this week, and they've even been tweeting out some tidbits to get people interested.

Without divulging my methods, since I suspect it will render my methods no longer usable, I have gotten my hands on most of the data (note: I haven't hacked anybody, everything's on the up and up). I only have complete data for 2019 but have some info about Sox players in prior years. So who wants to hear about the Sox???

Just like the outfield defense, you have two basic metrics: Outs Above Average (OAA) and a percentage added. OAA is a counting stat, like RBI, and is therefore sensitive to playing time and number of chances. The percentage stat is more like batting average and lets you more easily compare players with different amounts of playing time.

On outs above average, out of 218 qualified infielders...

  • Moncada ranked #51 (+5 OAA)
  • Yolmer #82 (+2 OAA)
  • Tim #104 (-1 OAA)
  • Abreu #142 (-3 OAA)

On percentage added, out of 218 qualified infielders...

  • Moncada ranked #51 (yes, exactly the same as OAA; 2% added)
  • Yolmer #86 (1%)
  • Tim #104 (0%)
  • Abreu #142 (-1%)

So almost exactly the same in their cases. The differences in rankings for OAA and success rate added are mostly at the very top and bottom.

By position...

  • Among 3B, Moncada ranked #9 out of 53 3B in OAA and #7 in percentage added.
  • Among 2B, Yolmer ranked #19 out of 71 2B in OAA and #21 in percentage added.
  • Among 1B, Abreu ranked #34 out of 40 1B in OAA and #26 in percentage added.
  • Among SS, Tim ranked #29 out of 54 SS in OAA and #29 in percentage added.

Quick Sox highlights:

  • Tim didn't do as badly as we feared. I can add that in 2018, he ranked in the 87th percentile among SS, much better. He was in the 66th percentile in 2017. If he cleans up the errors, he's going to be a real asset like we all hoped. He has demonstrated a consistent strength moving to his left over the years per these numbers. Last year his problem was coming in on balls.
  • Yoan's defense was rated above average by UZR and below average by DRS, so some of us weren't sure where he stood. This suggests he is indeed a strong defender at 3B. Great! Also of note: In 2018, his 2B defense ranked in the 1st percentile, meaning he was the worst or close to the worst infield defender in MLB by these metrics.
  • Abreu isn't good, but he's not horrible either (at least when it comes to fielding balls; this doesn't factor in catching thrown balls AFAIK).
  • Other metrics were overrating Yolmer it would appear, although he has been by no means bad. Statcast indicates he struggles going to his right.

Other info for non-Sox players:

Best OAA in MLB:

  1. Javier Baez (+19)
  2. Arenado (+17)
  3. Andrelton Simmons (+16)
  4. Nick Ahmed (+16)
  5. Trevor Story (+15)
  6. Matt Chapman (+14)
  7. Paul DeJong (+13)
  8. Matt Olson (+12; by far the highest 1B)
  9. Jose Iglesias (+12)

Worst OAA in MLB:

  1. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (-16)
  2. Jorge Polanco (-16)
  3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (-13)
  4. Didi Gregorius (-13)
  5. Jonathan Villar (-12)
  6. Tim Beckham (-9)
  7. Kevin Newman (-8)
  8. Gleyber Torres (-7)

Best % added:

  1. Isiah Kiner-Falefa (8%)
  2. Tony Kemp (7%)
  3. Cory Spangenberg (6%)
  4. Andrelton Simmons (6%)
  5. Jeff McNeil (5%)
  6. Marwin Gonzalez (5%)
  7. Matt Olson (5%),
  8. Javier Baez (5%)

Worst % added:

  1. Chad Pinder (-11%)
  2. Vlad Jr. (-8%)
  3. Luke Voit (-7%)
  4. Didi Gregorius (-6%)
  5. Fernando Tatis Jr. (-5%)
  6. Tim Beckham (-5%)
  7. Ryon Healy (-5%)

Also, Marcus Semien was well below average, though not horrible, this year and was no different than the past two years, in contrast to the story told by UZR/DRS.

 

 

Edited by Jake
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So in other words defensive metrics are still mysterious.

I don't understand this " The percentage stat is more like batting average and lets you more easily compare players with different amounts of playing time. "

You gave us no clue what they are using to get a percent like batting average is AB's and hits, Is this chances and errors ? Seems unlikely since it's statcast and errors are subjective and not related to anything you can measure by filming it. Both stats are so similar in the rankings of the Sox players  you listed that I can't tell one from the other without further explanation.

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One thing that's interesting to me is how well TA7 graded in 2018. I remember he was a little rough defensively for the first month, then was solid for a month or two, and then was a total beast defensively for the rest of the year. Thus, most of the Fangraphs metrics had him as slightly above average for the season. But I thought that his last few months were so good that they should have far outweighed his early season struggles. I'm curious to know if this new metric would suggest that.

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13 minutes ago, CaliSoxFanViaSWside said:

So in other words defensive metrics are still mysterious.

I don't understand this " The percentage stat is more like batting average and lets you more easily compare players with different amounts of playing time. "

You gave us no clue what they are using to get a percent like batting average is AB's and hits, Is this chances and errors ? Seems unlikely since it's statcast and errors are subjective and not related to anything you can measure by filming it. Both stats are so similar in the rankings of the Sox players  you listed that I can't tell one from the other without further explanation.

I was more or less assuming (maybe wrongly) a prior knowledge of the Statcast statistics for outfield defense. The percentages are basically referring to how many balls are fielded and converted into an out divided by all the balls that are hit in the vicinity of the player. A typical success rate is in the neighborhood of 85% in this metric. Of course many batted balls have a nearly 100% chance of being fielded and others close to 0% chance of being fielded; that's what this metric tries to account for. The "added" refers to a comparison between how many of the balls hit to the player you would expect an average fielder to convert to an out and how many the player actually did convert to an out. So if the balls hit towards Yoan would have been outs 86% of the time by an average fielder and Yoan got outs 88% of the time, he's +2%.

My points about counting stats and rate stats is that if you have Player A who is +2% added and he had 100 balls hit to him, his OAA is 2. Player B with +2% and only had 50 balls hit to him has a OAA of 1, even though Player A and Player B appear to be roughly equally good fielders.

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Thanks. My own opinion is that people barely know how to use WAR. Not calling anyone dumb  just that you see it misused a lot and it's one of the easier ones to understand and mostly people focus on offensive stats and defensive stats still are considered unreliable if considered at all.

I do my best as a very longtime baseball fan to take as much as I can into consideration but I would definitely have to consider myself more as an observer of baseball/White Sox and only try hard but often fail to get a rudimentary knowledge of advanced stats because to truly understand them I think an advanced knowledge of math beyond high school math is required. Not only that but there are so many advanced stats that even trying to gain rudimentary knowledge usually just consists of what the initials mean  such as WAR is Wins Above Replacement and what Win's Above Replacement means in a general sense. At the very least it takes a great deal of time to talk intelligently on the subject and is something I will never be able to do.

Not only that but message boards tend to give short answers so there's really no way to get "coached" into learning more or not getting that glazed look in my eyes when i try to understand.

Edited by CaliSoxFanViaSWside

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There's no way Tatis is in the bottom 5.

Having watched the majority of his games (or at least the highlights), there were at least 15-20 plays he made last year that only a handful of players in the big leagues could make.

He piled up a number of careless errors in the 6-8 weeks before he went down to the back injury, ...especially after they were already out of contention, but between diving for balls in the air and getting additional outs with his arm at first, I'm not buying it.

 

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7 hours ago, caulfield12 said:

There's no way Tatis is in the bottom 5.

Having watched the majority of his games (or at least the highlights), there were at least 15-20 plays he made last year that only a handful of players in the big leagues could make.

He piled up a number of careless errors in the 6-8 weeks before he went down to the back injury, ...especially after they were already out of contention, but between diving for balls in the air and getting additional outs with his arm at first, I'm not buying it.

 

He had an even lower fielding percentage than Tim. And in this case, UZR and DRS also had him as a below average fielder (but not as bad as Statcast's new stuff has him).

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25 minutes ago, Jake said:

He had an even lower fielding percentage than Tim. And in this case, UZR and DRS also had him as a below average fielder (but not as bad as Statcast's new stuff has him).

Sure, but what would Tim’s average been at age 20 at the big league level?  It’s kind of comparing apples and oranges. He was still growing during the season, and is now 6’ 3 1/2,” which is massive for a SS.

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7 hours ago, caulfield12 said:

There's no way Tatis is in the bottom 5.

Having watched the majority of his games (or at least the highlights), there were at least 15-20 plays he made last year that only a handful of players in the big leagues could make.

He piled up a number of careless errors in the 6-8 weeks before he went down to the back injury, ...especially after they were already out of contention, but between diving for balls in the air and getting additional outs with his arm at first, I'm not buying it.

 

Jeter made highlight plays as well.

Careless errors add up.

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1 minute ago, Quin said:

Jeter made highlight plays as well.

Careless errors add up.

But he didn’t have the range, wingspan on diving plays, or throwing arm...not like that.   I saw him in Greensboro in 1993 when he made over 50 errors.

He also couldn’t throw out runners from his knees or from short LCF with all his momentum going towards the 3B line and having to plant and throw back in one smooth motion.  If he tried to make a throw like that, it would bounce 2-3 times.  

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I do think SS play is affected by 3B. A SS playing alongside a 3B w limited range will be forced to shade more to his right than one playing w a 3B who moves well to his left.  

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Advanced numbers have always like Anderson, due to his remarkable range, more than traditional defensive metrics. His still needs to cut down on the errors but if he does he's in the 90th+ percentile. His talent is inarguable.

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46 minutes ago, SCCWS said:

I do think SS play is affected by 3B. A SS playing alongside a 3B w limited range will be forced to shade more to his right than one playing w a 3B who moves well to his left.  

Exhibit A: Marcus Semien's range numbers before and after Matt Chapman

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1 hour ago, Harold's Leg Lift said:

but but but Tim makes errors!!!!!  Errors!!!!  For the love of god man ERRORS!!!!!!!!!

Anderson is going to have a good year defensively and then make an error in a wild card game or something and the calls to move him will never stop. 

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Interesting data; I am getting it all added to my data. Pretty excited to have new analysis added!

That said, my biggest take away from this data is what in the fuck is going on with Vlad Jr? I had never read his defense was horrible - it was never advertised as great but it wasn't advertised as bad. I understand he can get better, but that number at 3rd base is just eye popping. He was -16 runs last year and the 2nd worst in all of baseball at 3rd was -7.

We think we have Eloy problems... man, do the Jays have Vladdy problems. That is absolutely horrendous.

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3 minutes ago, Look at Ray Ray Run said:

Interesting data; I am getting it all added to my data. Pretty excited to have new analysis added!

That said, my biggest take away from this data is what in the fuck is going on with Vlad Jr? I had never read his defense was horrible - it was never advertised as great but it wasn't advertised as bad. I understand he can get better, but that number at 3rd base is just eye popping. He was -16 runs last year and the 2nd worst in all of baseball at 3rd was -7.

We think we have Eloy problems... man, do the Jays have Vladdy problems. That is absolutely horrendous.

Vlad will need a lot of improvement quick or it's off to first base sooner than later. I read he was working hard at getting into shape this off-season which makes sense since his body type doesnt exactly scream third base. 

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17 hours ago, Jake said:

Worst OAA in MLB:

  1. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (-16)
  2. Jorge Polanco (-16)
  3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (-13)
  4. Didi Gregorius (-13)
  5. Jonathan Villar (-12)
  6. Tim Beckham (-9)
  7. Kevin Newman (-8)
  8. Gleyber Torres (-7)

As I've said here many times, the Twins IF defense is horrific.  Sano and Arraez were both in the bottom 10% as well.  

Won't be long before they move Polanco off SS.  

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5 minutes ago, Jack Parkman said:

I'm wondering how bad Eloy and Mazara are in the OF. 

Outfielder OAA has been there for awhile now. Mazara was close to average last year and Eloy was very bad

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22 minutes ago, Look at Ray Ray Run said:

Interesting data; I am getting it all added to my data. Pretty excited to have new analysis added!

That said, my biggest take away from this data is what in the fuck is going on with Vlad Jr? I had never read his defense was horrible - it was never advertised as great but it wasn't advertised as bad. I understand he can get better, but that number at 3rd base is just eye popping. He was -16 runs last year and the 2nd worst in all of baseball at 3rd was -7.

We think we have Eloy problems... man, do the Jays have Vladdy problems. That is absolutely horrendous.

I'm not sure where you were looking, but as far as I've been aware, his defense has always been a major concern. I think a lot of the minor league guys have said he'll wind up as a DH. 

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3 minutes ago, Jose Abreu said:

Outfielder OAA has been there for awhile now. Mazara was close to average last year and Eloy was very bad

And Castellanos not bad

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