Statistical Fielding Heaven: Jeter worst SS, Utley amazing 2B, Mets below average…WAIT, WHAT!

In my daily read of FireJoeMorgan I came across this bit o’ gold
New York FencePost

CBS Sportsline

SAFE: Spatial Aggregate Fielding Evaluation

The last link is the official one of the study and contains all its math and numbers and don’t read it for too long or your head will explode oh my god OW. The numbers used are for the 2002-2005 seasons only and therefore a few notable players will be missing.

The study explains a few tidbits that help out in describing their standpoint:
“The central difficulty with fielding is that we are trying to evaluate players on a continuous playing surface where we must take into account not just whether a successful play was made, but whether a successful play was possible”
Wonderful, the notion of a successful difficult play, unsuccessful difficult play, successful play, unsuccessful play, or a Buckner are all taken into consideration. No more messing with silly little Fielding Percentage (based only on errors).
Next, the study removes the use of zones and vectors that past statisticians have attempted to employ:
“Instead of tabulating fielding events within discrete zones, we fit continuous probability distributions to each fielder based on their past fielding events.”
Hopefully this will take into account unwanted birds passing through the playing area…or squirrels. But seriously, if a 3B insanely manages to make a play all the way at 1B then this will take that into account.

Events are split into Ground Balls in Play and Air Balls in Play. For grounders the starting position of the player isn’t so much used as is the area that he may or may not be able to cover and the general position becomes the degree at which he has the highest probability of making a play at any time. This involves the angle that the ball leaves the bat with “an angle of 0 correspond[ing] to the 3rd base line [and] an angle of 90 correspond[ing] to the 1st base line.” Different velocities are taken into account and thus there are many different models. Also taken into account are the more and less routine grounders and their consequence if missed (i.e. grounder down the middle vs. grounder down a baseline). The final statistic (SAFE number) is the net runs cost or saved (positive = good, negative = bad).
Air balls are considered as one of three possibilities: fly, liner, pop-up. Like the grounder schematic the positions are placed roughly where they have the highest probability of making a play. The tables for OFs are somewhat more complex concerning the amount of area they have to cover.
I recommend taking the time to read the info the study supplies. In any event it may give you a greater understanding of the statistic than I have been able to convey.

Onto the stupidity:

John Mazor of the NY Post seems appalled that Derek Jeter, King of Herpes, is the worst SAFE shortstop (of 2002-2005). His first point is that Jeter has won 3 Golden Gloves. Rafael Palmeiro won a GG for playing 38 games at 1B and David Wright won a GG last year for being something like the 4th best 3B in the NL (either Pedro Feliz and Scott Rolen probably should have received it). Need a non-baseball example? The Golden Gloves are voted on by a voting group largely consisting of imbeciles. It isn’t difficult to pick the best choice, but sometimes it is dead on wrong (like Jeter that one time, second time, and third time). There is another voting group that often is just flat out stupid. It gave us Nixon and WBush. Mazor neglects to even attempt explaining the process because he most likely just doesn’t understand it. Instead he skims over a few terms like ‘position’ and ‘range’ and labels it as a “complex statistical method” and himself as “a moron with the journalistic ability of a fleece blanket.” Then he brings out the real tool of persuasion and interviews brain function challenged New Yorkers. Quick lesson, don’t read the NY Post, it sucks.
“Jeter is all-around awesome. He’s better than A-Rod any day. Character has a lot to do with it.”
Did I mention that SAFE accurately points out that not only is Jeter a horrible SS, but that A-Rod was one of the best…just defensively. I don’t think it takes a genius to understand that A-Rod is also better than Jeter offensively. Not that Jeter isn’t great in that facet of the game, but, seriously, he has herpes and A-Rod has frosted tips. No contest.

“[Jeter] has intangible qualities that can’t be measured with statistics.”
Such as herpes.

The Sportsline article is much more informational. Since that isn’t any fun we’ll hit up the comments section.
“ok now add World Series Rings to this equation”
Yogi Berra is the best defensive baseball player ever.

I also think you need to look at how many games he playes and how hard he plays.”
We need a stat to measure hardness of playing. Mind staying out of gutter….never mind.

“Like the Mitchell Report, a document littered with Yankees and their ineptitude. The worst in the game at their positions. Red Sox, barely mentioned, except with glowing praise. Some of the best at their positions….I just wonder.”
The Red Sox are known for employing statistical analysis when researching players. Bill James is on their payroll. They were lucky not to get any players associated with the main names spreading steroids in the Mitchell Report, but I’m sure there are players on their team (and on every other team) who have used PEDs. The Yankees are in pressure central and are known for buying the best offensive players available in free agency.

“This is dumb, you can’t prove someone is not a good shortstop by science or math, Jeter is the best in the game, there’s no other way of looking at it.”
There are other ways of looking at it, such as, HE ISN’T. He is a great baseball player, he is just below average defensively. Look at it this way, his offensive abilities outweigh his defensive liabilities, by a lot actually.

“I would like to know if this ingenious formula of superior mathettical formulas this geek squad claim to use (hahahahahhaah, what a joke), also is the same formula used to give Raffy Palmeiro of the Balt Orioles a 1st Base Gold Glove for his WOOPING- 38 games- played at 1st base that one year.”
So this guy is a die-hard Yankees fan, which is giving him blinders and causing him to be a general nuisance on the comments. Also, he is using an argument against the Gold Glove and the lack of complex stats and estimation based on observation that go hand in hand with it as an argument for…lack of complex stats and estimation based on observation.

“During [-Rod’s] three years with the Rangers from 2001 – 2003–THESE ARE THE YEARS THAT JENSEN MEASURES IN HIS ANALYSIS–the team was 4th place in the AL West. As a shortstop, A-Rod never played in the World Series…Derek Jeter, on the other hand, has been in the post-season every year that he has played as the Yankee shortstop and played in six World Series of which the Yankees won four.”
The New York Jeters were a pretty awesome team. The Texas A-Rods sucked. And you misread the 2002-2005 study time. Additionally the commenter had the moniker of GoHeels00 which either means that he has an odd fascination with feet or he is a front runner.

“If u run out a team of : Ken Harvey at 1st base, Craig Council at 2B and Damian Rolls at 3b. as this post suggests as “the best” i bet u will go: 162-0??”
I already quoted this guy once and I bet you can pick him out quickly. The study was in no way defining the overall value of the players and quite specifically incorporates FIELDING in it’s title. A player’s defense and ability to prevent runs from scoring isn’t as apparent not as widely varying as his ability to produce runs. Offense is usually the main economic boon for a player, but many vastly superior defenders are able to make a living with below average offensive abilities, Adam Everett. Leave it to a dolt to misinterpret facts.

Once more I have wasted far too much time griping over idiocy.

3 Responses

  1. Good article. SAFE is very interesting as fielders have been getting over and under rated for all eternity. An error is a skewed judgment because it is based on reaching the ball. Some guys can reach the ball and some can’t. Theoretically, if you stand still always and you never touch a ball, you will get no errors on the season. Makes you pretty much useless, but this thought experiment shows how errors are based on false pretenses.

  2. Damn dude, you came back with a bang.

    I guess baseball season has officially begun! Spring training!!!!!!

  3. Some of those yankees quotes are absolutely priceless

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