THT Fielding Data, 2004-2007
A few weeks ago, we used the fielding stats at The Hardball Times to make a little fielding metric. We looked at the best and worst teams and players of 2008. That's great, but if we really want to analyze fielding in a meaningful way, we need more data. THT offers stats that go back to 2004, so let's go through the same process with the 04-07 seasons. Now, rather than just half a year's worth of stats, we'll have close to five years of data.
The Process (Briefly)
The methodology is explained quite in-depth in the above linked post, but let's go through a quick recap just to be sure everyone is on the same page. Basically, we have data on each fielder's performance in their defined "zone" and out of it. We're using both of these areas to find out how many runs a player is worth, above or below average. Here's a quick example, with numbers just for illustration.
Nomar -- 50 BIZ, 40 plays, .8 RZR (plays/BIZ)
So, in his zone, Nomar would be 1 play below average. We do the same thing on out of zone balls, with the only difference being that we don't know exactly how many opportunities players have out of their zone. We assume that in-zone chances reflect out of zone chances, and we use BIZ as a proxy for OOZ opportunities. If you're confused here, check out the link up top, as it may answer some of your questions.
After we've done that, using Chris Dial's conversions, we turn plays above/below average into runs above/below average. And ... that's it. Not too difficult.
If you look closely at the positional averages from year to year (which others have done), you'll notice some pretty big differences. For instance, here's RZR in the outfield for all four years:
2004 2005 2006 2007 LF 0.63 0.633 0.861 0.855 CF 0.796 0.815 0.894 0.888 RF 0.65 0.648 0.888 0.877
For 2004-2005, the average RZR (plays made in zone divided by total balls in zone) in left is around .63. In 2006 and 2007, it jumped up to over .85. You may notice a similar thing happening in right field, and to a lesser extent, center field. Surely, outfielders didn't all of the sudden improve in the 2005 off season; rather, something happened to the way the zones are drawn or how fly balls or line drives are handled by the folks over at Baseball Info Solutions (that's where THT gets the data).
There are some differences in the infield, too, but they aren't quite as bad. There are plenty of ways to deal with this problem (check the first link in the last paragraph), but note that here we're just calculating the stats year-by-year (i.e., we made no attempt to normalize the numbers like Mr. Wyers did). You'll be able to see all of the positional averages if you want to download the data at the bottom of the page.
The Best and Worst Teams
This is from 2004-2007, and is simply a team's overall runs above or below average, found by adding up all the player's numbers on each team:
Top 15 Teams
Year Team Runs 2007 ATL 93.5 2006 STL 91.3 2004 PHI 79.0 2006 HOU 74.6 2005 CHA 69.5 2006 ATL 68.2 2007 NYN 67.8 2004 LAN 65.2 2006 SEA 60.0 2006 MIL 53.9 2007 TOR 52.1 2005 LAA 50.6 2005 SEA 49.6 2007 STL 46.2 2007 KC 43.0
The 2007 Atlanta Braves outfield was probably one of the better defensive outfields of the past few years, at least by these numbers. Check it out:
A. Jones 31.1 runs Diaz 19.1 Francoeur 15.0 Harris 8.6
That's like 74 runs above average, just in the outfield. And, get this, they didn't have one outfielder who was rated below average (unless you count Pete Orr, who missed the one ball in his zone ; )
The 2006 Cardinals were anchored by two corner infielders, Albert Pujols at first (30.7) and Scott Rolen at third (31.4). The '04 Phillies were led by Jim Thome (18.7), David Bell (14.2), Jason Michaels (12.3), and a bunch of other guys who were in the plus 5 range.
Bottom 15 Teams
Year Team Runs 2005 NYA -102.4 2007 TB -89 2005 CIN -85.7 2007 CHA -82.5 2006 PIT -81.3 2005 FLA -80.2 2005 ARI -80 2004 NYA -77.1 2006 NYA -69.8 2007 CLE -63.5 2006 BOS -63 2007 BOS -55 2006 CIN -49.8 2005 KC -49 2007 CIN -48.2
Ouch. The Yankees show up three times, and '05 team was the worst of the previous four seasons. Their worst performers were Derek Jeter (-43.6), Robinsion Cano (-35.9), Bernie Williams (-24.7), and Gary Sheffield (-18).
The '07 Tampa Bay performance was more of a team effort, but Elijah Dukes (-13.8) and Akinori Iwamura (-10.5) show up at the bottom. The '05 Reds had an outfield of Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, and Wily Mo Pena. Nuff said.
Best and Worst Players
Note that these are player performances in a single year at a single position. Some players could have played multiple positions, and obviously performed better or worse overall than the numbers displayed here.
The Top 15
Year Last Pos runs 2005 Rowand CF 44.6 2007 Suzuki CF 34.4 2004 A-Rod 3B 33.3 2007 Grand. CF 32.6 2007 Wright 3B 32.2 2004 Rolen 3B 31.8 2005 Logan CF 31.4 2006 Rolen 3B 31.4 2007 Jones CF 31.1 2006 Pujols 1B 30.7 2005 Everett SS 30.4 2007 Pujols 1B 30.3 2005 Craw. LF 30.2 2005 Teix. 1B 29.8 2005 Suzuki RF 29.7
The Bottom 15
Year Last Pos runs 2005 Ramirez LF -43.8 2005 Jeter SS -43.6 2006 Ramirez LF -41.7 2005 Cano 2B -35.9 2005 Griffey CF -35.5 2007 Ramirez LF -34.1 2007 Braun 3B -33.2 2004 B.Will. CF -32.5 2007 J.Baut. 3B -30.5 2004 Jeter SS -29.1 2004 Blake 3B -28.8 2007 Dye RF -28.2 2007 Jeter SS -27.6 2007 Atkins 3B -27.2 2004 Young SS -25.0
Please feel free to mess around with those spreadsheets all you'd like. Also, note that these calculations were all produced by me, so there could surely be mistakes.
Anyway, with almost five years of data now, we can begin to better understand fielding through these freely available numbers. In this space over the coming months, we'll hopefully take a look at things like aging, projections, the reliability of these numbers, bench players' vs. starters' fielding, and so on. But you can surely get a head start now.