Isn’t that a convenient theme for the week.
With all this focus on defense, it’s worth explaining four new fielding stats that helped Theo and other proponents of sabermetrics make decisions this offseason. Baseball is a numbers-heavy game, so anytime new stats come to the fore, it’s pretty exciting stuff.
First we have a fielder’s ultimate zone rating. It’s a fielder’s number of runs above or below average. It’s calculated by adding range runs to error runs. According to Mitchel Lichtman, the statistic’s developer, range runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity,” and error runs are “the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.”
Next is the plus/minus. This is more straight-forward. It awards for converting plays that others in the position in question failed to convert and demerits for failing to convert plays that others would’ve made. Developed by John Dewan, this stat is compiled through extensive research of video footage that maps the location and speed of each ball in play as well as the type of hit that put it into play as well as every other property of a ball in play that you could possibly imagine.
Third is the defensive runs saved. It’s a complete quantity of runs saved. Also developed by John Dewan, it’s calculated using plus/minus in conjunction with “double play abilities, outfielder arms, bunt defense by corner infielders, pitcher stolen base defense, catcher stolen base defense and the catcher’s ability to handle pitchers.” Dewan explains it thus in his book The Fielding Bible Volume II, “Let’s say there’s a man on first with one out. The expected runs at that point are .528. The next play is a ground ball to the shortstop. He boots it for an error and we now have men on first and second with one out. The expected runs went from .528 to .919. That’s an increase of .391 (.919 minus .528) runs. The play itself, the error, cost the team .391 runs. We don’t have to follow it through and count the rest of the inning. We know what the value of the ending state is and can use it.”
Fourthly, we’ve got the probabilistic model of range. This one is my personal favorite of the four. It’s kind of like the ultimate zone rating but accounts for some additional and very important variables. This program, developed by David Pinto, calculates “the probability of a ball being turned into an out based on six parameters: direction of hit (a vector), the type of hit (fly, ground, line drive, bunt), how hard the ball was hit (slow, medium, hard), the park, the handedness of the pitcher, the handedness of the batter.” Here’s how it works. It finds the probability of a ball put in play being converted into an out; this is the number of expected outs. It divides that by the number of balls put in play; this is the expected defensive efficiency rating. Compare that to the whole team’s actual defensive efficiency rating, and you’ve got the probabilistic model of range, the idea being that a team has a good defense if it’s actual defensive efficiency rating is better than its expected rating. I’ll be interested to see how the 2010 Red Sox fare by this metric.
Leaving the world of defensive stats and mathematical innovation to itself for moment, we’re going to take a trip back to your high school hallway.
You’ll never believe the latest news on the Dice-K front. Apparently, the Boston Globe found out from a Japanese magazine that talked to Dice-K that Dice-K injured his right inner thigh while preparing for last year’s World Baseball Classic. But he didn’t withdraw from the World Baseball Classic because the rest of him felt fine. He actually concealed the injury from Team Japan’s trainers. But the guilt and the physical taxation of his work took their toll, and the rest is history.
Honestly, the whole situation resembles teenage gossip way too closely. It’s extremely frustrating. The way I see it, the team shouldn’t have had to find out about an injury that directly affected, its long-term performance from a newspaper that found out from a magazine that found out from the player. At the bottom of this whole thing is cultural differences. In Japan, honor is of paramount importance. So Dice-K felt that his injury was something to hide; he didn’t want to become the center of attention, didn’t want people to worry on his behalf, and didn’t want to make excuses for himself. But we expect someone like Dice-K to be public about legitimate injuries so he can get help. Bottom line? Team Japan got a championship, Team Boston got nothing, and Team Dice-K has some work to do.
Theo Epstein deserves a hearty congratulations on never having gone to arbitration with a player. He signed Okajima to a one-year deal worth a bit less than three million dollars, plus four bonus clauses. But he’s got four more filings to deal with: Hermida, Ramon Ramirez, Delcarmen, and none other than Jonathan Papelbon, who of course expects a raise. I think if anyone on that list is going to finally get Theo into an arbitration, it’s going to be Paps. I mean, he’s still the best closer in the game, but after our untimely exit from the ’09 playoffs, I’m not sure that raise is going to be served on a silver platter.
Mark McGwire finally declared his use of steroids and HGH. Wow. I could try to field some sarcasm here, but honestly when I read that, I was so bored that I forgot to yawn. Next thing you know, Barry Bonds is going to admit using, too. Oh, wait. But in all seriousness, I think Major League Baseball needed that admission, even though all of us knew it before Tom Davis chaired that interrogation on March 17, 2005. But I think Michael Cuddyer said it best when he expressed sorrow for the clean guys who couldn’t hold a candle to all the loaded teams that swiped the championship rings from their fingers. As far as Joe Morgan’s statement on the matter is concerned, it’s just another reason not to watch baseball on ESPN:
[Steroid users] took performance-enhancing drugs to enhance their numbers and make more money. And they did it and made more money and enhanced their numbers.
Profound. Although his main point that we should pay more constructive attention to the clean guys of the era who earned their stats than pay all this sensational attention to the juiced guys who didn’t is spot-on.
Equally profound was Bud Selig’s proclamation that changes would come to baseball this season. Did he say what sort of changes? No. Apparently that’s not nearly as important as the fact that changes will take place, period. The postseason schedule is likely to be addressed first. Mike Scoscia wants less days off, and Joe Torre wants the division series to be best-of-seven. Fantastic. The GMs who, between them, want more baseball played in less time after a 162-game season are on the panel that’s essentially the brain behind the changes. And last but not least, Major League Baseball has pledged one million dollars in aid to Haiti. That just makes you feel great about being a baseball fan.
In other news, the B’s lost to the Ducks in regulation, beat the Sharks in a shootout, and lost to the Kings in a shootout. But that’s not even the sad part. The sad part is that we have fifty-four points, which is good for second place in the Northeast. That’s two above the Senators and ten below the Sabres. Guess how many points the Kings have. Fifty-seven. I’m sorry to have to say this, but we’re actually playing worse puck than the Los Angeles Kings. Of course, life doesn’t look much better from a Patriots perspective. The Ravens absolutely slaughtered us on Sunday, and that’s the end of that. I don’t really feel a need to dwell on the subject.
Not in HD
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