Some Things I Read Today

The above is a lie. I read the following yesterday, and there’s just one thing. So here is some thing I read yesterday, that I wanted to pass along:

If you visit FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference during the baseball season, it’s tough to avoid exposure to defensive statistics like UZR, DRS or TZ. They feature prominently on individual player pages and leaderboards. Their existence is mostly beneficial, especially in the long term. A look at the all-time TZ leaderboards at various positions jibes with historical reputations. These stats don’t appear to be total bunk and information is a good thing. However, I fear — and maybe I’m wrong — that following the ups and downs of UZR, etc. during the season serves to bias perception of players’ defensive performance. So this year I will do my best to avoid looking at defensive stats until the season ends, trusting my eyes first to judge defense.

– James Kannengieser, “A UZR-less 2012”
Amazin’ Avenue

I love this idea and plan on trying it myself. I believe looking at defensive numbers does mess with my subjective judgments about fielders. The Mostly Mets Podcast just discussed David Wright’s fielding this week, and I mentioned on the show that Wright doesn’t look like a great defensive third baseman anymore. The numbers back that assertion up, putting Wright as the worst everyday fielder at third base in the major leagues. It’s hard to make a case that Wright is still a solid defensive player.

On the other hand, my opinion is colored by already knowing the numbers. Because I know David Wright’s poor defensive marks, I look for examples of him being a poor fielder during games. When Wright does make a misplay, it only serves to confirm what I had already decided to be true, and when he makes a good play, I write it off as an exception to the rule. Confirmation bias. I can’t trust my own judgement anymore.

So I like this idea. I’m hoping that by avoiding Ultimate Zone Rating, Defensive Runs Saved, and Total Zone numbers this season, I’ll be able to come up with my own evaluation, as Mr. Kannengieser plans on doing.


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2 responses to “Some Things I Read Today

  1. I know it will seem archaic and over simplified, but why not go old school and keep score at home? While no one expects you to chart every game, if you simply keep a tally at home of Wright’s plays, both good and bad, and at the end look at his total score (good plays being +1, bad -1). This is the equivalent of “putting a circle around that one” as Howie Rose puts it. This at least gives you an idea of how the eye test works independent of statistics.

    And I don’t mean every play, just the good ones that impressed you and then bad ones that you felt an average third baseman would make.

    • Patrick Flood

      This may be an even better idea. Keep track of my own subjective evaluations of Wright’s defense? I’m going to think about this some more and come up with a way to do this. That’s a great suggestion that I might just expand to everyone.

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