Friday, April 17, 2009

Yo Sabean, Don't You Guys Do Your Homework?

As the Giants bobble balls hit to them and stumble while running the bases entering Week 2 of the 2009 season, I keep hearing Mike Krukow on KNBR's Wrap (with his fellow announcers: Jon Miller, Duane Kuiper and Dave Fleming) complain about the shortstop play of Edgar Renteria.

Then I happen to stumble across SI's Baseball Preview Issue AND another article in the ESPN magazine entitled Smell the Glove that speaks all about the importance of catching and throwing the ball without error. And while the SI version calls Edgar Renteria a septuagenarian the ESPN article (by Eric Neel) discusses the factors that make up numbers that evaluate a player's defensive capabilities.

Now, before I lay out some more facts, isn't this enough to make you wonder why the Giants didn't go whole hog for Manny Ramirez and to hell with Edgar-he plays like an- "Old Guy?"

In Eric Neel's Smell the Glove he goes on to say: Used to be we would talk about a player's being good or bad with the glove, but we wouldn't get too specific. Now "we" have some very specific formulas that determine each player's defensive contribution. Or, in the case of Bobby Abreu or Adam Dunn, their defensive damage.

By the calculations of John Dewan, author of The Fielding Bible Volume II, Abreu is one of the worst rightfielders in all of baseball. (Forget that Golden Glove he won in 2005. Those awards, voted on by managers and coaches, are often influenced by a player's defensive reputation and even his offensive performance.) Over the past 3 seasons, Abreu has made playes on 29 fewer balls tahn a league-average rightfielder would be expected to make, costing his teams (Phillies and Yankees) 19 runs. Toronto's Alex Rios, the highest ranked at his position, got to 26 more balls than the average rightfielder and saved his squad 49 runs (or nearly 5 wins) during that same span. Dunn, meanwhile, reached 31 fewer balls than an average leftfielder would and cost his teams (Cincinnati, and briefly Arizona) 39 runs.

Their offensive output is so significantly undercut by their defensive deficiencies that the market judged them as one-dimensional major leaguers.

The rise in fielding metrics corresponds to a technology-driven explosion of information about batted balls in play. Companies like Baseball Info Solutions and STATS, Inc., track where a ball is hit, how hard it's hit, who fields it and how (or if) he converts it into an out.

The game is once again evolving. Fielding analytics are becoming an integral part of how contracts are structured and how teams are built. Defense was long considered the undiscovered country of sabermetrics. As these measures become part of baseball's conventional wisdom, defense enters another province.

Then there's SI's Baseball Preview Issue.

For the Detroit Tigers...
Jim Leyland and Adam Everett went like this: "You can field a ground ball, right?" Leyland asked his new shortstop, before issuing a warning: "You know, we can get Luis Aparicio..But he's 74 years old, and it might be tough for him to come back. So you're our guy."

Last year's shortstop, Edgar Renteria,isn't half as old as Hall of Famer Aparicio, but he fielded his position like a septuagenarian. According to the statistical analyst David Pinto, Renteria's lack of range cost Detroit 16 runs, second-worst in the majors. Those same metrics show that Everett was baseball's best fielding shortstop in 2006, the last season he was healthy.

Giant fans, what does this tell you? It tells me they don't do their homework and are so stubborn as to keep the blinders on and get only who they deem feasible and necessary. When the smart move was to go all out for Manny Ramirez, providing Ramirez wanted to play at AT&T, which if he didn't makes this point moot.

(thanks to Eric Neel's excellent ESPN article and SI for focusing in on the details.)

Kevin Marquez