Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gold Gloves Ridiculous & the Range Factor

It's been a while since the gold glove awards have been announced and I know that most people don't really care about them, since on many occasions, the gold glove goes to a player, who is good offensively and doesn't hurt himself on the field, but it's not really a sign of defensive excellence any more (was it ever?).
But some decisions are so outrageous, that I can't just accept them quietly. I'm talking about, of course, the decisions to give the AL shortstop gold glove to Derek Jeter over Orlando Cabrera (and, to a slightly lesser degree, Mark Teixeira over Daren Erstad).
I'm not going to argue here since I'm totally biased, I just let the stats speak for themselves:

Stat        Jeter - Cabrera
Errors         15         7
Fielding%    .979      .988
Zone Rating  .830      .844
Range Factor 4.76      4.18

Obviously, you just need to look at the error totals to realize who has the better glove. In the last five years in the AL, Omar Visquel is the only other SS who had 7 or less errors and played in more than 140 games (Good old David Eckstein came close in 2004 with only 6 error in 138 games).
The only stat where Jeter bests Cabrera is Range Factor and this is one of the most stupid stats out there. It simply adds Putouts and Assists and divides them by Innings. So if a team's pitchers strike out a lot of batters or allow many flyball, the team's shortstop will have a poor Range Factor, how stupid is this???
This year, Angels pitchers pitched 1464.1 innings and faced 6084 hitters, while Yankees pitchers hurled 1430.2 innings and faced 6105 batters.
Of these 6084 (6105) hitters, 1126 (985) struck out, 443 (463) walked and 48 (84) were hit by a pitch, which means that there were 4467 (4573) balls in play. The Angels had a 1.08 groundball-to-flyball ratio, which means that there were approx. 2319 groundballs in the infield, while the Yankees had a 1.34 G/F rate and therefore 2618 groundballs to field.
Cabrera played in 141 games, while Jeter appeared in 157, so they saw approx. 2018 and 2537 groundballs fielded by their teammates or themselves, respectively.
If we forget about putout (because they are grounders fielded by another player) and just look at the assists, Cabrera fielded 229 of 2018 balls that were hit anywhere in the infield for a percentage of 11,35%, while Jeter only got a percentage of 10,32% (262 of 2537).
I know that for these percentages to be a meaningful way of comparison, one must assume that the average of grounders hit towards the shortstop is the same for each team. I don't think that's the case, since this probably depends on the handedness and type of pitchers on this team and the opposing batters, but at least it shows what a completely useless stat Range Factor is.

If you believe David Gassko's fielding system, Derik Jeter actually had the fourth worst range in the AL after Michael Young, Russ Adams and Angel Berroa.


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