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Saturday, January 23, 2016

How much is fielding worth? Heyward? Cespedes?

The eternal question.  Let's consider Jason Heyward and Yoenis Cespedes, who has reportedly agreed to a three year deal with the Mets at $25 million per year with an opt out after one year; more in a future post.

The Chicago Cubs must think, and probably now desperately hope, that fielding is worth a lot.  A lot.  Those adorable overachieving Cubbies will be paying lots of money to:

Jason Heyward
Position: Rightfielder 
Bats: Left, Throws: Left 
Height: 6' 5", Weight: 245 lb.
Born: August 9, 1989 in Ridgewood, NJ

201626Chicago Cubs$17,500,0006.000
201727Chicago Cubs$24,000,000
201828Chicago Cubs$24,000,000Has right to opt out of contract following 2018 season.
201929Chicago Cubs$22,500,000Has right to opt out of contract following 2019 season if he has 550 PA that year.
202030Chicago Cubs$23,500,000
202131Chicago Cubs$23,500,000
202232Chicago Cubs$24,500,000
202333Chicago Cubs$24,500,000
OPS+ 116 career, 114 in 2015

13 homers in 2015.  13

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) 6.5 in 2015, career high.  dWAR 2.0.  oWAR 3.8.  Obviously, they cannot be added to calculate total WAR.  Let's just say that a lot of Heyward's perceived value is based on his fielding, even though he is a corner outfielder, not a center fielder, not a shortstop, not a catcher.

WAR Position Players  s c a p y
1.Harper (WSN)9.9
2.Trout (LAA)9.4
3.Donaldson (TOR)8.8
4.Goldschmidt (ARI)8.8
5.Votto (CIN)7.6
6.Pollock (ARI)7.4
7.Kiermaier (TBR)7.3
8.Cain (KCR)7.2
9.Machado (BAL)7.1
10.Heyward (STL)                      6.5

Tenth in WAR among non-pitchers in the Major Baseball League (MBL).  In his career Heyward's batting has only been about 15% better than average.  So Heyward must be one heck of a fielder, even it's only in right field.

Defensive WAR  s c a p y
1.Kiermaier (TBR)5.0
2.Simmons (ATL)3.5
3.Crawford (SFG)2.9
4.Ahmed (ARI)2.8
5.Pillar (TOR)2.8
6.Inciarte (ARI)2.6
7.Russell (CHC)2.6
8.Kinsler (DET)2.6
9.Beltre (TEX)2.3
Cain (KCR)2.3

Obviously Kevin Kiermaier is number 7 in total WAR because he's got a big fat 5 in dWAR.

September 23, 2014
Baseball Therapy

Will StatCast Cure Our Defensive Metric Blues?
by Russell A. Carleton baseballprospectus.com

It’s been known for a long time that a single year’s defensive ratings, particularly for outfielders, isn’t a reliable indicator of a player’s talent level...

I often hear people at this point appeal to technology. StatCast, the much-discussed stalking mechanism, erm ... tracking technology that will tell us exactly where everyone was at all times on a baseball field will save us...

Currently, even the best “advanced” defensive metrics are based on data sources that have a lot of holes. Stringers manually input where a ball landed. They make judgment calls on whether the ball was a line drive or a fly ball. ..

... defensive metrics, particularly outfield ones, are unreliable ...

StatCast promises to be a fantastic tool for figuring out what Alex Gordon’s or Jason Heyward’s true range is on your average fly ball... Unfortunately, it might not tell us what we actually want to know.

There are two issues that could torpedo our quest for a good reliable fielding metric. One is the issue of fielder positioning...

But there’s another threat to a good, reliable fielding metric... the subset of fly balls that distinguishes good fielders from bad is very small.

Fielding, especially in the outfield, is a very statistically noisy process when you break it down. No wonder we have trouble coming to a good consensus on how much value an outfielder added. He might be a very different outfielder from play to play and there are only a small handful of plays over the course of a season that will help us to distinguish who is good and who isn’t. That’s a recipe for a very unreliable metric.

... over the course of a year, we’re only going to get a double-digit sample of balls that actually matter...

Outfield defense is just really hard to pin down.


Yoenis Cespedes

Position: Leftfielder 
Bats: Right, Throws: Right 
Height: 5' 10", Weight: 210 lb.
Born: October 18, 1985 in Campechuela, Granma, Cuba

OPS+ 122 career, 137 in 2015

35 homers in 2015.  35

Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets Big Bet Against Fielding
by Dave Cameron - January 23, 2016 fangraphs.com

The worst team defense we have recorded since we have UZR and DRS? The 2005 Yankees, who ran a staggering -142 UZR, mostly thanks to their Hideki Matsui–Bernie Williams–Gary Sheffield outfield; they even put Matsui in center for 220 innings, just for the heck of it. That team won 95 games and the American League East. The next worst defensive team we’ve recorded? The 2006 Yankees, who brought back most of the same unit, but improved to “only” a -75 UZR; they won 97 games and their division again. When you run best-in-baseball offenses and combine it with good enough pitching, even a terrible defense won’t sink you.

And it’s worth noting that part of the reason the Yankees defensive numbers were so terrible is that they had a contact-oriented pitching staff at a time when the league’s move towards strikeouts wasn’t yet so pronounced. Their pitching staff — the ones that featured guys like Chien-Ming Wang and Jaret Wright — struck out just 16% of the 12,397 batters they faced over the 2005-2006 seasons, leading to a lot of plays available for their defenders. For comparison, the 2015 Mets struck out 22% of the batters they faced, and that was with Jon Niese in the rotation; more innings from Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard could push that total even higher in 2016...

The Yankees were the exception, not the rule ... it was really just one team doing it four different times; the 2003 and 2004 Yankees were also terrible defensively, but they won 101 games in each of those years too. That Yankees roster is the blueprint for how you can overcome a lousy defense with great hitting and good enough pitching, but no one else has really been able to copy that model.

Lest we forget, the Yankee teams that won championships in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 were dominated by good hitters who were suspect fielders up the middle where it supposedly matters most:
catcher: Joe Girardi good fielder/bad hitter (1996), Jorge Posada
shortstop: Derek Jeter
second: Mariano Duncan (1996), Chuck Knoblauch
center: Bernie Williams

In 2015 the Yankees had good fielders who didn't hit much at catcher, short, center and adequate fielding at second.  That team qualified for the tournament but lost the wild card game to move on to the first series.

See previous post: FIP meets common sense. Saturday, January 23, 2016 1: AM

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