Red Sox 23rd in defense? I think not.


Got turned on to these team defense rankings through Beyond the Box Score. Normally I let these kinds of things go, but this one is pretty egregious. Thanks for the nice try, Justin Inaz, but your defense rankings are totally whack. Is there anyone who truly believes that the White Sox have a better defense than we do? Nick Swisher over Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp? Paul Konerko over Kevin Youkilis? Seriously? Have you seen these guys play?

And that’s not all. Using his “total value estimates”, Inaz concludes that the St. Louis Cardinals are the most talented team in baseball, followed by the Cubbies. These clubs hold a huge lead over Boston. National League bias, anyone? Stats from the NL must be adjusted better, because the overall talent level is just not as good. The best hitters in the NL can stand out more because the pitching isn’t as good, and the best pitchers look even better because they’re facing one or two more light-hitting infielders in every lineup than they would in the AL.

Inaz does list Boston as the best offensive club in baseball (by a huge margin). As much as I want to agree with that, I’d say that Texas is right there, with the Cubs also very good.

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5 Responses to Red Sox 23rd in defense? I think not.

  1. Sky says:

    Thanks for the link and commentary. I too am surprised to see the White Sox and Red Sox right next to each other. The biggest drags on the Red Sox total are Manny (-11), Bay (-10), and Coco (-9). Pedroia, Youk, Lowell, and Varitek are the only significant positives, all at +5 runs. I’m shocked Coco rates that low — it could be a quirky thing. And I’m shocked Bay could rate that low over such a few games. Weird.

    As for the White Sox, they have a few positive guys: Crede, Cabrera, Anderson, and Uribe are between +6 and +3 runs. And Ramirez, Quentin, and Pierzinski are bad, -12 to -6 runs. Swisher is at -2 runs overall, mostly because he’s played CF less than half his innings. 530 in CF, 220 in corner spots, and 400 at first base. He’s quite capable when not in center.

    As for the Cardinals ranking well, that’s only based on position players, not pitchers. With Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick, Troy Glaus, Rick Ankiel, Yadier Molina, and Skip Schumaker all more than 20 runs above replacement level, they are pretty spectacular. Pujols, Ludwick, and Ankiel are among the best hitters at their position and almost every regular is a good fielder.

    Justin’s league adjustment is about five runs per hitter over a full season, which is what most of the studies have suggested. There are actually a very high percentage of the top position players in the NL (10 out of the top 15), but overall they are about equivalent to AL position players. It’s the pitchers that make the NL weak.

    Justin’s methodology is actually quite sound, I suggest you read the articles he’s written.

    And we’d love to have you join the Beyond the Boxscore community and join the discussion over there.

    -Sky

  2. redsoxtalk says:

    Sky, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I think some of those “confusing” defensive ratings are a result of ZR and RZR limitations.

    At the very least, there are some big discrepancies between RZR and other fielding metrics such as John Dewan’s plus/minus system. For example, I can’t quite fathom why Bay is actually ranked behind Manny Ramirez as a fielder, when my eyes tell me that he’s just as good, if not a good deal better. However, I can’t claim to have watched every play, so that’s fine. He’s clearly not the pre-knee injury Bay out there.

    I agree that Crede, Uribe and Cabrera are all excellent fielders, but I’d say that Lowell, Pedroia and Youkilis should pretty much zero that out. Crisp has definitely been subpar
    (for him) on his routes this season, but -9 seems overly harsh for a part-time player who missed time on the DL.

    As for league adjustment, I don’t think a linear adjustment does full justice to the discrepancy. To me, elite players gain an added advantage over an average player by going over to the NL – just look at CC Sabathia this year, or Dan Haren, who showed no signs of regressing until the last month. Or conversely, the AL has been tough for Miguel Cabrera (though, to be fair, he played hurt a lot).

    I don’t argue with the measures Justin is using, I just don’t think they cover enough to give a completely fair picture of everything. But then again, that is why we crunch these numbers, right?

  3. Sky says:

    I agree that there’s plenty of inaccuracy in the zone ratings to explain some team numbers being off by a fair amount. The Red Sox could certainly be explained that way.

    Regarding the league-adjustment, you could be right, but I’m really not convinced. By Justin’s adjusted offensive numbers, once you get at least 25 players deep in MLB, there’s consistently 53% of the best hitters in the NL (what you’d expect with 16 of the 30 MLB teams in the NL.) But in the top ten, most are in the NL. I’d argue that’s just because Pujols, Berkman, Chipper, and Hanley are just that good, but maybe there’s a non-linear effect. Also ARod, Miguel Cabrera, and Big Papi, three consistently awesome hitters are having down years (for them) for AL teams.

  4. Sky says:

    As for your point about pitchers going over to the NL, I’m not sure that holds as much. Haren, sure, but CC pitched pretty damn well last year and was back to normal in this year after a couple really crappy starts in April. I’d like to see more data points.

    You’d expect any pitcher moving to the NL to see his ERA drop by at least half a run due to having no DH. From what I’ve seen, it’s the pitchers who are much worse in the NL (which is why leaugue-average ERA is nearly the same as in the AL), while the hitters aren’t much worse. That’s why the hitters’ stats really need adjusting, while the pitchers’ don’t.

  5. redsoxtalk says:

    Brian Cartwright over at Statistically Speaking has a new article about the shortcomings of Zone Ratings and RZR, as well as DER.
    http://mvn.com/mlb-stats/2008/09/17/whats-missing-from-zone-ratings/

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