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Thread: Can Mike Trout field?

  1. #1
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Can Mike Trout field?

    If you remember back to last season, it became an article of faith that Mike Trout was the finest defensive outfielder on the planet. It was one point on which almost everyone could agree. Seamheads could say, "Well, just watch him play" and, sure enough, he'd cover an ocean out there. Meanwhile statheads could trot out that he was worth +21 runs on defense and a 2.1 dWAR, which became the linchpin of the MVP argument for Trout.

    Yet this year Trout is worth -12 runs (at least according to Baseball Info Systems) and has a -1.1 dWAR. He's almost a dstat twin with Shin-Soo Choo. Suddenly Carlos Gomez is the new gold standard in the outfield.

    So what changed?

    We'll probably see Russian novel-length breakdowns trying to answer this question, but let me cut straight to the answer - nothing. Nothing has changed. Mike Trout is every bit as fast as he was last season and possesses all the defensive capabilities he did a year ago. He just isn't getting a randomly generated hit array around him that allows him to post the same gaudy numbers.

    BTW, Gomez has been the gold standard in CF for pretty much the past four seasons. It's just that this season he's got gaudy defensive numbers.

    Anyway, I think the lesson with Trout is that we're missing something incredibly important when it comes to quantifying defense, particularly in CF where the defensive talent is outstanding. We're not able to separate circumstance from ability. No one should put much stock in circumstance. It comes. It goes. Numerically, ability remains elusive.
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  4. #2
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    So you're saying that he's facing fewer x-chances than the quality of his card and the laws of probability would dictate?
    ". . . acquiring J. Blanton from Oakland for, apparently, Bailey/Cueto, Votto and a lesser prospect. I do it in a second . . . The Reds' equation this year is simple: Make Matt Belisle your #3 starter . . . trade for Blanton, win 85 or more, be in the mix all summer." - Paul Daugherty, Feb. 8, 2008

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Excellent post.

    Can't look at the defensive stats too seriously on an annual basis, and can't just compare WAR's to pick MVP's. Like any stat, the defensive values tell a story and need to be looked at in the proper context to be used correctly.

    For a guy like Gomez whom passes the stat and eye test, it's a pretty easy analysis. He's at the level that even in his supposed "down" years (presumably caused by random variation from year to year based on a number of factors) in the defensive stats department he's still adding positive value.

    Mike Trout might be more like the CF version of Jay Bruce (defensively). Was Jay Bruce really an "out of this world" defender in 2010, and change overnight to an average defender in 2011 and thereafter. Of course not. He's still the same guy that continues to field his position in right in a very satisfactory manner. Of course, it's easier to quantify Bruce at this point than Trout because the sample size available is much larger and we can more easily normalize the ups and downs that vary from season to season.

    We don't have that with Trout yet. But perhaps what the stats are showing us is that in conjunction with last season, Trout has been a solid above average fielder in CF, and the bottom of his curve is going to be a little lower than Gomez. Nothing wrong with that.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    At worst....Trout is very near what he was last year in the OF. Those defensive stats are just flawed.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Defensive stats and WAR are not to be trusted.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Get precise measurements of where the ball is and how fast it moves vs. where the defender is and how fast he moves and the riddle will be solved. It'll happen eventually. Just a matter of getting the right cameras in place.

    For now, it's all still in shadow.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Quote Originally Posted by junkhead View Post
    Defensive stats and WAR are not to be trusted.
    I agree that you can't trust them, but there can also be reasons for the variance besides chance. A player may have gained 5 or 10 pounds from the previous year. I know when I was younger and lost 10 pounds I would feel much quicker and faster. A player may be fighting nagging injuries one year and not the next. I also believe players can get on a defensive hot streak or slump. There are so many plays where a foot here or there make a difference and any number of factors can come into play.

  12. #8
    High five! nate's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    UZR has him a tick above average.

    Two thoughts:

    1. You really need a large pool of data to say a guy is this or that with regard to defense.

    2. Guys have up and down years with the glove just like they do with the bat. Let's see where Trout ends up at the end of next year.
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    I really don't think it's case of a guy having an up or down year with the glove.

    It's more a case of these defensive stats may not be accurate over smaller sample sizes. And in cases of these types of defensive stats, a small sample size is a year. You need about 3 years to get an accurate read on a players defensive stats.

    Usung Bruce as the example, he's likely been the same defensive player in each of the last 3 years. And 3 years of stats says he's good. But the defenisive stats suggest his defense has varied from year to year. When in all likelihood, the variance has been small. But it eventually gets it right.

  14. #10
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Maybe Trout had a great defensive season last year and a crappy one this year?

    Of course, I prefer UZR over DRS in part because UZR uses a less volatile baseline; UZR had Trout at +13.3 last year and has him at +2.2 this year... hardly a difference to get all worked up about.

    Here's my Russian novel:

    Defensive stats should and will be improved. But defense isn't constant, guys can have good and bad years, sometimes back-to-back. Just because something doesn't look right doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong.

    Saying that because Trout is as fast this year as he was last year that his defensive performance should be the same is comparable to saying a player's eyesight or strength is the same and thus he should have the same OBP and SLG. I know you aren't exactly saying that M2. But as you suggest, defensive stats, like most offensive ones, are measures of outcomes, not skills. So it's a fairly silly point to bring up.

    I think what people miss sometimes when thinking about defense is that the year-to-year variability in defense isn't juts a function of imprecise measurement. Of course, there's the issue of small samples that has been discussed: If you looked at offense on the half-season (or less) basis, you find more "year" to "year" variability even among the elite performers. But it's also a function of defense actually being more sensitive to streaks of good/bad performance by its nature because single opportunities can carry a lot of value relative to the typical play. While all hitters make outs between 55% and 75% of the time, most defensive plays have greater certainty. This is partly a function of defensive players having their abilities more closely aligned to the difficulties of their opportunities. It's like trying to measure offense if #8 hitters only had to face long relievers but #3 hitters had to face aces.

    So that that is why we have have to measure defense by giving positional value. Within the context of a ball hit to a certain area, the result of a given play is much more certain, meaning a play that deviates from the norm is a more significant, valuable event. Have a particularly good or bad stretch and the value adds up quickly. I think we'd actually have a more intuitive sense of defensive production if we looked not just at the player's variance from his positional peers, but his overall defensive production; but instead we tack the value of playing league average defense on to the guy's offensive production in the WAR calculus. What this does, in practice, is stretch out the scale of relative defensive performance.

    I realize this wasn't exactly articulate -- I should be working, so I'm writing quickly. I would just urge people to dive in to the defensive data as it relates to WAR more deeply and think critically about how performance is being measured and reported -- and how those things affect our perceptions.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 08-12-2013 at 12:30 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    It seems incongruous to me to say that defensive stats don't work over short stretches, but that they do over bigger sample sizes. While certainly a player's performance ebbs and flows, the stat measuring the performance should still work.

    We wouldn't question the validity of OBP just because we see that one month a player has a .500 OBP, and the next month a .200 OBP.

    I fear that the way the newer defensive stats themselves are measured is flawed. Zone ratings are still very rough, and we still don't have precise ways to measure how far a player runs to field a ball, or exactly how hard a ball is hit. There is a difference between a 115 mph line drive, and one that is 90 mph. What about the angle the ball is hit? Does placement of fielders (often by coaches) before the ball is hit effect how we measure how much ground a player covers?

    To me, there is so much unknown about how to quantify fielding ability, that variation of defensive skill stats may just show the basic unreliability of those stats rather than the ability of the player.
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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Breaking this out so it doesn't get lost in the wall of text above:

    What if we looked at offensive production the way we look at defense: as a counting stat that measures aggregate run differential compared to the average player? We can do just that. Go to a Fangraphs player page and look at the "Batting" column of the Value section at the bottom of the page.

    In 2011, Phillips was +16.2. Last year he was +0.3. This year he's -4.6. That's a more than 20 run swing. OMG! Offensive stats are broken!!!1! Phillips hasn't changed that much, right? Chris Davis went from -2.9 in 2011 to 13.2 last year to 43.3 this. Wow! He's not any stronger now than he used to be. Offensive stats are broken and unreliable. Clearly he's not 45 runs more talented. We should probably just ignore measure of offensive production until they get better, right?

    But nobody would balk at that. Over time we've developed an intuition of the scale of offensive performance. We marvel at Chris Davis' surge, but don't question the system of measurement by which we assess it. We've not yet developed this intuition for defense and in fact have an intuition that suggests defense should be much more consistent. Yes, our measurement of defense needs to improve and, over time, it will. But, in my opinion, people should be more open minded about the possibility that part of the problem with the metrics is us, not them.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Quote Originally Posted by mbgrayson View Post
    We wouldn't question the validity of OBP just because we see that one month a player has a .500 OBP, and the next month a .200 OBP.

    I fear that the way the newer defensive stats themselves are measured is flawed. Zone ratings are still very rough, and we still don't have precise ways to measure how far a player runs to field a ball, or exactly how hard a ball is hit. There is a difference between a 115 mph line drive, and one that is 90 mph. What about the angle the ball is hit? Does placement of fielders (often by coaches) before the ball is hit effect how we measure how much ground a player covers?
    OBA measures an actual event that has occured so there is no question about it's accuracy. A batter either gets on base or he doesn't. It's always going to be accurate after even one AB.

    Defensive metrics are trying to attept to assess how many balls are hit into a players zone and how many are caught. You've properly itentified the problem as no two balls are really hit alike. It's why you need a huge sample size to properly weed out the variances of balls hit into a players zone.

  20. #14
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Quote Originally Posted by PuffyPig View Post
    OBA measures an actual event that has occured so there is no question about it's accuracy. A batter either gets on base or he doesn't. It's always going to be accurate after even one AB.

    Defensive metrics are trying to attept to assess how many balls are hit into a players zone and how many are caught. You've properly identified the problem as no two balls are really hit alike. It's why you need a huge sample size to properly weed out the variances of balls hit into a players zone.
    1) Defensive metrics are measuring events that actually occurred too. An out is either made or it is not. On that front, they're the same.

    2) No two plate appearances are exactly the same. No two pitchers are the exact same. Individual pitches, even the same type of pitch from the same pitcher, vary each time. And yet we have no problem simply crediting a player the same for a HR off of Mariano Rivera as a HR off of Logan Ondrusek.

    Where things differ is valuation. You're basically comparing apples and oranges. We could look at fielding percentage, the more direct comparison -- many people used to, some still do. However, just like people learned long ago it's silly to judge hitters based just on counting outs and non-outs (or hits and non-hits -- they even factored out poor hitting opportunities!), you wouldn't want to judge defensive performance based only on fielding percentage. So instead, we find a way to account for the differences in the events being counted. On offense we can do that by looking at bases accrued, proving a bit more color through another aggregate stat, SLG. Or we can just count other things too, such as the sub-group of particularly notable events (HR). Of course, the better way to go is to place a run value on those events to get a run based measured of offensive performance.

    The new defensive stats basically work the same way, they just skipped the step of counting notable events. There's no counting stat on defensive associated with robbing players of hits. Partly that's because there's no direct correlate to the HR. But it's also because we're just oriented to offensive production. We have no problem giving a hitter credit for a double in the gap that should have been run down (and would have been were it not for a bad route/ slow fielder).
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 08-12-2013 at 12:50 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Can Mike Trout field?

    Yes.


    Next question!
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