The Columbus Dispatch has a new Reds beat writer, Scott Priestle, who seems to be a rarity today compared with most traditional (newspaper) baseball writers, in that he has embraced non-traditional stats in his articles. He does try to to keep it simple (probably to not confuse the casual fan), so the hardcore saber enthusiast isn't going to be blown away with anything earth shattering in these articles. However, they are a breath of fresh air from the typical print that we are accustomed too.
This particular article focuses on the Reds defense (or lack thereof) and two things stick out with me.
1. Jeff Keppinger is a perfect example of my beef with traditional defensive stats (errors committed/fielding percentage). He appears to be doing a good job at SS, but he has limited range and the advanced defensive stats show that he is below-average overall.
2. Reds assistant GM, Bob Miller, somewhat dismisses these non-traditional defensive stats, since they are "more subjective than offensive statistics".
My eyes tell me that Kepp has limited range. My eyes are subjective. I don't need zone ratings or revised zone ratings to tell me that, however they do back it up. I would hope our FO doesn't make the mistake of falling in love with Kepp's bat (which I feel is decent, but somewhat overrated), and stick him at SS or 3B permanently. Don't get me wrong, his bat is good enough to play SS full-time, I just don't think his glove is.
If Gonzalez is let go somehow, I would hope the only way Jeff Keppinger becomes a regular is if he takes 2B and Brandon Phillips moves to SS. Otherwise, I like him as a super-utility player (see: Ryan Freel 3 years ago). I just hope they don't make the same mistake with Kepp and try to make him something he's probably not - an everyday player.
Stats show fielding flaws
Traditional figures look OK, but advanced metrics don't
Friday, May 9, 2008 2:58 AM
By Scott Priestle
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
CINCINNATI -- Bronson Arroyo carried his 8.63 ERA and a smile into the Reds clubhouse the past three days. He insists he feels as healthy and strong as ever, so he is going about his business the same as always.
"I don't have one ache, not even a headache," he said. "There's nothing I can complain about."
He could complain about defense, but it is not his nature. And it might not resonate, anyway.
By some measures, the Reds are an average defensive team, steady at most positions. At the start of play yesterday, they were tied for 15th in the major leagues in fielding percentage, the middle of the pack.
By more sophisticated measures, the Reds are decidedly below average. More than 32 percent of the balls put in play against them have become hits or errors, the highest percentage in the majors. By comparison, about 28 percent of balls in play against the Chicago Cubs become hits or errors.
Reds pitchers lead the majors in strikeouts, so there aren't as many balls in play against them as against the Cubs. But Arroyo and Matt Belisle, who are scheduled to start the next two games, have needed help from teammates unable to provide it.
According to a formula developed by Tom Tango and available through the Hardball Times, Arroyo's "fielding independent" ERA is 5.89 and Belisle's is 4.33, meaning the Cincinnati defense has cost Arroyo nearly three runs on his ERA and cost Belisle about 2 1/2 runs. It has cost Josh Fogg 3 1/2 runs.
"I've had stretches like this before," Arroyo said, citing a skid last year in which he went 0-4 with a 10.62 ERA. "That's the way baseball is."
Reds manager Dusty Baker said he believes the three most important ingredients for a successful team are "pitching, defense and timely hitting -- in that order." Asked for his impression of the team's defense to date, he pointed to the fielding percentage.
"We're pretty good, but we can get better," he said.
Shortstop Jeff Keppinger might be the embodiment of the Reds defense. He played mostly second base as a professional before joining the Reds last season. Keppinger lacks the typical shortstop's range but has made only one error in 33 games.
"For playing a position nobody thought I could play, I think I've done well," he said.
He ranked third among big-league shortstops in fielding percentage at the start of play yesterday. But according to Baseball Prospectus' various defensive statistics, he has been below average. He ranks in the bottom half of shortstops in zone rating (a STATS Inc. creation that measures the percentage of balls in a player's zone that he converts into outs) and is among the worst in "revised zone rating" (which takes into account double plays and plays made outside the shortstop's typical zone).
Using the revised zone rating, the only Reds regulars who rank among the top half of players at their respective positions are center fielder Corey Patterson and second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Assistant general manager Bob Miller was quick to point out that such defensive statistics are more subjective than offensive statistics, so they should be taken "with a huge grain of salt."
"We've done a decent job," Miller said. "We've gotten better the last couple years, that's for sure, and we expect to keep getting better. They're certainly trying. Our guys work hard at it."