Yesterday morning my colleague Spencer Manners introduced a new fielding data set, Inside Edge Fielding, that was unveiled this week at FanGraphs. This new data breaks down each play a player has the opportunity to make into six categories based on the difficulty of successfully making the play.
The category titles are pretty self-explanatory. For example, the Impossible category represents plays that are literally impossible for a fielder to make. It’s pretty straight forward. The caveat here is that this data is 100% subjective.
Inside Edge tracks every MLB play and scouts subjectively measure the difficulty of each play. This mechanism leaves a lot of room for differing interpretations between scouts on the difficulty. One scout may deem a play Remote, while another simply as Unlikely. Those that are strictly saber-minded and dismiss the more “old school” way to analyze performance may protest, but it’s an interesting new data point nonetheless.
Spencer used the data to compare the defensive value provided by two Mets outfielders, Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr., who are fighting for a spot in the starting lineup this season. This analysis will expand our look at the data a bit to the Mets as a team during the 2013 season.
So how do the 2013 Mets stack up? Well, first and foremost, only three players met the default qualified innings limit of 900 at a position: Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd, and David Wright. It’s no secret that the Mets roster churned a good bit last year, so this is no surprise. When we drop the innings limit to 700 we’re able to get eight position players, as listed in the table below. Note that the table is limited to only Remote and Unlikely plays, which are the most difficult makeable plays as deemed by Inside Edge.
|Name||Position||Remote Attempts||Remote Success||Unlikely Attempts||Unlikely Success|
|Marlon Byrd||RF||5||0.0 %||4||50.0 %|
|Juan Lagares||CF||8||12.5 %||8||25.0 %|
|Daniel Murphy||2B||14||7.1 %||12||16.7 %|
|David Wright||3B||12||0.0 %||10||10.0 %|
|Omar Quintanilla||SS||8||0.0 %||10||20.0 %|
|Ike Davis||1B||4||0.0 %||3||33.3 %|
|John Buck||C||7||14.3 %||19||26.3 %|
|Eric Young||LF||5||40.0 %||3||100.0 %|
Byrd, Wright, Quintanilla, and Davis each had Remote play attempts and failed to convert all of them. All of the players performed better on Unlikely plays, which makes sense.
Something to note here is that there is difference in the categorical spread by position. Put simply, some positions see higher frequencies of more difficult plays than others. Roughly fifty percent of attempts by catchers are categorized as either Remote of Unlikely, for instance. Contrast that with all three outfield positions, in which roughly 90% of their plays are categorized as Almost Certain/Certain. Jeffrey Bellone at Beyond the Box Score does an excellent job of providing a breakdown of difficulty by position.
It also doesn’t do us any good to look at these numbers on their own. How did these players do in these categories when compared to their positional peers? The table below notes the ranking of each player at their position in each of these categories across the league in 2013. Remember that we’re still working with a minimum of 700 innings.
|Name||Position||Remote Rank||Unlikely Rank|
Note that in some cases, like for Byrd’s and Wright’s Remote rank, over half of the players had 0%. In Davis’ case, no first baseman with over 700 innings converted a single Remote play. So even though they were ranked dead last for their position in those categories, they had plenty of company.
The data we’re using here doesn’t necessarily rank the quality of the fielder. It simply analyzes plays made or not made based on the most difficult categories. Remember, the sample sizes we’re dealing with here are very small and the data only goes back to the 2012 season. That being said, an argument could be made that, by either combining all of these categories or even just focusing on the two easier categories, we might build a somewhat accurate picture of the defensive quality of a player. If nothing else, it’s an interesting way to view which players consistently make the hardest plays.