Monday September 7, 2009
Myron over at Another Padres Blog brought up some points about how good Kevin Kouzmanoff's defense has been this season that I want to speak about a little bit.
One of the things that he brings up is that because Ryan Zimmerman has more total chances, he is supposedly a better fielder than Kouzmanoff.
Let me say this first, Total Chances has as much to do with the pitchers as with the range of the player.
To say either Kouzmanoff or Zimmerman is a better fielder because he has more chances without also finding out what percentage of the balls were actually hit to the left side is disingenuous. Common sense tells us that if you face a larger percentage of RHB, you will have more balls hit to the left side.
To say either is a better fielder without knowing what percentage of the balls hit were ground balls makes that argument faulty as well.
So lets take a look at those and let me give a few examples.
Overall the Washington Nationals pitchers induce ground balls at a higher rate (44.8 %) than Padres pitchers (43.2 %). That MUST be taken into account.
5437 total PA x 1.6% = 86 more ground balls induced by Nationals pitchers.
A great example -
If Chris Young is pitching, then nearly twice as man of the balls hit will be fly balls than if John Lannan is pitching.
The number of right handed batters faced must also be taken into account.
Overall Zimmerman faced 6% more RHB. As we stated above, RHB are more likely to hit the ball to the left side than a left handed batter.
The Nationals have faced a much higher percentage of RHB (3077 vs RHB, 2270 VS LHB) than the Padres have (2721 vs RHB, 2632 vs LHB) which means more hits to the left side of the infield.
3077 -2721 = 356 more PA by RHB.
In 74% of the plate appearances by RHB the ball was put in play and 41% of those were hit to what THT defines as the 3B zone, then 108 additional balls were hit to the 3B zone against the Nationals than were hit to the 3B zone against the Padres. Zimmerman has 106 more total chances than Kouzmanoff. I simply do not see any benefit that came from Zimmerman's supposed greater range.
So the fact that Nationals pitchers induce a higher percentage of ground balls and face more batters overall and more RHB accounts for, at the very least, a huge portion of the 106 additional chances that Ryan Zimmerman has had in 2009.
Now in his article, Myron quotes THT stats that say Zimmerman has gotten to 51 more out of zone (OOZ) balls than Kouzmanoff has, but Zimmerman has thrown away 12 of the 51 balls THT claims that his slightly larger range has allowed him to get to. (Myron, 84-33=51, not 45)
I am not sure that THT's stats are correct since what the zone is is totally subjective, but assuming they are, were the additional 38 balls reached worth the 12 additional errors?
Those 12 additional throwing errors by Zimmerman resulted in 27 unearned runs scored. So how many games were lost because of those 27 additional runs? Did the 38 additional outs save 27 runs? Until you can answer that question you cannot quantify the benefit of Zimmerman getting to 51 more supposed out of zone balls.
Is additional range a benefit? Certainly. IF you can convert those balls into outs.
If the season ended today would I take a guy for the Gold Glove with slightly more range that commits 5 TIMES as many errors? No Way.
I would take the guy that knows his limits and simply does not commit throwing errors.
I would take the guy that converts 20% more of his DP opportunities.
I would take the guy who set a major league record for fielding percentage.
I would take Kouzmanoff.
* Stats taken from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet, except where noted.