Monday, September 07, 2009

More on how good Kouzmanoff's defense has been

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 and Retrosheet, except where noted.

How good is Kouzmanoff's defense?

Monday September 7, 2009

I have been hearing alot about Kevin Kouzmanoff's defense and I wondered how he compared to the greats of my youth and more recent years. The guys that are enshrined in the Hall of Fame and others that simply known as great defenders.

I started with THE greatest defensive Third Baseman the game has ever known.

Brooks Robinson.

He won 18 Gold Gloves and is in the HOF today primarily because of his glove. Well, some might argue that last point since he got 2848 hits in 23 seasons in the majors, but lets just say he was KNOWN for his glove, not his bat.

Brooks Robinson's best season was 1967. He had a .980 fielding percentage and a 3.52 RF/9 with 11 errors.

The second player I wanted to see how Kouzmanoff compared to was my personal favorite, Mike Schmidt.

Schmidt won 10 Gold Gloves and some argue that he was the best NL 3B ever.

His best defensive year was 1986 when he had a .980 fielding percentage and a 2.59 RF/9 with 6 errors, although his best year for range was 1977 when he had a 3.49 RF/9.

I also looked up a couple of more recent 3B are known as great defenders, Eric Chavez for the A's, and Scott Rolen of the Phillies and Cardinals.

In Padres past we had one player that most people think of as a great 3B, Ken Caminiti.

Eric Chavez's best year defensively was 2006 when he had a .987 fFielding percentage and a 2.98 RF/9 with 5 errors.

Scott Rolen's best season defensively was 2004 when he had a .977 fielding percentage and a 3.06 RF/9 with 10 errors.

And Caminiti's best season, although it was not the one for which he won the Gold Glove for the Padres, was 1994 as an Astro when he had a .969 fielding percentage and a 2.72 RF/9 with 9 errors. Caminiti's best season for range was 1997 as a Padre when he had a 3.07 RF/9 but a .941 fielding percentage and 24 errors.

So there are the other commonly accepted greats with the glove at 3B.

How does Kouzmanoff's season in 2009 compare?

Fielding Percentage - .990 Best in MLB History.
RF/9 - 2.34 (Last season he had a 2.64 RF/9)
Errors - 3

In other words he is Schmidt like in his range and better once he touches the ball.

So he may not get to as many balls as some players like Robinson, but when he does, he gets an out.

Some people are saying that Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals should win the Gold Glove because he has so much better range than Kouzmanoff, but his RF/9 is only 3.06. That type of range certainly does not place him among the greats of the game like Robinson.

And when Zimmerman gets to the ball he is only converting that chance to an out in .963 percent of the time.

By a combination of his range and the pitchers he is playing behind, Zimmerman has 404 TC to Kouzmanoff's 298 TC to date, and yet he has just one more double play turned. In other words Kouzmanoff has been much more efficient at turning the double play.

Both Kouzmanoff and Zimmerman have the same number of fielding errors - 3, but Kouzmanoff has ZERO throwing errors while Zimmerman has 12 throwing errors.

All in all, if the question is who should win the Gold Glove, in my way of thinking Kouzmanoff wins.