Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fire Rob Neyer

Not for the largely opinionated nature of his blogs while trying to assume the air of a smarmy, objective observer. Not because his predictions are wrong so much either. But because of him making broad conclusions based on some stat his readers haven't seen (which obviously must make him right).

Rob on Maddux's Gold Glove:
"For example, the voters love to vote for the guy who won last year. Greg Maddux has now won his 17th, despite giving up an immense number of stolen bases. Granted, that was a team-wide issue; Chris Young gave up 44 steals without a single runner being caught. But Maddux has always given up a lot of steals, because he doesn't want to bother with holding runners close. I'm sure that's a defensible tactic, but I'm also sure that should disqualify a pitcher from being considered the best fielder."

I'm now going to attempt the impossible and argue that Maddux deserved to win the gold glove despite not having any individual pitcher attempted steal/caught stealing stats at my disposal. First of all, I don't consider controlling the running game to be part of fielding your position. The very fact that you can't quantify how much a pitcher himself determines the steals against makes it a useless argument. But really, even if Maddux was horrible at controlling the running game, that's only about 1 single turned double by the opponent per start, hardly a big problem for run prevention.

Having watched Maddux for years I already know he is awesome at fielding, but here's the math to prove it for 2007:

Total fielding chances as a pitcher MLB leaders:
Webb: 75
Maddux: 71
Hudson: 70
Carmona: 64

Pitching leaders in this stat tend to be sinkerballers since pitchers have more of an opportunity to field grounders. So here are their G/B ratios:

Webb: 3.34
Maddux: 2.15
Hudson: 2.76
Carmona: 3.28

The only guy with more total chances than Maddux is a sick groundball machine while Maddux gets the least grounders of the group.

Now take into account how many total balls were hit in play against them (rudimentary estimate here using total batters faced - strikeouts - walks)
Webb: 709
Maddux: 701
Hudson: 740
Carmona: 681

Now take into account how many errors they made:
Webb: 5!!!
Maddux: 1 (His first since 2003)
Hudson: 0
Carmona: 2

In summary, Maddux allows less balls in play than the competition, and less grounders of the balls in play, and he still almost leads all of baseball in how many balls he got to, and of the balls he got to he made only 1 error while Webb made 5.

I don't know how this gold glove selection could be any more of a given. He's the Dominic Hasek of pitching. He is 1st or 2nd in the NL in range factor for pitchers every year since 2001 (ESPN doesn't go back any further), and he should probably keep getting the gold glove every year until he's in a wheel chair.

As good as he is now though, his stats are really something to see from earlier in his career. First consider that since 2001 the most total chances for any pitcher was 84 by Livan Hernandez in 2004, a fluky year. In his prime maddux had 95 chances in 2000, 91 in 1999, 99 in 1998, 109 in 1996, and 93 in 1990, all of those years having pitched less innings than Hernandez did in 2004. Maddux's career high was 109 in 1996 (1 error that year). he could win the award on reputation alone but he actually still clearly deserves it.

Now I may never write about gold gloves again. Of all the poorly voted on baseball awards, gold gloves are by far the worst. I've found that the best fielders at each position are only chosen for the award about 10% of the time, which is only slightly better than picking AL and NL regulars out of a hat.

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