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Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby noseeum » Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:05 pm

Big Pimpin wrote:
noseeum wrote:
Big Pimpin wrote:
It's long been known that certain metrics (UZR especially) has had problems with LF in Fenway (and Enron/Minute Maid) because of the wall. And like I said before, I agree that we can't have complete confidence in any one number. But if you take other systems and multiple years and look at the entirety of the data and then put a range around it, I think you can be pretty confident in the result.

For instance, I may not agree that Manny is a -18 LF because that's his UZR number for 2007, but if I look at UZR and PMR and Chone (I didn't, I'm just making this argument) and come to the conclusion that he's roughly a -15 LF then I maybe I can reasonably think he's a -10 to -20 LF. Knowing the problems with Fenway and wanting being conservative, I would probably value him as a -5 to -15 LF. I guess my own personal opinion is simply that the defensive data and information is very useful, even if one particular metric or year or whatever isn't completely 100% reliable.


Yes, but to go from "this is useful" to "this definitely proves the Bradley + RP is more valuable than Dunn" is a bit of a stretch no?

Forgetting about what the stats say, I think you could also argue that defensive stats are meaningless for Bradley. He only played 20 games in the outfield last year, and he hasn't spent significant amounts of time in CF since 2005. He's suffered injuries every year since then. His admittedly stellar offensive output last year was as a DH. He's never matched it while playing a lot in the outfield. I think there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of relying on Bradley, and I think there's plenty reason to wonder how good he is defensively at this point in his career. He is of course way better than Dunn, but exactly how much better and what it means for value is very much in question IMO.


To be fair, I really didn't set out to prove that, it was a byproduct of "there's no way in hell 100 games of Bradley and 160 of Dunn are comparable" and I'm still confident I proved that. In fact I was surprised and just how much better Bradley rated. Anyway, it's especially true if Bradley's replacement is those 60 games is actually a guy who's pretty close to league average like Fukudome.

I also assumed significant offensive regression for Bradley (well I didn't, but James and Marcel did ;-) ). I think you're right about not knowing what Bradley's true defensive ability is, but I think there's as many questions about Dunn. Dunn rated very poorly last year, is that his true talent level? Is he fading as he gets older? Those things are very possible but weren't included in the numbers because I averaged the past 4 years.

Anyway, I didn't want to do a range and I didn't want to take the time to look at PMR because I didn't have the time, but I'm pretty confident that if I had I would have still found them pretty comparable in the same analysis.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby noseeum » Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:05 pm

GotowarMissAgnes wrote:
Big Pimpin wrote:
It's long been known that certain metrics (UZR especially) has had problems with LF in Fenway (and Enron/Minute Maid) because of the wall. And like I said before, I agree that we can't have complete confidence in any one number. But if you take other systems and multiple years and look at the entirety of the data and then put a range around it, I think you can be pretty confident in the result.

For instance, I may not agree that Manny is a -18 LF because that's his UZR number for 2007, but if I look at UZR and PMR and Chone (I didn't, I'm just making this argument) and come to the conclusion that he's roughly a -15 LF then I maybe I can reasonably think he's a -10 to -20 LF. Knowing the problems with Fenway and wanting being conservative, I would probably value him as a -5 to -15 LF. I guess my own personal opinion is simply that the defensive data and information is very useful, even if one particular metric or year or whatever isn't completely 100% reliable.



I think the larger problem that the Manny problem illustrates is that there is wide variation in evaluating even the same player over relatively short time periods or in different parks. There are several possible explanations for that:

Unmeasured park factors
Measurement issues
"Normal" variation
Defensive "slumps"


The latter two seem unlikely, given the size of the variations and the fact that most players make 70-80 percent or more of the plays in their zone.

Which suggest that a lot of the variation we see within players has nothing to do with defensive ability...which should lead to the conclusion that it is also likely that the range that you have to draw around the defensive measures for individual players is quite large.

At this point, I think we are unable to say much more than that a player is below average, average, or above average with any good degree of confidence.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby noseeum » Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:22 pm

Big Pimpin wrote:
noseeum wrote:
Big Pimpin wrote:
It's long been known that certain metrics (UZR especially) has had problems with LF in Fenway (and Enron/Minute Maid) because of the wall. And like I said before, I agree that we can't have complete confidence in any one number. But if you take other systems and multiple years and look at the entirety of the data and then put a range around it, I think you can be pretty confident in the result.

For instance, I may not agree that Manny is a -18 LF because that's his UZR number for 2007, but if I look at UZR and PMR and Chone (I didn't, I'm just making this argument) and come to the conclusion that he's roughly a -15 LF then I maybe I can reasonably think he's a -10 to -20 LF. Knowing the problems with Fenway and wanting being conservative, I would probably value him as a -5 to -15 LF. I guess my own personal opinion is simply that the defensive data and information is very useful, even if one particular metric or year or whatever isn't completely 100% reliable.


Yes, but to go from "this is useful" to "this definitely proves the Bradley + RP is more valuable than Dunn" is a bit of a stretch no?

Forgetting about what the stats say, I think you could also argue that defensive stats are meaningless for Bradley. He only played 20 games in the outfield last year, and he hasn't spent significant amounts of time in CF since 2005. He's suffered injuries every year since then. His admittedly stellar offensive output last year was as a DH. He's never matched it while playing a lot in the outfield. I think there's plenty of reason to be skeptical of relying on Bradley, and I think there's plenty reason to wonder how good he is defensively at this point in his career. He is of course way better than Dunn, but exactly how much better and what it means for value is very much in question IMO.


To be fair, I really didn't set out to prove that, it was a byproduct of "there's no way in hell 100 games of Bradley and 160 of Dunn are comparable" and I'm still confident I proved that. In fact I was surprised and just how much better Bradley rated. Anyway, it's especially true if Bradley's replacement is those 60 games is actually a guy who's pretty close to league average like Fukudome.

I also assumed significant offensive regression for Bradley (well I didn't, but James and Marcel did ;-) ). I think you're right about not knowing what Bradley's true defensive ability is, but I think there's as many questions about Dunn. Dunn rated very poorly last year, is that his true talent level? Is he fading as he gets older? Those things are very possible but weren't included in the numbers because I averaged the past 4 years.

Anyway, I didn't want to do a range and I didn't want to take the time to look at PMR because I didn't have the time, but I'm pretty confident that if I had I would have still found them pretty comparable in the same analysis.


Big Pimpin, I don't think you're quite getting my point about the metrics. You believe you've proven that Bradley+RP is better than Dunn.

What I'm saying is, all you've proven is that using one defensive metric and one offensive metric, as well as a certain way of combining those two metrics into a comprehensive number, Bradley + RP returns a higher number than Dunn. That, to me, does not prove anything because believing that result requires proof of a few other things first. In logic terms, you are treating as axioms things that need to be proven first, and I don't believe they have been proven.

In order for that to be a proof, you need several things:
1. Proof that the offensive metric is a reliable estimate of a player's relative offensive value (I would say we're pretty much covered here). We'll call offensive value "X"
2. Proof that the defensive metric is a reliable estimate of a player's relative defensive value (I think the case is less strong here. Yes, we can judge who's better and who's worse, but I don't think we can say that player A is definitively 5% better than player B, or even that in a past season, player A was 5% better than player B.). We'll call offensive value "Y"
3. Proof that offensive contributions from a specific position represent a certain percentage of a player's value and proof the defensive contributions from a specific position represent a certain percentage of a player's value (at this point we have a bunch of theories and attempts at quantifying this, but I don't think we have any proof that one system is better, worse, etc. There needs to be a whole lot more research before I can have any confidence on this one.), i.e. the sum of offense and defense = "Z".

So you're arguing, and fangraphs and other sites that come up with these sum total metrics, are arguing, that for every player, you can get X and why, and further X+Y=Z. And whichever player has the highest Z, that's the player you want. I just don't think it's anywhere near that precise yet.

The best performance prediction systems for baseball never get a higher correlation than about .6. Even for offense! Defense would be far worse I'm sure. So even if you accepted you had proof that points 1, 2, and 3 were accurate, all you can say with confidence is that over the past 4 years, 100 games per year of Bradley + 62 games of RP at LF would have been better than Dunn. That doesn't mean that in 2009 that would be the case. But as I said, I don't even think we can be confident in that assessment even for the past four years.
Last edited by noseeum on Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby Big Pimpin » Sun Jan 04, 2009 6:28 pm

Thanks for the new thread dude. ;-D I was going to pull everything out and make a new one I just won't worry about that now. !+)

GotowarMissAgnes wrote:
Big Pimpin wrote:
It's long been known that certain metrics (UZR especially) has had problems with LF in Fenway (and Enron/Minute Maid) because of the wall. And like I said before, I agree that we can't have complete confidence in any one number. But if you take other systems and multiple years and look at the entirety of the data and then put a range around it, I think you can be pretty confident in the result.

For instance, I may not agree that Manny is a -18 LF because that's his UZR number for 2007, but if I look at UZR and PMR and Chone (I didn't, I'm just making this argument) and come to the conclusion that he's roughly a -15 LF then I maybe I can reasonably think he's a -10 to -20 LF. Knowing the problems with Fenway and wanting being conservative, I would probably value him as a -5 to -15 LF. I guess my own personal opinion is simply that the defensive data and information is very useful, even if one particular metric or year or whatever isn't completely 100% reliable.



I think the larger problem that the Manny problem illustrates is that there is wide variation in evaluating even the same player over relatively short time periods or in different parks. There are several possible explanations for that:

Unmeasured park factors
Measurement issues
"Normal" variation
Defensive "slumps"


The latter two seem unlikely, given the size of the variations and the fact that most players make 70-80 percent or more of the plays in their zone.

Which suggest that a lot of the variation we see within players has nothing to do with defensive ability...which should lead to the conclusion that it is also likely that the range that you have to draw around the defensive measures for individual players is quite large.

At this point, I think we are unable to say much more than that a player is below average, average, or above average with any good degree of confidence.


I get what you're saying, but the very same issues you're talking about apply to offense numbers as well (and I think we can agree that subjectivity is removed from the offensive numbers). You've got significant differences between players on a year-to-year basis and/or in different parks. Unless you're going to argue that a player's defensive ability remains constant and the numbers should reflect that yet his offensive ability fluctuates. I don't see how that argument can be made.

I know there are some park issues that need to be worked out (like in the Manny example of balls in Fenway being uncatchable but counting against the LF). And I know there are measurement things going on too. For instance, somewhere there is someone (or someones) classifying balls hit as "soft" or "medium" or "hard" and there is bound to be some differences of opinion that can work for or against players. Also, when the CF makes an out in a LF's jurisdiction, should the LF be penalized or not (some systems say yes and some no, personally I don't think he should be penalized if he could have made the play but who decides that?).

However, going back to your list and comparing it to offensive metrics, I see no reason why numbers 3 and 4 wouldn't play a big role in the numbers. Just like hitters have years where they're particularly unlucky or have extended slumps, why wouldn't the same phenomena exist when they're playing the field?

I don't really see a big difference between anything that I personally have done and what you're talking about in regards to saying a player is average, below, or above. I don't there's a big difference between that and saying a guy is -5 to +5, -15 to -5, or +5 to +15, though I am apparently more willing to potentially grade a guy somewhere in between or significantly above or below average based on the numbers. :-D
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby GotowarMissAgnes » Sun Jan 04, 2009 6:46 pm

Big Pimpin wrote:I get what you're saying, but the very same issues you're talking about apply to offense numbers as well (and I think we can agree that subjectivity is removed from the offensive numbers). You've got significant differences between players on a year-to-year basis and/or in different parks. Unless you're going to argue that a player's defensive ability remains constant and the numbers should reflect that yet his offensive ability fluctuates. I don't see how that argument can be made.

I know there are some park issues that need to be worked out (like in the Manny example of balls in Fenway being uncatchable but counting against the LF). And I know there are measurement things going on too. For instance, somewhere there is someone (or someones) classifying balls hit as "soft" or "medium" or "hard" and there is bound to be some differences of opinion that can work for or against players. Also, when the CF makes an out in a LF's jurisdiction, should the LF be penalized or not (some systems say yes and some no, personally I don't think he should be penalized if he could have made the play but who decides that?).

However, going back to your list and comparing it to offensive metrics, I see no reason why numbers 3 and 4 wouldn't play a big role in the numbers. Just like hitters have years where they're particularly unlucky or have extended slumps, why wouldn't the same phenomena exist when they're playing the field?

I don't really see a big difference between anything that I personally have done and what you're talking about in regards to saying a player is average, below, or above. I don't there's a big difference between that and saying a guy is -5 to +5, -15 to -5, or +5 to +15, though I am apparently more willing to potentially grade a guy somewhere in between or significantly above or below average based on the numbers. :-D


3 and 4 (slumps and normal variation) play much less of a role in defense because they are essentially the flipside of hitting. The typical hitter is successful less than 3 out of 10 times, which conversely means the typical fielder is successful usually more than 7 out of 10 times. That low success rate reflects the greater difficulty in hitting, which is why hitting is more prone to both normal variation and slumps. Even a very good, say .300, hitter will go through multiple weeks in a season where they bat under .250 or over .350, or a variation of .05/.3 or 1/6. If we are talking about a very good fielder, a similar level of variation would suggest that fielder would go through multiple weeks in the season where they field like the worst player in the history of baseball, and no measures of defensive performance show that level of variation among essentially all players on a regular basis.

I agree with your final statement there, but remember what that means in terms of decision making. If I'm wrong in both directions comparing the below average and above average fielder (iow, I think the belo average guy is a -15, and he's really a -5, and I think the above average guy is a +15 and he's a +5), then I just made a 20 run/2 win mistake. Wins are valued around $5 million per win, so that's a hefty $10 million dollar mistake. If I'm talking about a 3-4 year contract, that's now a $30-40 million dollar mistake. That level of uncertainty in offensive evaluation is very rare.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby Big Pimpin » Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:00 pm

noseeum wrote:Big Pimpin, I don't think you're quite getting my point about the metrics. You believe you've proven that Bradley+RP is better than Dunn.

What I'm saying is, all you've proven is that using one defensive metric and one offensive metric, as well as a certain way of combining those two metrics into a comprehensive number, Bradley + RP returns a higher number than Dunn. That, to me, does not prove anything because believing that result requires proof of a few other things first. In logic terms, you are treating as axioms things that need to be proven first, and I don't believe they have been proven.

In order for that to be a proof, you need several things:
1. Proof that the offensive metric is a reliable estimate of a player's relative offensive value (I would say we're pretty much covered here)
2. Proof that the defensive metric is a reliable estimate of a player's relative defensive value (I think the case is less strong here. Yes, we can judge who's better and who's worse, but I don't think we can say that player A is definitively X% better than player B, or even that in a past season, player A was X% better than player B.)
3. Proof that offensive contributions from a specific position represent X% of a player's value and proo the defensive contributions from a specific position represent Y% of a player's value (at this point we have a bunch of theories and attempts at quantifying this, but I don't think we have any proof that one system is better, worse, etc. There needs to be a whole lot more research before I can have any confidence on this one.)


I don't think I've proven that Bradley + replacement level player are better than Dunn. I don't even think I've proven that Bradley + his replacement (say, Fukudome) are better than Dunn. I think that given the information available and given the offensive predictions (and the only certainty there is that they're guaranteed to be wrong ;-) ), the former set is probably comparable and the latter set is probably better. Of course with the caveat that actual results will vary.

As for 2, I'm still sticking with what I've said before. I think there's enough data and enough different measurement systems that we can get a good idea of a range of what a given player's true defensive ability is, and certainly compare multiple players.

As to 3, I don't really think there's any argument. I think a player's value is derived from how many runs he creates on offense and saves on defense in relation to another player. You don't even need to come up with a percentage (though one could certainly argue that defensive runs are more important because the percentage difference is larger and it saves the staff). Certainly when talking about players at different positions some of the differences come into play, but I honestly don't think I've ever even seen Tango's positional adjustments challenged.

noseeum wrote:The best performance prediction systems for baseball never get a higher correlation than about .6. Even for offense! Defense would be far worse I'm sure. So even if you accepted you had proof that points 1, 2, and 3 were accurate, all you can say with confidence is that over the past 4 years, 100 games per year of Bradley + 62 games of RP at LF would have been better than Dunn. That doesn't mean that in 2009 that would be the case. But as I said, I don't even think we can be confident in that assessment even for the past four years.


I actually think you're more likely to have a higher correlation for defense but that's just me. I would think that there's a lot more going against a hitter to sway offensive predictions than there are a fielder (like pitchers directing their pitches and fielders shading them certain ways, etc.). It seems to me that the defensive metrics do a pretty good job of trying to account for chance (especially in regards to where/how a ball is hit) so as to not penalize a guy for not making an out he really didn't have much of a chance at (Fenway/Minute Main comments notwithstanding). But I'm also of the opinion that guys are going to off years or unlucky years defensively just as likely as they are on offense and GTWMA basically said above he doubted that so there's certainly bound to be some disagreement there. :-)
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby AquaMan2342 » Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:06 pm

The guy complaining in the other thread insisted we call this one " little manny/dunn/bradley/defense debate". I demand it be changed.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby noseeum » Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:08 pm

Big Pimpin wrote:I actually think you're more likely to have a higher correlation for defense but that's just me. I would think that there's a lot more going against a hitter to sway offensive predictions than there are a fielder (like pitchers directing their pitches and fielders shading them certain ways, etc.). It seems to me that the defensive metrics do a pretty good job of trying to account for chance (especially in regards to where/how a ball is hit) so as to not penalize a guy for not making an out he really didn't have much of a chance at (Fenway/Minute Main comments notwithstanding). But I'm also of the opinion that guys are going to off years or unlucky years defensively just as likely as they are on offense and GTWMA basically said above he doubted that so there's certainly bound to be some disagreement there. :-)


But you're missing one important thing. Defensive skill does not automatically translate into runs saved. A hitter is going to get his crack every time through the lineup. The only choice to avoid it is to walk him. A skilled defensive player only saves runs when the ball is hit to him. Maybe a pitcher gives up a lot of homers. Defense can't help that and the team still loses. Maybe the pitcher strikes out a ton of guys. Defense can't help that and the team still wins.

So defensive skill does not translate as directly into runs saved, and is a smaller overall component of runs saved, than offensive skill is for runs scored. So the value of defensive skill is more difficult to quantify because it depends on your other defenders, your pitchers, your park, etc.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby Big Pimpin » Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:16 pm

GotowarMissAgnes wrote:3 and 4 (slumps and normal variation) play much less of a role in defense because they are essentially the flipside of hitting. The typical hitter is successful less than 3 out of 10 times, which conversely means the typical fielder is successful usually more than 7 out of 10 times. That low success rate reflects the greater difficulty in hitting, which is why hitting is more prone to both normal variation and slumps. Even a very good, say .300, hitter will go through multiple weeks in a season where they bat under .250 or over .350, or a variation of .05/.3 or 1/6. If we are talking about a very good fielder, a similar level of variation would suggest that fielder would go through multiple weeks in the season where they field like the worst player in the history of baseball, and no measures of defensive performance show that level of variation among essentially all players on a regular basis.

I agree with your final statement there, but remember what that means in terms of decision making. If I'm wrong in both directions comparing the below average and above average fielder (iow, I think the belo average guy is a -15, and he's really a -5, and I think the above average guy is a +15 and he's a +5), then I just made a 20 run/2 win mistake. Wins are valued around $5 million per win, so that's a hefty $10 million dollar mistake. If I'm talking about a 3-4 year contract, that's now a $30-40 million dollar mistake. That level of uncertainty in offensive evaluation is very rare.


I've got to run but just a couple comments in response... First, I disagree with the notion that fielding (as the metrics define it) is simply the flipside of hitting. You haven't at all accounted for strikeouts and neither have you accounted for the balls hit that are basically uncatchable. I also think that you're just as player is just as likely to have a lucky or unlucky year in the field as he is to have a lucky or unlucky year at the plate. Perhaps less variation, but you only need like 10 plays over the course of a whole year to get a 7 or 8 run difference, so it doesn't have to be anything huge.

Going back to your decision making, it seems that you're just as likely to make that error if you say defense metrics can't be trusted. If you project Dunn to be worth 3.5 offensive wins and don't bother to try to quantify his defensive contribution, then he's a $17.5M guy and you may have just made your $10M mistake.

Personally, I would feel much more comfortable trying to use the metrics, being conservative, and erring on the side of caution when handing out contracts. That's basically the best of both worlds IMO.
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Re: Defensive Metrics thread continued

Postby Big Pimpin » Sun Jan 04, 2009 7:19 pm

noseeum wrote:
Big Pimpin wrote:I actually think you're more likely to have a higher correlation for defense but that's just me. I would think that there's a lot more going against a hitter to sway offensive predictions than there are a fielder (like pitchers directing their pitches and fielders shading them certain ways, etc.). It seems to me that the defensive metrics do a pretty good job of trying to account for chance (especially in regards to where/how a ball is hit) so as to not penalize a guy for not making an out he really didn't have much of a chance at (Fenway/Minute Main comments notwithstanding). But I'm also of the opinion that guys are going to off years or unlucky years defensively just as likely as they are on offense and GTWMA basically said above he doubted that so there's certainly bound to be some disagreement there. :-)


But you're missing one important thing. Defensive skill does not automatically translate into runs saved. A hitter is going to get his crack every time through the lineup. The only choice to avoid it is to walk him. A skilled defensive player only saves runs when the ball is hit to him. Maybe a pitcher gives up a lot of homers. Defense can't help that and the team still loses. Maybe the pitcher strikes out a ton of guys. Defense can't help that and the team still wins.

So defensive skill does not translate as directly into runs saved, and is a smaller overall component of runs saved, than offensive skill is for runs scored. So the value of defensive skill is more difficult to quantify because it depends on your other defenders, your pitchers, your park, etc.


Very true. But the measurements of defense are either in runs or plays (which can directly be translated into runs). So, you're not so much as evaluating a player's skill as you are translating what his skill has meant in the way of runs/plays. Which is probably a significant reason there is such variation in a player from year-to-year. Which is why you take all the info you can possibly get (multiple years, metrics, etc) to draw yourself a picture of what a guy is worth.

I keep getting sucked into this but I really do have to run now. :-b

And AquaMan... No. :-B
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