Ok, here's my suggestion. Just like the NFL has a quarterback challenge in the off season....we have a "gold gloves competition
We take a cannon, attach a computer too it, and have it randomly shoot out exact same balls to each player. Give them like 25 chances, pop-ups, fly balls, all over their area. Record who gets to each one, and who catches the most.
What do you think?
Randomly shoot out the exact same balls? Lol. Isn't that kind of an oxymoron there?
I haven't read the entire thread, nor do I wish to, but does anyone know the exact "zones" that James uses? My problem with ZR is that players have different zones (since they can't all stand at the exact same point in every single play), yet, we have tried to pigeon-hole all fielders into the same "box", if you will, in the sake of a standardized basis for comparison--the pursuit of which itself is commendable, however misguided it may be.
Zones are changed just by a simple shift in defensive alignment. For example, imagine Erubiel Durazo comes to bat and the manager of the opposing team, being the intelligent major league manager that he is, calls for an extreme shift. And further suspend your disbelief by imagining that Durazo, after watching countless hours of video of Ichiro, bangs a chopper right through the gigantic hole created on the left side. Well, uh, I'm assuming that went through a zone there, and, by golly, someone probably should have gotten to it, except no one was playing on left side of the infield.
Similarly, what about the first basemen's zone when there is a speedster on first? He has to hold the runner, sacrificing a lot of defensive range in the process. Talk about a penalty for a defensive change.
And, of course, what about the self-directed defensive adjustments? For instance, as I mentioned in a thread a while back, Andruw Jones' tendency to play far more shallow than most (or probably all) center fielders. Maybe he gets penalized for the occasional ball that gets by him over his head, but he probably makes a whole lot more catches that he "shouldn't" have made, according to his zone.
Speaking of catches that should or should not have made, how exactly would a zone be determined in the first place? Is it based on an average fielder? If so, how is the "average" fielder's zone determined? In fact, how is the average fielder determined at all? Obviously, that can't be based on fielding percentage alone, nor even range factor, as that is often not entirely independent of the influence of the other fielders present. Could it be that--gasp
--Bill James or one of his underlings has to actually watch games and subjectively set the "average" zone?
And speaking of Bill James and his underlings, I hope they use a machine to pinpoint exactly which zone a ball is going through. Can you imagine one of his assistants up late, watching a Giants-Dodgers game on TV, in an office, darkened and unsettlingly quiet from the absense of people come and gone? After a few too many nightcaps and Twinkies, he squints at the screen, which is only a blurred haze to him at this point. Shawn Green has just smacked a similarly blurred white blob straight up the middle past the outstretched glove of Ray Durham--or was that Barry Bonds in the outfield?--at this point he would have an easier time distinguishing the Big Dipper from the Little Dipper in the now crisp night air, smelling of a fresh evening shower and showing no hints of the long-past drooping sun. And so it is, after another gratuitous chunk of Twinkie, he decides that is it second base and resolves to enter it into the computer as such. The well-meaning worker bee hovers over the button labeled "2B" (which, unbeknownst to his inebriated senses, is in actuality "3B") and credits a miss to commiserable Edgardo Alfonzo before slumping over a plain desk and the promise of a night-long slumber.
Ok, so that was a little bit of hyperbole, but still, the point remains: Too many questions, too little answers.