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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Monday, July 05, 2004

D-Fence! D-Fence!  

I usually hate it when people use clichés because they are so worn out and by the time people have gotten around to telling them for the 4,158th time, they actually aren't even true anymore. I usually hate that sort of group-think, which is why I think that I have taken to sabremetrics so enthusiastically: this is a way of thinking about baseball that has blown up all of the clichés I had taken for granted: that sacrifice-bunting works, that stealing bases works, that batting average is an accurate judge of a player's abilities, etc. That thinking outside of the box, that rejection of clichéd thinking, that embrace of information, really impresses me. So I hate the fact that I'm going to use a clichés now:

Offense wins the glory, Defense wins the championships.

But it is a cliché that is largely true: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens were probably the worst offensive team I have ever seen win the Super Bowl, but their defense might just have been the best I have ever seen. In baseball the 1989 Orioles went from being a lousy team to a good one based on an emphasis on defense. The strength of those Yankees teams in the mid-1990s were their tough defense and stifling pitching. (e.g., the World Series winning '96 team was ninth in the AL in runs scored.) In the NBA and NHL teams that win are the ones that play stifling defense, like the Jersey Devils and the Detroit Pistons.

I've been intruiged by fielding as a stat because (as anyone who has read Moneyball knows) good pitching usually masks a faulty defense. Zone Rating (ZR) by Stats, Inc., is the best tool to accurately gauge a player's defensive contribution though it isn't a perfect one by any means. ZR works by Stats, Inc., dividing the field into quadrents and gauging whether a player should have gotten to a ball hit towards him. ZR critics has hastened to point out to me that ZR is still a subjective stat (the decision that a player "should" have gotten the ball is subjective) and it is prone to wild fluxuations. I agree (more on that later). Here are the ZR stats as of July 2, 2004:

ZR:
1. Chicago: .864
2. Montreal: .857
3. Philadelphia: .855
4. San Diego: .855
5. Milwaukee: .855
6. Florida: .852
7. St. Louis: .851
8. Los Angeles: .850
9. Houston: .846
10. San Francisco: .844
11. Cincinnati: .844
12. New York: .838
13. Atlanta: .836
14. Arizona: .834
15. Colorado: .829
16. Pittsburgh: .824

(Jason Michaels has a ZR rating of .870 in seventy-four innings in centerfield.)
A few weeks ago the Phils were in the middle of the pack and now they are third? Seems a little fishy to me. Still, I am going with what I have because it is the best I've got.

(David Bell: .789 ZR; 4th of 12 regular NL Third Basemen.)

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