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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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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

D-Fens, Part II 

As I said yesterday, I intend to discuss individual players today. I'm actually going to break this post in half and discuss the Phillies infield today.

Jim Thome; First Base

The Phillies don't rely on Jim Thome's glove, and that's a good thing: Thome is not a great first baseman. Anecdotally, he isn't a player with great range (although I'd say he has good foot work), and most stats back that up: Mike Humphries Defense Regression Analysis (DRA) rated Thome at -10, in other words, having Thome in the lineup cost the Phillies ten runs on the field. Dave Pinto's Probablistic Model of Range (PMR) rates Thome near the bottom in MLB 1B's.

At the moment Thome's Zone Rating is an abysmal .821 (actually an improvement over last year's .817, by the way), which would rank him dead-last amongst full-time NL 1B's.

Chase Utley; Second Base

It is hard to really evaluate Chase Utley. With Placido Polanco finally gone we'll get to see what Chase can do full-time at second base, but his numbers are something of an enigma right now. We don't know what they mean.

2005: Zone Rating / Range Factor
Utley: .856 / 5.25
Polanco: .905 / 5.13

Naturally because Chase & Placido split time at second their numbers don't qualify them with the league leaders, but if they did they would be the third and the best second basemen in the National League in Zone Rating. So far this season there doesn't seem to be much question that Polanco was the better fielder. Better ZR rating, no errors to Chase's two, and 1.7 Fielding Win Shares to Chase's 1.4. If you adjust their numbers per 1,000 innings, here is what you have:

Utley: 3.73 Fielding Win Shares
Polanco: 5.94 Fielding Win Shares

Dave Pinto's PMR rated Chase the #1 NL 2B in 2004, and Polanco #7, so I think we can agree that the Phillies have good fielders at 2B regardless of whether it is Chase or if it was Placido. If the Phillies stay in the race and if the Phillies play better defense, than I think we need to credit Chase's glove with the success the team has.

Jimmy Rollins; Shortstop

I'm actually not sure what to make of the Phillies SS, whom they just inked to a long-term deal despite so-so numbers this season. At the moment Rollins is eighth of fifteen NL SS's in ZR. He's eleventh in Range Factor. Jimmy is also eighth in Fielding Win Shares amongst NL SS's. Mediocre totals. Mike Humphries DRA rated Rollins at +3, not a bad total, though Mike does caution that Rollins numbers are suspicious. (Note perennial Gold Glover Derek Jeter is rated at -22 in DRA: one of the many reasons why sabremetricians scoff at Jeter's hype.)

My gut tells me that Jimmy is probably better than average, but the numbers tell a different tale.

David Bell; Third Base

Let me just take a moment to shock the lay observer with the following statement:

The Phillies have one of the best ... if the The Best ... defensive third basemen in baseball.

It's true, and I have facts to back it up:

We'll start with the fact that David Bell is leading the NL in Range Factor amongst 3B's. Not bad on a team whose pitchers tend to get fewer groundballs than the league average. Bell is also third in ZR, behind Sean Burroughs and Chipper Jones, two pretty darn good 3B's. Bell is also third in Fielding Win Shares behind the Astros Ensberg and the Padres Burroughs.

The lay observer would object to my argument and point to the fact that Bell has 10 errors and a low-average fielding percentage, but a sabremetrician would pass over those stats and ignore them because fielding percentage and errors don't really judge a player's contribution to team defense. FP measures what you do with balls you get to: it doesn't measure your range. Errors are subjective judgment calls from umps. How many times have we seen questionable plays be scored an error when it could have been a hit?

Bell's defensive contributions aren't new. Mike Humphries DRA rated David Bell at +10, an impressive number, just three runs behind Scott Rolen.

Bench ... With the departure of super-utilityman Placido Polanco to Detroit, I'd note that the Phillies infield lineup is much more set and much less deep. Polanco was a terrific guy to have coming off the bench: he can literally play every position in the infield. The Phillies current bench defenders, Tomas Perez, Ryan Howard and Jose Offerman are acceptable, but none are great gloves. I wouldn't look for any eighth or ninth inning defensive substitutions.

Tomorrow: the outfield.

Comments:
David Bell may carry himself like an old man at the plate, but in the field he plays the position with the agility of a cat, has a lightning-fast arm, and turns a swift double play, as demonstrated last night in the fourth or fifth inning when he hard-charged a bouncing grounder and turned two.

I’ve championed the David Bell cause all season, only questioning his amount of playing time back when he was hitting about .200 with .280 SLG. Believe it or not, I think he starts a quicker double play than Scott Rolen.

Nine of the 10 errors you mentioned were probably justified, but so what. With all the groundball pitchers in their rotation, he’s probably leading the league in chances.

People can advocate benching Bell until they’re blue in the face. The fact is, he’s a big reason why pitchers like Lieber and Lidle can do what they do.
 
Offerman was cut weeks ago, Mike. And Howard's down in AAA. The Phils' two current back-up infielders are Perez and Ramon Martinez, both of whom have logged a bunch of innings at all four infield positions.

The only likely defensive substitution is, as you suggest, for Thome at 1B.
 
Shoot, Jason. I was going to post almost exactly what you said, and there you go stealing my thunder. I am constantly amazed at how fast Bell gets that ball out of his glove when he starts a double play. Utley and Palance both turn it well, but it's Bell who gives them the lead time to do so at every opprotunity. He's an amazing fielder. And, given the fact that he hits lefties well makes him much more valuable against lefties, which is the area where the most of the rest of the Phillies are weaker. In other words, at the plate he's a liability when the other Phils are strong, and an asset where the others are weak. Not a bad fit at all.
 
A couple of comments:

Saying that Bell is close to Rolen with the glove because he's only 3 runs behind Rolen is very mis-leading, as Rolen compiled his numbers in a MUCH shorter amount of time (how long has he been out? a month? 5 weeks?). Further, I don't think you can completely ignore field pct/the high number of errors he has made. Just as you can't rely solely on field pct to determine how good a fielder is, you can't rely solely on range, either. 10 errors is a lot at this stage of the season, no matter how you slice it.

Finally, I'm not really sure what to make of any defensive metric (in this case, ZR) that rates Chip Jones as one of the top 3B in the league. Hadn't he gotten so bad there that the Braves tried to move him to LF?

(and one nit-picky comment is that Jeter is not a perennial gold glove winner - I believe he won his first last year)
 
So tell me, what exactly is Range Factor beyond the description you supply, i.e. balls a player gets to.? Where does a third baseman's range end and a shortstop's begin? What are the precise measurements that distinguish between a ball that goes down the line for a basehit when the fielder is playing the batter to go the other way versus a ball hit in the hole when he is guarding the line? I find the entire field (pun intended) as it pertains to range factor, etc.. spurious. If you can enlighten me, I am willing to be enlightened. Until then, I consider David Bell an average third baseman period.
 
I love debates like this. Debating two players on fielding stats that when you take a real close look at career numbers and recent prior years are very close. Yes David Bell (.104 per game/career) makes more errors than Scott Rolen (.098 per game/career.) But ultimately it's that bat and the success of the team that dictates who is on the top of the debate. This is the same story that plagued his father Buddy in his playing days, and is why as he put it he "always caddied" for George Brett at the all-star games. The question comes down to who is the right fit for the team, who can you afford and what do you give up. Having had the luxury of meeting David, and realizing the quiet class, work ethic and consistently higher end defense he brings to that table would put him squarely on my roster. It's why Philly brought him from SF in the first place. And if you look at his best seasons, his overall performance is strangely reflective of the quality/success of the team he is with. Last year war a career season for him and the Phils finished second. This year he has had struggles at the plate and we spend our days in and out of the basement. So I guess my point is that in the long haul I'll take Bell over any 3rd baseman any day of the week.
 
.

Yahoo News - Oct. 13, 2005


Yahoo Japan steps up mobile content distribution (Reuters via Yahoo! News)
Yahoo Japan Corp. said on Thursday it had launched a mobile content distribution service, in which cellphone users can buy games, ring tones, news and other entertainment and information from 59 content providers.


Microsoft, Yahoo to link instant messages (USATODAY.com via Yahoo! News)
Microsoft and Yahoo will make their instant-messaging programs work together, a partnership that could give the companies more power to compete against market leader America Online. The companies expect the service to start by June 2006.


Yahoo to Bar Minor-Adult Sex Chat Rooms (Washington Post)
NEW YORK -- Yahoo Inc. said Wednesday it will bar chat rooms that promote sex between minors and adults and restrict all chat rooms to users 18 and older.

Today's News From & About Yahoo


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Games & PC Games News - Oct. 16, 2005


Is the PC game market? (Dallas Morning News)
The last few years have not been all fun and games for computer game fans, but that might be changing. As attention has shifted to sophisticated video game consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2, PC gamers have watched their preferred platform wither.

Xbox 360's New Media Play Finding Fans (eWeek)
Consumers were impressed by the expanded multimedia features of Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 360 at the Digital Life conference, while gamers were excited to begin using the devices to access other types of services.

NewTek Releases Fifth Free Feature Update for LightWave 3D (Digital WebCast)
NewTek, Inc., manufacturer of industry-leading 3D animation and video products, today announced the release of the fifth free update and the 64-bit port for Emmy award-winning LightWave 3D . Version 8.5 offers hardware support of OpenGL 2.0, the new Multishift tool with editable history, Photoshop -style texture blending modes, improved dynamics, and easier integration of third-party file formats.

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