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Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Defensive Metrics, Part III... 

As I mentioned on Monday, there are a lot of defensive metrics out there that are emerging and are adding to our assessment of how the Phillies struggled defensively in 2006. Today I will be looking at Dave Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range (PMR), a tool that I oftentimes consult and you can find at Dave's website, Baseball Musings. In a nutshell, PMR takes a look at the outs that a fielder records over the course of a season and compares that to what he should have done based on a number of factors. If the fielder exceeds the projected totals, he’s got plus numbers, if not he’s not negative numbers.

Let’s start with teams results. Right away, PMR confirms what John Dewan’s Plus / Minus and most observers already knew. The ’06 Phillies struggled:

1. New York Mets: +.01188
2. St. Louis Cardinals: +.01153
3. San Diego Padres: +.00978
4. San Francisco Giants: +.00968
5. Houston Astros: +.00837
6. Chicago Cubs: +.00687
7. Milwaukee Brewers: +.00617
8. Arizona Diamondbacks: +.00519
9. Atlanta Braves: +.00375
10. Colorado Rockies: +.00197
11. Philadelphia Phillies: -.00133
12. Los Angeles Dodgers: -.00348
13. Florida Marlins: -.00414
14. Cincinnati Reds: -.00591
15. Pittsburgh Pirates: -.00900
16. Washington Nationals: -.01035

There are no real surprises in that group. The Reds, the Pirates and the nats are all teams you’d expect to be average-to-mediocre in terms of defense.

Let’s start with Aaron Rowand, the Phillies center fielder and the subject of much hope at the outset of the season. PMR rates Rowand quite good in 2005: +.01954 That put him near the top of CF’s, better than Calros Beltran, Torii Hunter and Mark Kotsay. He even rated better than Jim Edmonds (+.01722). Rowand actually continues to rate well in 2006, posting a +.00451, which again rates him better than Edmonds, Hunter and Kotsay (although Carlos Beltran had a great season at +.00519). This is a bit of a surprise given that Rowand rates a -4 according to John Dewan’s Plus / Minus system.

Shane Victorino actually ranks third overall at +.00581, which is extremely good and confirms my suspicion that he is an outstanding defensive center fielder. It does perplex me: if Rowand was a -4 and Victorino rated well, then how did the Phillies outfield play so badly?

In what might be a surprise to … well, nobody, the Phillies had terrible left field play in 2006 according to PMR. Check it out:

Pat Burrell: -.00314

The good news for Burrell was that … well, Manny Ramirez was worse (-.00856). It was about in line with Burrell’s horrible, awful 2005 campaign (-.00302). How bad was that? Manny Ramirez rated better (-.00301). There were only three players in the PMR model that did worse than Burrell, and one of those was future Phillie Dellucci. Ouch. I’ll be eager to see what Plus / Minus has to say given that we are unsure at the moment of the data. I’ll bet that Burrell rates a -10 or -15.

Over in right field, the story didn’t get much better. Bobby Abreu the Phillies Gold Glove-winning right fielder in 2005 posted a +.00010 for 2006, down from his .00148 in ’05. Abreu’s Gold Glove was a very embarrassing moment for baseball, giving an award for a performance that defied what the data told us and what the fans who simply watched the game knew in their hearts. Mercifully that was not repeated in 2006, but now that Abreu plays in New York, expect the media to fawn over his defensive prowess.

On to the infield:

First up, David Bell, the Phillies former third baseman and much maligned and praised figure on this blog. As I always note, David Bell was a weak offensive performer and a strong defensive presence in the Phillies lineup. PMR gives him some nice marks:

PMR: +.00347

Solid, much a major decline from his 2005 numbers: +.01260 …I think you can see that decline playing out in his Plus / Minus numbers as well. Remember, Bell went from +24 in 2005 to just +8 in 2006. Bell’s replacement, Abraham Nunez, has an interesting story to tell through as PMR. As I noted in my Monday column, we don’t know how many of the Phillies performed because some of the individual Plus / Minus data isn’t available yet. We can safely say that Abraham Nunez will rate badly on Plus / Minus, if his PMR is any judge. Consider the differences from 2005 to 2006:

2005: +.01234
2006: -.00128

Nunez went from being in the top third of defensive third basemen to being in the bottom third. I can virtually guarantee that Nunez will rate badly when the PMR numbers emerge.

Moving over to second base … Chase Utley ranks third in Plus / Minus with a sterling +19 at second base. PMR is a little less enthusiastic about Chase, although he rates well, a little out of the top third: +.00383 … Chase rated much, much better in 2005: +.01478, a season where he posted a +26 in Plus / Minus …

At first base we have 2006 N.L. MVP Ryan Howard. Ryan will be happy that almost nobody cares about how well a first baseman fields, because he might have lost the MVP if voters factored defense: Ryan’s -.00631 PMR was the fifth-worst in the majors. Pujols? He was the second-best, with a +.00998. Again PMR and Plus / Minus are in agreement about something: in 2005 PMR rated Ryan Howard as being a terrific defensive first baseman, with a +.00612, which was actually better than Albert Pujols +.00557 … Ryan’s ’05 and ’06 Plus / Minus numbers are a wild swing from +16 in 2005 to -8 this season. That drop-off was major and likely a big factor in why the Phillies struggled defensively.

At shortstop is the only place where I see PMR and Plus / Minus departing company. The Phillies have an excellent shortstop, Jimmy Rollins. Plus / Minus gives J.Roll a positive rating at +12, which was seventh in the majors. PMR ranks J.Roll in the bottom third of shortstops at -.00025. Draw your own conclusions.

I like PMR and I like to use it in my blog, but I like stats like Plus / Minus a little more because they are easier to comprehend. However, I do find Dave’s PMR does accurately track how players perform and I find it to be an invaluable tool in evaluating the Phillies.

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